Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t expecting to be a contender at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday. However, the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing’s never-say-die attitude paid off with the team’s sixth victory of 2017 and 13th career win for Truex in the Bank of America 500.
“Way to go pit crew, you guys owned it,” said Truex, who led 91 laps en route to his second Charlotte win. “So proud of you guys. I didn’t think there was any way we could win this at the start. You guys are the best.”
Chase Elliott finished second for the second consecutive week. Kevin Harvick finished third followed by Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Daniel Suarez, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson.
Kyle Busch, who fought the car over the final two stages after contact with the wall, finished 29th, six laps off the pace. He received medical attention after the race and had complained of exhaust fumes in the cockpit.
Harvick led the field to the pits on Lap 183. He retained the point after service and led the field to the green on Lap 186. Martin Truex Jr. was second followed by Elliott, Johnson, Kenseth, Larson, Hamlin, Blaney, McMurray, Kurt Busch, Stenhouse, Austin Dillon, Keselowski, Menard, Buescher, Allmendinger, Almirola, Kahne, Earnhardt and Ty Dillon.
Larson passed Elliott for third on Lap 187. Harvick checked out with a 1.628-second lead over Truex on Lap 190. Larson ran third followed by Elliott, Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kenseth, Hamlin, McMurray, Blaney, Stenhouse, Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Menard, Kahne, Allmendinger, Almirola, Suarez, Chris Buescher and Bayne.
Two seconds separated Harvick from Truex at Lap 200. Larson, Elliott, Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kenseth, Hamlin, McMurray and Blaney completed the top 10 with 26 cars on the lead lap. Kyle Busch ran 30th, two laps down after hitting the wall in Stage 2.
By Lap 210, Kenseth dropped to ninth and Stenhouse passed Blaney for 10th. By Lap 215, Stenhouse passed Kenseth for ninth and Blaney back to 10th.
On Lap 217, Kyle Busch hit the wall again. He waited four laps before coming to pit road to repair damage on the right rear.
Truex cut Harvick’s advantage to under a second by Lap 220, Larson, Elliott, Johnson, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, McMurray, Stenhouse and Blaney. Harvick pitted on Lap 226 after leading 105 circuits. Truex came with the No. 4 onto pit road and exited ahead of Harvick. Elliott took the lead prior to pitting. Hamlin moved to the point on Lap 227.
Hamlin pitted on Lap 232 handing over the lead to Kahne, who pitted on Lap 234. Truex cycled out to the point followed by Harvick, Larson, Elliott, Johnson, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Blaney, Keselowski and Stenhouse. Daniel Suarez, Kenseth, Bayne, Earnhardt, Ty Dillon, Menard, Almirola and Kahne rounded out the top 20.
Stenhouse raced back into the top 10 after passing Keselowski on Lap 238. McMurray moved by Dillon for seventh. Larson used Patrick for a pick and moved inside Harvick for second on Lap 243 out of Turn 4.
“Just sliding all over the place, starting to get loose in,” Harvick said.
Larson cut Truex’s lead to .359-seconds by Lap 250. Harvick held onto third followed by Elliott, Johnson, Kurt Busch, McMurray, Austin Dillon, Blaney and Hamlin. Stenhouse, Suarez, Keselowski, Kahne and Kenseth rounded out the top 15.
Truex lapped Earnhardt on Lap 254. The No. 88 was running 18th. Larson ran second followed by Harvick, Elliott, Johnson and McMurray. Kurt Busch passed McMurray for sixth on Lap 262.
David Ragan triggered the seventh caution on Lap 265 when he spun in Turn 2 and collected Danica Patrick. Truex held the point followed by Larson, Harvick, Elliott, Johnson, Kurt Busch, McMurray, Austin Dillon, Hamlin, Blaney and Stenhouse. The 15 cars on the lead lap pitted on Lap 268 with Larson gaining the lead coming off of pit road with 67 laps remaining in the race. Ty Dillon was the lucky dog.
Larson took the inside lane with Truex alongside for the Lap 271 restart. Harvick ran third followed by Johnson, Elliott, Kurt Busch, McMurray, Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Stenhouse, Keselowski, Blaney, Suarez, Kahne, Kenseth and Ty Dillon.
Larson shot out to a .450-second lead over Harvick followed by Truex, Johnson, Elliott, Kurt Busch, Mcmurray, Blaney Hamlin and Stenhouse. Austin Dillon, Keselowski, Kahne, Kenseth, Suarez and Ty Dillon completed the lead lap cars. Blaney passed Elliott for sixth coming out of Turn 3 on Lap 274. Stenhouse passed Hamlin for 10th on lap 276. Hamlin came back on the next lap just before Kyle Busch lost the rear of the No. 18 coming out of Turn 2 and slid to the inside of the track.
Larson held the point followed by Harvick, Truex, Johnson, Kurt Busch, Blaney, Elliott, McMurray, Kahne, Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Stenhouse, Keselowski, Kenseth, Suarez and Ty Dillon. Larson held a 2.5-second lead prior to pitting on Lap 280, but blew by his stall for a second time. The right rear tire carrier tripped and by the time the team recovered, Larson dropped to 11th.
Truex in control
Truex took the lead off of pit road and controlled the restart on Lap 284. Harvick had the outside lane followed by McMurray, Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Elliott, Kahne, Blaney, Austin Dillon and Stenhouse with 51 laps remaining. Johnson restarted 15th after he, too, overshot his pit box. Truex’s lead was .392-seconds over Harvick after the first lap and Larson advanced to 11th. He was back to 10th by Lap 285 and he gained two positions over the next two laps.
By Lap 290, Harvick closed to within .376-seconds behind Truex. McMurray, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Kahne, Elliott, Larson, Austin Dillon, Blaney, Kenseth, Keselowski, Johnson, Bayne, Stenhouse, Suarez, Ty Dillon, Earnhardt, Erik Jones and Chris Buescher rounded out the top 20.
On Lap 300, Truex’s lead was a half-second over Harvick with Kurt Busch in third. McMurray ran fourth followed by Elliott.
Harvick changed his line to mimic Truex and cut the No. 78 car’s lead to .371-seconds on Lap 303. Larson moved up to seventh after passing Kahne. Larson passed Hamlin on Lap 305 for sixth and moved past his teammate McMurray for fifth. Elliott took third from Kurt Busch.
With 20 laps remaining, Truex’s advantage was down to .397-seconds over Harvick. Elliott, Kurt Busch, Larson, McMurray, Hamlin, Kahne, Blaney and Johnson rounded out the top 10. Austin Dillon pitted from 11th on Lap 315. Larson advanced to fourth on Lap 318.
Truex extended his lead to one-second over Harvick with 14 circuits to go. Elliott, Larson, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, McMurray, Blaney, Kahne and Johnson rounded out the top 10.
Sprint to the finish
With nine laps to go, Kyle Busch hit the Turn 2 wall to ignite the ninth caution. Truex lead was 1.5-seconds over Harvick. Elliott, Larson, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, McMurray, Blaney, Johnson, Kenseth, Suarez, Kahne, Keselowski, Stenhouse and Jones completed the top 15.
Truex held onto the lead exiting the pits on Lap 328. Hamlin gained four positions and moved up to second followed by Elliott, Larson, Kurt Busch, Harvick, McMurray, Johnson, Blaney, Suarez, Kenseth, Earnhardt, Keselowski, Bayne, Kahne, Buescher, Menard, Jones and Stenhouse — who was busted for speeding on pit road, drooped to 20th.
The race returned to green on Lap 331 with five laps to decide the contest. Truex held the bottom and jumped out to a .676-second lead over Hamlin after the first lap. Elliott ran third followed by Kurt Busch, Larson and Harvick when the leaders came through Turn 2 and the No. 41 slid up the track sideways. NASCAR called the 10th caution and the race went into overtime. Busch came to pit road and lined up 23rd.
Truex held the point for the final restart on Lap 336 followed by Hamlin, Elliott, Harvick, McMurray, Larson, Johnson, Suarez, Blaney, Kesneth Keselowski, Kahne, Earnhardt, Jones and Bayne.
“Unbelievable win,” Truex said. “Just a total team effort. Every single guy – every guy on this team just did a perfect job today and I can’t be more proud of them and at this time of the year is just when you want it to happen. You dream about days like today. I don’t know if we had the best car, but we damn sure go it in victory lane.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 12th in his final start at his hometown track.
“I don’t know if I worked any harder at any track this year,” Earnhardt said after coming from 23rd in a back up car. “Considering how little practice we got, I’m pretty happy with 12th.”
Harvick led a race-high 149 laps. There were 15 lead changes among eight drivers