03/18 19:43 CDT Martin Truex Jr. grabs 1st win of NASCAR season at Fontana
Martin Truex Jr. grabs 1st win of NASCAR season at Fontana
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
FONTANA, Calif. (AP) --- Martin Truex Jr. saw nothing but clean air and green
flags down the stretch in his first victory of the new NASCAR Cup season.
Truex didn't get much of a look at Kevin Harvick, whose bid for four straight
wins was ruined by an early crash at Fontana.
So even while Truex's Furniture Row Racing Toyota team celebrated, it was a wee
bit disappointed not to get a duel with the early-season king.
"I think we would have had something for him today," team owner Barney Visser
Truex roared to victory at Fontana on Sunday, beating Kyle Larson by 11 seconds
to claim the first win of the season for last year's series champion.
Truex won both stages before rolling to the checkered flag on his 16th career
victory and his first since that glorious championship day at Homestead last
November. His first career victory at Fontana even moved Truex into the overall
points lead, thanks to Harvick's woes.
Harvick dragged his damaged car to a 35th-place finish after early contact with
Larson ruined his day. But after dominating at Auto Club Speedway, Truex's team
was no longer certain Harvick has the fastest ride in the field.
"It just feels good to win," said Truex, who became the third driver to win
from the pole at Fontana. "I don't really worry about who else is fast.
Obviously (Harvick) has been quick. They've got a great team, and Kevin is an
awesome driver. But as we've seen today, we can put together a run as well."
Truex took the lead for good with 32 laps left by getting past Kyle Busch, who
finished third. Brad Keselowski was fourth.
"People kept asking, 'When are you going to win again?'" said Truex, who led
125 laps overall. "'When are you going to win any stages?' Well, here you go."
When Truex got a series of post-race questions about Harvick, the defending
champ suggested that Furniture Row proved early on that it can hang with
"That first pit stop was under green, and he came in pretty close (to me),"
Truex said. "We left pit road, and I drove away from him. That was the only
gauge I really had of that. ... I'm sure we'll have plenty of chances to race
each other throughout the rest of the season."
Here are more things to know about the race at Fontana:
KEVIN'S SMACK: Harvick's bid to become the 14th driver ever to win four
straight races ended when he hit the wall after side-to-side contact with
Larson on the 37th lap. Harvick's flapping bumper was the most obvious problem,
but he made a nice save down the track to avoid an interior wall.
Harvick took the blame for the mistake.
"I went down to side-draft and (Larson) was coming up and we touched, and it
just knocked the thing to the right and spun out," Harvick said. "I don't know
that it's his fault. I think that's my fault for coming down the racetrack
right there and trying to side-draft, and then as we touch, it just came back
up the racetrack. I was just trying to get a little too much right there."
Harvick's car was repaired, and he managed to earn two standings points.
Harvick had won in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix before arriving in his home
state for an attempt to become the second driver in this century to win four
CLEAN SWEEP: Truex won both stages and a race for the third time in his career.
He also accomplished the feat at Las Vegas and Chicagoland during his
championship 2017 season. "I would have liked to be one spot better, but I
couldn't even see Martin," said Larson, the race's defending champion.
JJ IN 9TH: Six-time Fontana champ Jimmie Johnson finished ninth for his first
top-10 finish of the season, ending a 10-race skid outside the top 10 --- the
worst such stretch of his career. Johnson's winless streak reached 28 races,
also his longest in a career that began in 2001.
BACK AND FORTH: Truex and Busch traded the lead during the final stage, but
Busch had a problematic pit stop that left his car handling poorly. Truex
passed Busch for good with 32 laps to go. Busch was less than pleased afterward.
WHO'S HOT: Larson didn't let that early contact stop him from recording his
best finish in 13 races since last season.
WHO'S NOT: Trevor Bayne's day ended on the 108th lap when he smacked the wall.
UP NEXT: Martinsville on March 25.
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