Splitter to Spoiler: Truex driving for more than shot at a NASCAR championship

New King of Kentucky crowned, Larson ups the excitement level after repave and Wallace (possibly) finishes on high note

Christopher Hanewinckel—X02835
Jul 8

As Martin Truex Jr. was celebrating his third win of the season and first triumph in Kentucky, his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, was nowhere to be found. Truex partied with his crew in Victory Lane, but didn’t get the ceremonial kiss from Pollex after jumping out of his No. 78 machine.That’s because she was in a hospital recovering from a cancer recurrence she found out about the week prior. It’s an all-too-common reality for Pollex, who said has said in the past that 80 percent of people with Stage 3 ovarian cancer have a recurrence and die within five years.”We found out a while ago about it,” Truex said. “She went in this weekend to have some surgery done. … Everything went perfectly good, went as planned. I’m going to bring her home tomorrow. I’m excited to get home and see her, and everything is going great.”What Truex is doing on a personal level is remarkable. Saturday marked the second time this season that Truex has swept the first two stages and came away with the win — no other driver has accomplished that feat. He also leads NASCAR with 1,115 laps led, 257 more than Kyle Busch in nearly identical equipment.What he’s doing for Furniture Row Racing is unheard of. Prior to his arrival, FRR had just one win and one playoff appearance. In the last three years, Truex has amassed eight wins, 22 top fives and an absurd 3,491 laps led. Before coming to the Denver-based team, Truex had two victories, 31 top fives and 1,888 laps led in his previous eight full-time seasons.”I think he’s peaking right now, and I think he’s — I’ve always thought — for the last year I’ve thought he was as good as anyone in the garage,” FRR owner Barney Visser said. “Now I think he’s better than anyone in the garage. You saw what he did on that last restart, putting it down in Turn 1. He’s just that good.”All of those numbers also came after another crucial life event: Learning Pollex was battling cancer. Since that point, both have been winning every battle that comes their way.Following his victory on Saturday, Truex headed straight to Pollex’s side and burned even more rubber when he pushed her out of the hospital in her wheelchair. And after leading 46 laps and finishing in the top 10 last year at Kentucky, the whole weekend could be summed up in one word: Redemption.”It’s just completely unbelievable,” Truex said. “I thought we had a shot last year and it got away from us on fuel mileage. I wanted to win here so bad, so this is sweet redemption.”Larson is still passing carsOut of 274 laps on Saturday night, Kyle Larson led zero. But in a race where Truex blistered the competition, leading 152 laps, the driver in the No. 42 was clearly the most entertaining car to watch all night.Larson made a race-high 90 green flag passes after starting from the back of the field when the initial green flag dropped. Of those, 51 were “quality passes” from Larson, which meant he passed a car inside the top 15 under green.The only driver Larson couldn’t flag down? Truex, of course.”Wish we could have competed with Martin, but he was obviously extremely fast today,” Larson said. “We all have some work to do to keep up with him. … Martin was super-fast and been really, really fast all year long. I think we’ve been second best to him, but he’s in a whole other league right now.”Outside of Larson’s multiple surges from the back to the top five, there wasn’t much action on the track. The Kentucky repave after last year’s race left only one lane for drivers to run and single-file racing for much of the night. Only Larson, Truex and Chase Elliott — who came away with 66 green-flag passes — were able to find any success in more than one lane.”I mean, my car was good, so I had fun,” Larson said. “I could see how it was probably frustrating for other people, but I thought the racing was okay. For sure it was hard to pass at times. … So yeah, repaves are just always tough to pass on.”Larson charging near the front all night is just another example of why the racing at the track is always better than on television. Much of the focus on NBC Sports Network was on Truex and his ridiculous run up front as opposed to how Larson was actually finding passing lanes in the middle of the pack.Then again, it could also just be the car, as Brad Keselowski noted after he wrecked on Saturday night.”It is a poorly designed race car and it makes racing on tracks like this very difficult to put on the show we want to put on for our fans,” Keselowski said. “… It is time for the sport to design a new car that is worthy of where this sport deserves to be and the show it deserves to put on for its fans.”Tell us how you really feel, Brad.Wallace shows vast improvement with RPMIf this was it for Bubba Wallace in NASCAR’s top series, he certainly went out on a high note.Making possibly his last start for Richard Petty Motorsports, Wallace once again kept his car clean and put together a career-high 11th-place result in Kentucky. But with Aric Almirola testing in Charlotte on Tuesday and possibly healthy enough to return, Wallace could be without a ride at New Hampshire.With his Xfinity Series team folding prior to him making the jump to the Monster Energy Cup Series, Wallace might be sitting on the sidelines for the rest of the season. Even if he’s out of a ride, Wallace said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”It was time for me to get in the Cup series and make my splash. We did that,” Wallace said. “We didn’t bring home any torn up race cars; didn’t bring out a back-up car once; didn’t smack the fence on my own at all the races; and the car looks pretty clean tonight. I think I did my job.”In his four races with Petty, Wallace completed 795 of 797 laps and improved in each event. After finishing 26th at Pocono in his first Cup race, Wallace wheeled the No. 43 to 19th at Michigan, 15th at Daytona and 11th in Kentucky.The next step for Wallace is finding a team with an open seat and sponsors to help him get into the top 10 on a consistent basis. While his career could possibly be put on hold, his showing with RPM should be enough to convince any team or sponsor to take a chance on one of the most marketable drivers in the sport.”I’ve got a lot of people in my corner,” Wallace said. “It’s just a matter of what comes at us at the right time. The best opportunity will present itself when the time is right. … We’ll go have some fun, enjoy the week off — maybe, I might be back at Loudon, who knows? I might be back for the next handful of races, who knows?”