Concord, N.C. — Martin Truex Jr. didn’t avoid ladders or black cats, never worried about cracking mirrors or stepping on cracks. He knew his bad luck on the Sprint Cup circuit would change.
Truex showed that in a big way Sunday night, leading a NASCAR-record 588 of 600 miles to win the Coca-Cola 600 — and break free of the bad luck that seemed to hit him when dominating races.
“There’s a lot of emotion right now, not real sure it’s sunk in yet,” Truex said. “Real amazing weekend, the kind you dream about.”
Especially when things have gone as wrong as they had for Truex and his single-car Furniture Row team the past year.
He led 141 laps at Texas, yet got strung up by poor pit strategy and finished sixth. In Kansas this month, he was out front for 172 laps until a loose wheel knocked him back to 14th.
A year ago here, Truex led the most laps at 131, but fell to fifth when he pitted for fuel late and four cars, including winner Carl Edwards, stayed out.
Truex never let it get to him.
“I had confidence. I had faith,” Truex said.
Truex won the fourth time on the series and the first time since last June at Pocono
Kevin Harvick was second, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch.
Truex’s win finished Memorial Day weekend’s mega-day of high-end racing that began with Lewis Hamilton’s win at the Monaco Grand Prix and continued with American rookie Alexander Rossi’s surprise triumph in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Truex took the surprise out of this one early and was barely touched by the field. He was passed by Johnson on a restart 55 laps from the end, but Truex went back in front a lap later and was not pushed again.
He bettered Jim Paschal’s mark of leading 335 laps to win at Charlotte in 1967.
Truex’s single-car Furniture Row Racing team outclassed the armada of multi-car Sprint Cup powerhouses.
Four-time Coca-Cola 600 winner Johnson was on Truex’s door a handful of times on restarts, then would fade back. Harvick, who won here in 2011 and 2013, was the best of rest as he got by Johnson 44 laps from the end — yet never made a serious run at the top.
“I mean they have had a few runs where they have just been the class of the field and things have kept them from Victory Lane,” Johnson said. “Tonight he wasn’t going to be denied there was no way around that.”
Owner Roger Penske, who had a disappointing day at Indianapolis, hoped to rebound with his NASCAR duo of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, who won the All-Star race at the track last weekend.
But Logano was set back by a pit road penalty and Keselowski could never make a serious challenge.
Hamlin, who won the Xfinity event Saturday, topped the Joe Gibbs Racing entries, with Matt Kenseth in seventh.