Sunday’s roundup: Truex wins Southern 500
Darlington, S.C. — Martin Truex Jr. has already won two of NASCAR’s most coveted races. Now, he’s seeking a much bigger honor.
Truex led the final 28 laps and held off the Kevin Harvick’s powerhouse car to win the Southern 500, closing the summer season with a second of Sprint Cup’s “crown jewel” races on Labor Day weekend. She began things by winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend.
Truex stamped himself as a contender to be reckoned with when the Sprint Cup playoffs start in two weeks.
“We’re hungry. We’re working hard,” Truex said. “This is just the beginning for us, I think.”
Many others think that, too, especially after Truex patiently stayed in the top 10 throughout and pounced when the opportunity struck, moving past leader Ryan Newman and never surrendering the top spot.
It was Truex’s sixth fifth NASCAR win and first in 11 career Darlington races.
Crew chief Cole Pearn said winning two crown jewel races in a season is something special, but the team’s focus is on the championship Chase that starts at Chicagoland Speedway in two weeks.
“You’ve got to take the highs when they’re here and then get back to work,” he said.
Truex pulled up to the inside wall to greet his crew after the win, then taking off for some celebration donuts at the track “Too Tough To Tame.”
Harvick, who led 214 of 367 laps, had some words for his crew, too — much angrier and pointed about their poor performance in the pits. During one 16.6-second stop, Harvick fell from first to 12th and while he got to back to second, correctly said on the radio after that stop, “It’s pretty much over at this point.”
The 2014 Sprint Cup champion said it was time for the crew to perform. “I’m over being a cheerleader. Those guys get paid a lot of money to perform on pit road and cheerleading really hasn’t been working,” he said. “You’ve got to get after it on pit road and do your job.”
Last week’s winner at Michigan, Kyle Larson, finished third and Denny Hamlin was fourth. Joey Logano was fifth, followed by Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott.
It’s the second time in the past six Southern 500s that single-car Furniture Row Racing wound up in victory lane. Regan Smith stunned the Sprint Cup garage in 2011 with his win here.
Truex, among the four finalists in last year’s championship Chase, is locked in again this year and has stamped himself a significant contender for the Sprint Cup crown.
“It was definitely worth the wait,” he said.
Dixon dominates Glen
Scott Dixon was in a league of his own at Watkins Glen International. It’s sort of becoming old hat.
Fastest in every practice and fastest in qualifying, Dixon won the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen with a dominant drive Sunday in his No. 9 Chevy for Chip Ganassi Racing, leading all but 10 of the 60 laps around the 11-turn, 3.37-mile natural terrain layout.
It didn’t make up for his crushing eighth-place finish at Toronto in June, a race he led for 56 laps after starting from pole and lost because of pit strategy. It still felt awfully good, nonetheless.
“I wish it would happen a lot more often. These are weekends you don’t forget,” Dixon said after his 40th victory overall moved him alone into fourth place on the career list. “You just think of problems or strategy not going your way. We got amazing fuel mileage.”
The New Zealander won for the second time this season and fourth time at The Glen to tie NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon for second place in track history behind Tony Stewart’s five. Josef Newgarden was second, followed by Helio Castroneves, Conor Daly, and Sebastien Bourdais.
Simon Pagenaud finished seventh and increased his lead over Will Power to 43 points in the standings with one race remaining in the season. Pagenaud had to back off to save fuel in the closing laps and lost two spots on track.
Power crashed just past the midpoint of the race and finished 20th. He was not permitted to return because of concussion symptoms. Pagenaud said afterward that Power, who missed the first race of the season because of concussion symptoms, was OK. The two Penske drivers are the only ones still in contention for the title.
It was the first IndyCar race at The Glen since Power won from the pole in 2010.
When the series returned to the historic road course in upstate New York’s wine country in 2005, Dixon won the first three races, his victory that first year snapping a 40-race winless streak.
Dixon won the pole Saturday with a speed of over 147 mph in a record-shattering time that eclipsed the previous record by nearly six seconds on the track’s new pavement.
Power’s drive toward the championship suffered a damaging blow when his No. 12 Chevy made contact with Charlie Kimball on lap 39 coming out of the high-speed esses. Kimball hit Power’s left rear tire and sent him hard into the barrier.
Nico Rosberg won the Italian Grand Prix virtually unchallenged after Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton wasted pole position with a poor start.
Hamilton got off the line at the same time as the other cars but immediately fell behind, dropping to sixth before the first corner.
Rosberg, who started second, took the early lead and cruised to his seventh win of the season, second straight this year and first of his career at the storied Monza circuit in Italy, which has hosted more Formula One racing than any other track. It was also the 21st win of Rosberg’s career.
Rosberg also cut Hamilton’s championship lead to two points with seven races remaining.
Hamilton climbed his way back to finish second. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen crossed third and fourth, respectively.
Courtney Force won the Funny Car portion of the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout in Brownsburg, Ind., and Matt Hagan topped qualifying in the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Force sprinted to a $100,000 payday in her Chevy Camaro SS, powering to a 4.018-second pass at 266.04 mph to beat teammate Robert Hight in the final round of the specialty event.
Hagan’s topped qualifying with his Friday night performance of 3.858 at 330.80 in a Dodge Charger R/T.