2017 is the Year of Martin Truex Jr.

Confidence is king. Confidence leads to results, victories and championships. Confidence is what Martin Truex Jr. and the entire Furniture Row Racing team are oozing with. Saturday night was more of the same for the No. 78 team as Truex Jr. dominated almost entirely from start-to-finish under the lights in the Bluegrass State capturing both stage wins and the eventual checkered flag in his 10th career victory.

Truex was coasting to the finish with more than a 16 second lead over the second place position until the dreaded caution flag waved with the engine of the 41 car of Kurt Busch going down. Truex, the leader with the dominant car, was to be victim no matter the call by Crew Chief Cole Pearn entering the final restart. The No. 78 team opted to stay out with older tires as the field went down pit road.

Proving just how phenomenal Truex and the Furniture Row Denver Mattress Toyota Camry were to the competition, the 78 car quickly left the field in the dust. On older tires with the 42 car of Kyle Larson pushing from the outside line, Truex surged past the 18 of Kyle Busch through the first two corners and held the lead until a wreck behind him at the end of the first overtime lap brought out a caution freezing the field with Truex in the lead, signaling he was the victor.

“I thought we were dead, I thought we were done.” Truex exclaimed elated after the burnout near the start/finish line before dashing after the checkered flag.

Truex Jr. led 152 of the 267 laps at Kentucky, and took home both stage victories to extend his series-lead of 13. The 78 team has also stretched their series-leading playoff point total to a whopping 28 points. Truex’s wins no surprise, have all come on mile and a half tracks first at Las Vegas, Kansas and now at Kentucky and is tied for most victories this season with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. The Furniture Row Racing team clearly has the setup on 1.5 mile tracks fine tuned to perfection, which will pay dividends by the time The Chase rolls around in the Fall.

Truex Jr. has put himself in the catbird seat with all drivers chasing him with all of the playoff points and victories he has accumulated in the regular season. The real surprise is that Truex isn’t just dominant on the mile and a halves, it seems like each and every week no matter if it’s a short track, intermediate or super speedway, the 78 team is riding around near the front and has the car and the ability to capture the victory. Cole Pearn was quoted in victory lane when asked about the statement win for the 78 team, “I don’t know, I think it would be a statement if we go to Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) next week and shut everyone up about the mile and a half thing. Hopefully we’re holding some lobster next week, but we’ll enjoy this one for sure.”

Pearn was also asked about the energy and confidence surrounding Truex Jr. and the 78 team, “Yeah, we’re a fun bunch. We work really hard and enjoy it. I know everybody in the shop is probably yelling, screaming and going crazy right now. We’re real fortunate it’s like a family, and when you can win with family it makes it that much more special.” Truex Jr. took home the checkered flag and was thrilled to do so, “I’m so excited to win here. It felt like we had a shot last year and it got away from us on fuel mileage and just wanted to win here so, so bad after that. This is sweet redemption.”

Martin Truex Jr. has dominated all season long and it is all coming together now for him and the 78 Furniture Row Racing team, all the other drivers are well aware of the imminent threat they possess each and every week as they contented for a championship. Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted after the race Saturday night, “Happy for my friend Martin Truex Jr. on his success. It was a lot of work and a long journey.” Dale hit the nail on the head there and the success and results will continue to pour in for Truex and his team as 2017 has been their year without question.

Follow Frank Pimentel on Twitter:  @FrankBostonTank

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