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Jersey Boy: Martin Truex Jr. breaks through, wins at Pocono


After so many close finishes this season, Martin Truex Jr. finally roared into Victory Lane – and most likely into the Chase for the Sprint Cup on Sunday.

Truex earned his third career Cup win and first since Sonoma in 2013 by capturing the Axalta We Paint Winners 400 at Pocono Raceway. He is the 10th different driver to win a race this season.

“It feels unbelievable,” Truex told Fox Sports 1. “I knew we were going to get one. I feel that I’m on Cloud Nine right now.”

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

Truex, a native of Mayetta, N.J., about two hours away from Pocono, has endured a rough stretch since late in 2013. He lost his ride after the 2013 season at Michael Waltrip Racing when his sponsor left and girlfriend Sherry Pollex was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year.

The win marks the 13th time Truex has finished in the top 10 this season in 14 races. Twelve races remain until the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Points leader Kevin Harvick finished second. Jimmie Johnson finished third, followed by Joey Logano and pole-sitter Kurt Busch.

How Truex won: He had one of the strongest car. Truex led 97 of 160 laps. He led four different times, the last one being for the final 27 laps and 66 of the last 67 laps en route to the checkered flag.

Who else had a good day: Kevin Harvick now has 10 top-2 finishes in the first 14 races, tying a record held by NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison. … Jimmie Johnson finished third despite contact with the wall late. … Pole-sitter Kurt Busch fell back after the first lap, but remained in the top 10 for much of the race, rallying to finish fifth.

Who had a bad day: Danica Patrick was having a strong run, in 11th place, when she wrecked from an apparent flat tire with 26 laps remaining. While her crew repaired her car, Patrick again spun onto pit road with seven laps left. She finished 37th. … Both drivers for Richard Petty Motorsports had bad days - Aric Almirola finished last due to a blown engine, and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 41st due to a wreck. … With 20 laps remaining, AJ Allmendinger and Ryan Newman were battling for seventh place when they made contact and wrecked. … Two speeding penalties and a blown tire ruined Paul Menard’s race. He finished 31st. ... Tony Stewart continues to struggle, finishing 21st.

Notable: Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser decided Sunday morning not to fly from Denver to Pocono. He’s probably kicking himself now, given that his driver went on to win. … Next Sunday’s race at Michigan will be the last before an off-weekend on June 21. However, the Xfinity Series will race that same weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Quote of the day: “I’m just happy for him. I know he’s been through a lot of stuff inside and outside the car the last several years. He’s in a good opportunity with a good people. He has a team that believes in him. … They continue to get better. Martin’s in a good situation. It’s real refreshing.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of Truex’s best friends, who finished 11th in Sunday’s race.

What’s next: Quicken Loans 400, June 14, Michigan International Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski