In the end, the little team that could, did.
The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship was settled in the best possible way: The year’s two dominant drivers, Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing and Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing, waged a battle for the ages over the final 34 laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday night, with Truex narrowly holding off Busch to win the Ford EcoBoost 400 and, more importantly, his first Cup title.
This was a true Clash of the Titans and it was ultimately decided as it should have been, with a green-flag run unsullied by a late-race caution for debris or some strange pit road strategy that let a driver steal a win.
This was mano a mano, hammer and tongs, war; hard, clean racing by two drivers and teams that combined to win 13 of 36 points races this year, including seven of 10 playoff races, plus the all-star event.
No flukes here, just the real deal times two in Truex, Busch and their respective teams.
And, lordy, did it come with some drama.
Furniture Row ran its first race in Cup in 2005, but didn’t win for the first time until 2011.
The team’s owner, the soft-spoken and likeable Vietnam vet Barney Visser, wasn’t even in Homestead because he had a heart attack followed by bypass surgery Nov. 6.
Truex’s girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, continues to wage a brave and public battle with ovarian cancer.
Furniture Row fabricator Jim “Wildman” Watson died of a heart attack last month at a team go-kart event during the Kansas race weekend.
While virtually all of the top NASCAR teams are based in the Metro Charlotte area, Furniture Row is the only located in Denver, where Visser’s business is.
It was one whale of an exclamation point to put on a wild and unpredictable season that began in January with the shocking announcement that Carl Edwards was walking away from the sport.
In the end, though, Truex got it done the way he has so often this year.
“We didn’t have the best car,” said NASCAR’s newest champion. “I don’t know how we won that thing. Never give up. Dig deep. I told my guys we were going to dig deeper than we ever have today and 20 (laps) to go I thought I was done – they were all better than me on the long run all day long. I just found a way.”
Yes, he did.
And the tears flowed freely, as they should.
“It’s just overwhelming,” Truex said. “To think about all the rough days and bad days, the days that couldn’t run 20th, to be here, I never thought this day would come and to be here is so unbelievable.”
You and the little team that could made it happen.
And when you did, you created a story that will last for the ages in NASCAR lore.