(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)
Forget that Martin Truex Jr. finished 11th in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.
The story for the Furniture Row Racing driver was how he was able to overcome a number of serious issues to post a respectable result during the overtime race at the hard-to-pass 1-mile flat track.
After a sub-par qualifying effort of 16th, Truex advanced five positions when he came down pit road following a caution on Lap 28.
“I felt at that point we were moving up and it would be a matter of time before we got ourselves to the front,” said Truex, last week’s winner in Las Vegas. “But our Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota never got going in the right direction due to a couple of issues that left us with poor track position.”
During a pit stop after Stage 1 of the race was completed (75 laps), the No. 78 team suffered a major blow with a lengthy stop due to a socket getting stuck while removing a tire. That incident sent Truex to 26th place.
But the Furniture Row Racing driver kept on battling back, picking off positions on the slippery track surface. He eventually made it to the top 10 and was running ninth on Lap 246. But then a clutch problem arose due to a burned throw-out bearing. The problem forced his car to be push-started following a caution on Lap 260, costing Truex valuable time on pit road. He lost 17 spots in track position and restarted 26th.
“We were doomed at that point to make any charge with the clutch issue,” noted Truex. “But we kept fighting back at a track that is difficult to pass on.”
Truex did indeed battle back and found himself in third after forgoing a final stop when the yellow flag flew with four laps remaining in regulation.
“We restarted third at the end, knowing that some of the guys with fresh tires would most likely pass us, but we held off a lot of them too,” explained Truex. “Had we pitted then we would again have lost a bunch of spots on pit road due to the clutch problem. We had an easy top-10 car and possibly a top-five or better, but the issues we faced made it a rough day. We got the most out of what we had to contend with.”
The good news for Truex is that he remained fourth in the driver point standings after four races. His finishing average in the four races is 8.25.
The Camping World 500 race winner was Ryan Newman. Rounding out the top-10 were: Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.
The race had 15 lead changes among eight drivers and there were eight cautions for 45 laps.
The next Cup race is Sunday, March 26 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!