After winning the first two stages in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway, a gritty Martin Truex Jr. fought back from an untimely caution to post a third-place finish.
Truex’s Furniture Row Racing teammate Erik Jones, who lined up sixth when the race restarted in overtime, found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as his No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota was one of nine cars collected in a final-lap melee at the 1-mile, all-concrete oval. He was credited with a 15th-place finish.
With the third-place result plus 20 points earned by winning the first two stages, Truex remained in first place in the driver standings. He is nine points ahead of Kyle Larson at the halfway mark of the 26-race regular season.
Truex also picked up two playoff bonus points for winning the two stages. He leads the Cup Series in stage wins (8) and playoff bonus points (18).
Truex, along with Kyle Larson and Jimmie Johnson, were the contenders for a good portion of the 406-Lap overtime race. Truex led three times for 102 laps but saw his chances for a win sour when a caution came out a few laps after making a green-flag pit stop on Lap 331.
Truex’s No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota eventually fell back to 17th as the race was winding down. But the tenacious Truex picked off positons with a rhythmic flow, and when the race was restarted for the final time he was running third, behind Larson and Johnson.
“We had a good car and just got caught by that caution after we pitted and lost our shot at the win,” said Truex. “The 42 (Kyle Larson), the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and us – I think we were all so close. Whoever it seemed to get out front was the best.
“Just not the finish we had hoped for, but still when you’re this disappointed with third, it speaks volumes about your team and where you’re at and what’s going on, so I had a lot of fun out there today. I can’t even tell you how challenging this track was with these cars and this aero package and all that. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many times I almost wrecked by myself, so it was a lot of fun. It was a challenge. We had to come through the field, which was difficult and that says a lot about our Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota and our team. We’ll keep digging and try to get them next week.”
The result was Truex’s fifth top-five and ninth top-10 finish of the season. It was also his sixth top 10 at Dover in the last seven races at the Delaware track.
The 21-year-old Jones picked up championship points in each of the first two stages, finishing eighth in Stage 1 (three points) and ninth (two points) in the second. Though he had handling issues at the rugged Monster Mile, Jones ran a stellar race and looked like he was set to notch a top-five finish when the race went into overtime.
“We never could find the right handling on the 5-hour ENERGY Camry,” said Jones. “We ran well at times but we’d go from tight to loose and then back again just about every pit stop. As for the crash at the end, I had a front-row seat to the whole thing and there was just nowhere for me to go. It’s unfortunate because we had better tires than a couple cars ahead of us on the restart.”
Jones is 18th in driver points.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!