Martin Truex Jr. doesn’t believe the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team will “miss a step” if and when crew chief Cole Pearn serves his one-race suspension due to an infraction discovered in pre-race inspection last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
That ‘when’ could be as early as next week at Phoenix International Raceway.
NASCAR officials weren’t happy with the roof flap assembly on the No. 78 car — which failed inspection two races in a row.
I think he’s a bit frustrated ... People in the garage area talk and he feels like, ‘Do people really think I’m stupid enough after what happened at Daytona to try to pull something on NASCAR in the same area?’
Martin Truex Jr. on crew chief Cole Pearn
Neither the incident at Daytona or Atlanta affected Truex’s performance in the race. He finished second in the Daytona 500 and seventh on Sunday at Atlanta after leading 34 laps.
However, Truex is currently eighth in the point standings after being docked 15 championship points after NASCAR penalized the team under section 126.96.36.199 a in the rulebook on Wednesday.
Not your standard violation
“This situation is kind of an odd one,” Truex said. “It’s not like we were trying to pull something over on somebody. This was a case where something happened and they don’t really understand.
“I’ll let the team go through the appeal process and do what they have to do. At the end of the day, we raced Atlanta without any issues. We obviously had a fast car and very competitive day on the race track. I’m just really looking forward to continuing that today. I’ll let the team figure out that side of things and do my job this weekend.”
Truex, who is coming off of a career-best season in Sprint Cup last year — including his top career qualifying effort (eighth) and finish (second) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, said on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway the No. 78 team needs no additional motivation in the wake of the infraction.
Pearn frustrated by garage talk
“We come to the race track every weekend with that kind of mentality,” Truex said. “From that side of it, it’s not a big deal. From Cole’s side, I think he’s a bit frustrated from how it went down, which is understandable. I think people in the garage area talk and he feels like, ‘Do people really think I’m stupid enough after what happened at Daytona to try to pull something on NASCAR in the same area?’
“He’s a little frustrated by that side of it, but at the same time, being it’s a safety issue, it’s really a big deal to figure out exactly how it all happened. Figure out how to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. We’ll go through the appeals process.”
Or maybe not.
Appealing the penalty unwise?
It might not be in the team’s best interest to appeal an infraction that NASCAR considers a safety issue. There’s enough on Furniture Row Racing’s plate this season after changing manufacturers in the off-season.
Although Truex piloted at Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2013, for the last two seasons, Truex raced a Chevy with Furniture Row. While Truex is familiar with Toyota Racing Development after driving the No. 56 Camry for four years, he acknowledged the transition for FRR included plenty of overtime for his team, the manufacturer and Joe Gibbs Racing, who Furniture Row shares a technical alliance with.
“The switch to Toyota involved a lot of work, it involved a lot of overtime and a lot of effort by everybody involved,” Truex said. “It’s been a very busy offseason. We’ve been really pleased with how things have started off. Obviously Daytona was a really good race for us and Atlanta, the first downforce race with the low downforce package went really well – we had a really fast race car all weekend and we challenged for the win all the way up to the end.
“It’s gone well so far, probably even better than expected out of the gate. I’m just proud of everyone for all the efforts and all the work that has went in. We had a good test yesterday and looking forward to seeing what we can do here this weekend.”