Truex falls short of victory with late-race gamble

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Truex falls short of victory with late-race gamble
Lee Spencer
By: Lee Spencer
Mar 27, 2017, 1:17 AM

Martin Truex Jr. would rather be on the offense in the closing laps of a race.

Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet leads Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Start: Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet leads
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet leads Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota

That didn’t happen on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

A late-race decision by crew chief Cole Pearn to remain on the track on Lap 193 when race-leader — and eventual winner Kyle Larson pitted for fresh tires — put Truex on the defensive.

Pearn knew the call was risky. When asked whether he believed the No. 78 Toyota could maintain track position until the finish, Pearn replied, “Probably not.”

He was right. Truex, who was second behind Larson before the caution, restarted second behind Denny Hamlin on Lap 196. Larson easily set sail and regained the point before the field reached Turn 2.  

“It was definitely not the situation we wanted to be in, but we thought more guys would stay out there,” Truex said. “I think we only ran a few laps. It was definitely a disadvantage at the end and just really tight. Holding on for fourth was good for points.”

The importance of tires

Truex knew how important tires would be at Auto Club Speedway. He discovered how the handling changed on his car when he battled Larson for the lead on Lap 165. Truex used up his tires and 10 laps later, Larson had extended his advantage over Truex by more than one-second. 

“It’s just tires and we had a big disadvantage at the end, playing defense more than offense,” Truex said. “We played offense all day and I was able to run first or second most of the day. At the day had a disadvantage on tires and that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Sometimes you make the call and it’s right and sometimes your call is wrong. 

“We made the wrong one today, but to come home with a fourth after all that, definitely a good day for us.”

Truex had issues in the pits as well. On Lap 156, Truex almost made contact with Jimmie Johnson, who has spun missing his pit stall. Truex also lost five spots on his final stop on Lap 181. 

Despite leading 73 laps and earning the Stage 2 victory, Truex finished fourth. Still, Truex’s Playoff points increased to eight — the most in the Monster Energy Cup Series — with his third stage win of the season. He also scored a career-high fourth-place finish at the two-mile track.

“Overall, it was a good day for everybody, we just had that one pit stop and I slid a little bit – a foot or so further than I had all day. The guys got the air hose caught on the splitter and we lost six spots or whatever it was. All in all, it was a good day and we ran up front and led laps. The 42 (Kyle Larson) and I felt like we were the class of the field – he just got it done and we didn’t.”

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About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Event Fontana
Location Auto Club Speedway
Drivers Martin Truex Jr.
Teams Furniture Row Racing
Author Lee Spencer
Article type Breaking news