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Truex "in position to steal one" until late caution at Kansas

Everything seemed to be lining up exactly as Martin Truex Jr. needed to earn his first NASCAR Cup win of the season at Kansas Speedway until a late caution flipped the script.

Martin Truex Jr, Joe Gibbs Racing, Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry

As Sunday’s race drew to a close, Denny Hamlin held a precarious lead as Truex was closing fast on newer tires and Hamlin’s team was unsure whether he had enough gas to even make it to the finish.

In either case, Truex looked primed to pick up his first win of 2024. But then, Kyle Busch spun out in the final laps to bring out a caution and send the race into a two-lap overtime.

Truex’s advantages suddenly disappeared as all of the lead lap cars pit for tires and fuel. While most teams took just two new tires, Truex’s No. 19 team went with four, but that left him lined up 10th on the restart.

Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher quickly got around Hamlin on the restart and ended the race in a wild side by side finish that left Larson the winner in the closest finish in NASCAR history. Truex could only get up to fourth.

Watch: Closest finish in Cup Series history: Larson seizes the Kansas win

“I was just trying to find somewhere to go, you know?” Truex said about the final restart. “Restarting from 10th with four tires is tough to do in two laps.

“Just needed to clear (Chase Elliott) a little quicker and needed to get into (Turn) 3 single-file, and then I probably had a chance, but we were two-wide and that made me tight off Turn 4. Couldn’t quite get the run I needed to get to the win.

“I don’t know, just frustrating. We were looking really good until that last caution, as always. I don’t know what we need to do to close one out.”

Asked about the outcome had the race stayed green, Truex said he felt confident he would have grabbed the lead and the victory.

“He was obviously going to run out of fuel from what they told me, but I don’t know,” Truex said of Hamlin. “They said he couldn’t make it. But we easily were going to pass him. It doesn’t matter because the caution came out.

“We were in position to steal one there. Definitely had the best car, but fought hard all night, made good decisions and made the car better and better.

“That was great, but it always stinks when you see the lead and can’t get it.”

Truex remains the highest ranked driver in the series standings without a win as he now sits in second place, 29 points behind Larson.

Yet he again is left wondering what could have been.

“I didn’t win the race, so it wasn’t the right call,” Truex said of pitting for four tires on the last stop. “But I also don’t think anyone expected that many teams to do two (tires) after a long green flag run like that.”

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