HAMPTON, Ga. – The No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota was en route to a top-10 finish during Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but the first of two green-white-checkered-flag finishes took Martin Truex Jr. out of contention when he was struck by Mark Martin and Denny Hamlin on lap 332. Crew chief Pat Tryson gambled and kept his driver out on the final restart. However, the damage was too much for Truex to keep up the pace. He was forced to limp home in 27th place, after an impressive run that saw him race in the top 10 for the final 100 laps of competition.
“Pat Tryson and the guys worked on the car all day and got my NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota in contention for a great finish,” said Truex who started the event 19th at NAPA’s hometown track. “The restart on lap 331 got ugly and we did all we could to miss a wreck in front of us, but got caught up in it. It’s a shame this had to happen to us. We deserved a lot better finish than what we actually got.”
The first half of the Kobalt Tools 500 saw Truex’s car push and then go loose off the corner. The NAPA pit crew was put into action on laps 36, 80 and 116 for air pressure adjustments along with bolting on four fresh tires and adding fuel. Each time, the service was completed in less than 13 seconds. The team’s average gain in track position off of pit road was four positions. The team’s biggest advancement took place on the first stop under caution that equated to a gain of six positions on the track.
“I have to hand it to my pit crew again,” commented Truex. “They were unbelievable on pit road. For the second-straight week, they won the Tissot Precision Pit Crew Award. They deserved it.”
The push-loose condition persisted. Truex maintained 17th place before the sixth caution flag was thrown when Joey Logano blew a tire. Tryson opted to add a wedge adjustment to improve the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. Truex pitted on lap 159 and in 12.8 seconds, he was back on the track in 13th.
The tide started to turn for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team by the 230-lap mark. Truex told Tryson that his car was starting to respond favorably. The NAPA Toyota broke into the top 10 on lap 244.
Another small air pressure change was made under green-flag conditions on lap 276. The service was completed in 12.56 seconds. Five laps later, Truex came over the radio and said, “She’s coming alive boys!” He was right. The NAPA Toyota climbed to seventh position before the 10th caution of the day was thrown after Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski had their second altercation of the day. The contact sent Keselowski airborne. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The yellow flag put the race into overtime and the frontrunners were on pit road for fresh tires. Since, Truex’s car was fast, no changes were needed except for the addition of four fresh tires. Truex returned to the track in sixth position with his crew chief putting him on notice that a few teams in front of him opted for two tires and to be aware.
Unfortunately for the NAPA team, the restart saw the two-tire change made by Jamie McMurray’s team cause a multi-car accident on lap 332 when the reigning Daytona 500 champion lost traction. The No. 56 tried to maneuver through the chaos, but was hit by Martin and Hamlin. The NAPA Toyota sustained the most damage in the left rear quarter panel. Instead of pitting under the caution, the team hoped to gamble and maintain the track position they deserved – ninth. But, as the green flag waved one final time on lap 339, it was evident the car was taken out competitive form as Truex crossed the finish line in 27th.
Kurt Busch dominated the Kobalt Tools 500 to win his first race of 2010. Rounding out the top-five finishers were Matt Kenseth, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard.
Truex’s MWR teammate David Reutimann was on the mark for a top-10 finish, but suffered an overheating problem on lap 165. He ended up in 40th position. Meanwhile, MWR’s technical alliance with JTG-Daugherty Racing saw Marcos Ambrose finish eleventh.
David Reutimann, No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota
“It was an up and down day. We weren’t the best we didn’t feel like at various times, but all in all, the car drove good and the guys made good pit stops. We just kind of got up there when it counted. Our car liked the outside so we just kept pounding away on it. Low and behold in the end, the bottom seemed to be better for us in that last little bit. It ended up working out. The guys did a good job with good pit stops and it’s a good way to start the season. Those restarts were just killing us toward the end and we couldn’t do anything right. I couldn’t get in the right line and things kept getting messed up. Thankfully we got the Aaron’s Dream Machine where it needed to be when it counted and it ended up working out pretty well. I had a good run coming to the start-finish. I’m real proud of my guys. I have to thank Aaron’s, Tums and Best Western, Toyota and Toyota Racing Development because we had some good horsepower today. Top-five is a good way to start the season out.” David Reutimann
Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota
“It was wild, wild, wild. I had a lot of fun today with the NAPA Toyota. I’m proud of the team. The pit stops were amazing for our first race together. If I had to rate it, I would say it was an A++. I had a lot of fun. As for the multiple green-white-checkered finishes, it was what I expected. There were a bunch of tore up cars, but I am sure the fans got their money’s worth. There at the end there was a storm brewing all day and it seemed like every time we took a break our car got even better. It was a lot of fun and a really good race. I thought everyone did an excellent job. We raced super hard up front. The guys used their heads, but never crossed the line. That’s the most fun I have ever had in Daytona.” Martin Truex Jr.
Michael Waltrip Racing drivers finished the 52nd annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway as follows:
MWR Race Results:
David Reutimann, No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota - Finished fifth.
Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota - Finished and sixth.
Michael Waltrip, No. 51 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota - Finished 18th.