FORT WORTH, Texas – Martin Truex Jr. battled an ill-handling No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota during Mondayís running of the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Despite the challenge, he and crew chief Pat Tryson worked throughout the event to improve their car and in the closing laps, Truex skillfully drove through and avoided a nine-car pileup to finish in ninth place. The top-10 result allowed the NAPA team to climb to 17th in the championship points standings Ė just 23 points out of The Chase.
"Merry Christmas to us," said Truex, who qualified his NAPA Toyota in 14th position on Friday. "We have more work to do. That last run was tough. The NAPA Toyota wanted to go straight on exit when it hit the bumps. The whole race our car was good for two laps and then the handling would go away. We'll figure it out. Pat and I are still getting to know one another and that's part of the process when building a new team. We'll get it worked out. We'll take ninth and keep digging."
Tony Stewart led the field to the green flag. It was the first time the Sprint Cup cars were on the track since Friday. Rain washed out Saturdayís practice sessions and postponed the main event until Monday. The inclement weather had teams wondering how their cars would handle in traffic with the new rear spoiler. For the NAPA team, they opted to go with a setup similar to what was used in qualifying. Truex was fast during the opening laps, but would then develop a push. NASCAR threw a competition yellow on lap 25 for teams to evaluate their setups. The NAPA crew used the caution to make wedge, air pressure and track bar changes. Unfortunately, they lost time on pit road when a lug nut got jammed in an air gun. Truex was forced to restart in 34th position Ė a loss of 14 spots. Neither he nor his crew chief were overly concerned as there were plenty of laps to get back on track.
When the race hit the 100-lap mark, the caution was thrown after Brian Vickers blew his second tire of the event. During this time, the NAPA driver said he had no grip and his NAPA Toyota was skating in the back. The crew adjusted the track bar and wedge. The No. 56 restarted the race in 24th position and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the leader. Changes made during the stop seemed to make the NAPA Toyota better. As the laps ticked away, the splitter started to hit the pavement. Then on lap 112, Truex dodged a bullet when he narrowly missed a spinning No. 77 car. The yellow flag enabled the pit crew to go back to work and in 12.59 seconds, Truex was back on track and in 23rd position.
Shortly before the 200-lap mark, Truex was put a lap down by the leader Jimmie Johnson. The setback did not have the NAPA team discouraged as they stayed within range of earning the free pass. More opportunities to get the car faster came on laps 215, 235 and 283. Air pressure changes were the main course of action. As before, the car would start out balanced, but it would go away the longer the green-flag run.
A turning point for the team came when Tryson opted to keep his driver out on the track when the sixth caution flag came out. It put the wave-around strategy into play in hopes of getting Truex back on the lead lap. The call paid off just one lap after the restart. The yellow flag was thrown for a multi-car crash that was triggered by Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards. Truex made it through the melee unscathed, but Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya, AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard werenít as lucky. NASCAR red flagged the race for the cleanup. During the 20-minute delay, Truex and Tryson were on the radio discussing adjustments. The NAPA Toyota was now too loose and needed to drive off the corners better. The teamís final stop occurred on lap 319 for a track bar change, four fresh tires and a splash of fuel. Truex returned to the track in 13th position.
The final restart saw Truex drive from 13th to ninth position in the 12-lap shootout. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin drove past Jeff Burton for the lead and he never looked back to score his second victory of the season.
Martin Truex, Jr., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota
David Reutimann Race Summary: David Reutimannís 2010 hard-luck story played out at Texas Motor Speedway on Monday when another great performance ended with a disappointing finish. The No. 00 Aaronís Dream Machine raced in the top five throughout most of the 334-lap race. But with 30 laps remaining, Reutimann began reporting something amiss under the hood as he gave up fifth-place to Tony Stewart. Just a few laps later, the day came to a close amid flames and smoke as Reutimann coasted down the backstretch. NASCAR credited Reutimann with a 37th-place finish. Reutimann raced in the top six at the moment he encountered the race ending problem. He dropped five spots to 30th in points. The Sprint Cup Series heads to Talladega this weekend.
David Reutimann, No. 00 TUMS Toyota
“Thatís about as frustrating as it gets. We had a great car all day and ran with the leaders and we have a problem with 20 laps to go and canít finish the race. That unfortunately has been the story of our season so far. I donít know what we need to do to turn it around, but this is getting old. Weíve had some good finishes go up in smoke literally.” David Reutimann