TALLADEGA, Ala. – When it comes to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing at Talladega Superspeedway, Martin Truex Jr. usually finds his car being pulled to the garage on a wrecker before the checkered flag waves. Today wasn’t the case as he and crew chief Pat Tryson ran a conservative Aaron’s 499 until the final 30 laps. That’s when the driver made his move to the front to outlast three green-white-checkered-flag finishes to earn a 12th place finish. The result moved Truex up to 15th place in the championship points standings – just 37 points out of The Chase.
“I did all I could,” said Truex who lined up 17th after NASCAR cancelled qualifying on Saturday due to severe weather. “My NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota just wouldn’t go there at the end especially when I got shuffled out. It’s a shame but considering the finishes I’ve had a Talladega over the last couple of races, I’ll take it. We avoided the wrecks and were in contention. We were able to pick up a few spots in the championship points standings so it was a good day for us.”
The opening laps of the Aaron’s 499 saw solid performances from the Michael Waltrip Racing stables. Team owner and the popular NAPA pitchman Michael Waltrip showed the Sprint Cup guys that despite the fact he’s semi-retired; he still knew his way around the 2.66-mile track. A second victory at Talladega was on his agenda. He led four laps before being taken out in a multi-car wreck on lap 84. David Reutimann also jumped to the lead on lap 83 and held the top spot for five laps.
Meanwhile, Truex chose to mix it up in the first 30 laps to see how his NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota would perform in the draft. During NASCAR’s caution on lap 20, Tryson called his driver in for four fresh tires and fuel. A 13-second stop by the NAPA crew enabled the No. 56 machine to return to the track in 20th place – a gain of six positions on the track.
The next 50 laps saw the team run in the top 20 and out of harm’s way. The conservative strategy paid off as Waltrip got taken out on lap 84 after Kyle Busch made contact with the No. 36 machine. Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard, Max Papas and Kurt Busch were also involved. Waltrip’s Toyota was damaged beyond repair. He was relegated to a 39th-place finish after an impressive run.
The second half of the race saw more of the same for Truex. He ran as high as fifth and as low as 31st. However, most of the laps, he was running comfortably in the top 20. Chances to take on fuel and bolt on tires took place on laps 102 and 146. Tryson opted to pit one final time on lap 177 for a splash of fuel. The crew chief figured the extra fuel would pay off if the race went into overtime and he was right. For the first time in NASCAR’s history, all three green-white-checkered-flag attempts were made before the checkered flag waved. All three green-white-checkered flag restarts saw Truex in the top10, but the final had him positioned in fifth place. Unfortunately he got shuffled out when Kyle Busch chose to slide out behind him which caused the No. 56 to lose all its momentum. Regardless, Truex finished the race – unscathed. It was the first time in six events where Truex scored better than a 30th-place finish.
Winning the race in the final shootout was Kevin Harvick. It was his first victory in 2010.
Martin Truex, Jr., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota
David Reutimann Race Summary: David Reutimann’s Aaron’s/University of Alabama National Championship Toyota was a fan favorite in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. In addition to carrying the home state colors, the No. 00 was as fast as any of the 43 cars on the track. Reutimann led five laps but looked like he would leave with a poor finish after falling out of the lead draft. But a late caution enabled him to climb back into the lead pack. In the final green-white-checkered finish he couldn’t get the help needed to battle for the victory and finished 14th. Reutimann is now 27th in points as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to Richmond for Saturday night’s race.
David Reutimann, No. 00 TUMS Toyota
“It seemed like I could give help, but no one seemed to really want to give me any. The 11 (Denny Hamlin) worked with us really good and there was a couple other guys that would. A lot of guys would work with you and then hang you out. That’s just how it goes – no big deal. We should have finished a whole lot better than 14th today. We had a good car. At least we didn’t tear anything up and we have something good to bring back.” David Reutimann
Michael Waltrip Race Summary: Sunday’s 188-lap Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway wasn’t even 30 laps old and Michael Waltrip was the story of the race. The two-time Daytona 500 winner charged from the last starting spot to the lead and led four laps. When he wasn’t leading, the superspeedway ace pushed Dale Earnhardt Jr., Sam Hornish and Brian Vickers to the lead. Waltrip proved his Aaron’s 55th Anniversary Toyota could drive from the back to the front in just laps. It appeared Waltrip would be one of the drivers to battle for the victory as the laps clicked off. But, a multicar-accident on lap 84 saw Waltrip’s PRISM Motorsports Toyota suffered significant left side damage and his day ended in the garage with a 39th-place finish.
How did it feel leading the race?
“Honestly, at one point I looked up and it was me and Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. leading the race and I thought, ‘This feels great!’ I hope the fans are enjoying it. The car was fast. Kyle (Busch) just messed up and ran into a guy and crashed him. When you set yourself to the standards that he does, he’s really good and he’ll tell you about it, but whether it’s a tear-off or a caution flag, when you set yourself to those standards and then you make a mistake like that in front of the field, it’s kind of disappointing.”
How did the spoiler feel out on the race track?
“It was fun. I’ve haven’t had a car in a couple of years that was that racey. And whether it was just me relating to the spoiler because that’s how I won my races at Daytona and Talladega or if it’s indeed just the spoiler makes things more fun, I don’t know. But I liked what I felt.”
Did you have fun out there today?Interview with Michael Waltrip
“I thought I could win. I’ve raced 500 miles a lot of times and a win wasn’t in the cards. A lap down and not running like you wanted and you just fight your way through it so that when the day comes along like this you’re ready and I was ready. Golly, I wanted to do it so bad for my sponsor. This is my first Cup race for Aaron’s and to be able to lead the race for them and be a part of the front of the pack, it was really fun for me.”