RICHMOND, Va. – NAPA Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. saw his No. 56 Toyota go from a top-25 car to a race-winning contender before the halfway mark of the Richmond 400 at the Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night. A series of adjustments that consisted of air pressure and track bar made a world of difference to the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. They enabled Truex to come from a lap down in 28th place to 10th in one green-flag sequence. The end result equated to a seventh-place finish. The top-10 finish moved Truex up to 14th place in the championship points standings – just 17 points out of The Chase.
“I cannot get over how bad our NAPA Toyota was at the start of the race,” said Truex who qualified for the Richmond 400 in 26th position. “And then Pat (Tryson) started adjusting on it and bam! It came to life!”
The opening laps of the Richmond 400 saw the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota run in the top 25. According to the driver, his NAPA Toyota needed more forward bite and tightened up through the corners in order to have a chance to keep up pace with the polesitter Kyle Busch. The team pitted on lap 45 under caution for air pressure and track bar adjustments. When Truex returned to the track, he was in 24th position. The adjustments seemed to help, however a long green-flag sequence saw Kyle Busch put all but nine drivers down a lap. Truex was not discouraged by the minor setback of a lost lap as his NAPA Toyota started to come to life.
The turning point for the NAPA team came on lap 170 when the caution flag was thrown. Truex was awarded the Lucky Dog so Tryson brought his driver down pit road for more air pressure and track bar adjustments. The NAPA Toyota restarted in 28th place, but within 80 laps under green, Truex had driven all the way up to ninth position and was recording lap times as fast as the leader.
The NAPA team came onto pit road two more times on laps 269 and lap 363. Tryson opted for no changes on 269, but put air pressure and track bar back into the mix on lap 363. The NAPA Toyota was scored in seventh position. Then on lap 367, Elliott Sadler spun to bring out the caution. Tryson made the call to pit in favor of four fresh tires versus maintaining track position. In just 11.68 seconds, the pit crew bolted on four fresh tires. The time on pit road did not cost the team as they returned to the track in eighth position as Ryan Newman chose to stay out and take Truex’s original spot of seventh.
The race restarted on lap 377 with Jeff Gordon in the top spot. The four fresh Goodyear tires saw Truex pick up two positions on the track. It was during this time that the driver came over the radio to tell his crew chief that he was amazed at how his car went from bad to really fast over the course of the race.
The final 20 laps saw two quick caution flags for accidents. Both times, Tryson kept Truex out and in the hunt as the NAPA Toyota was running in the top five. On the final five lap shootout, Truex went door-to-door with the frontrunners to finish seventh place. The result was the NAPA team’s third top-10 finish in the last six races.
“What a job by all these NAPA guys,” said Truex during a post-race interview with SPEED. “We started the race and we were really bad. We were just hanging on to run 28th, 30th. Pat and the guys just kept working on it all night and we got to a point about 200 to go, 250, somewhere in there, we had the long green runs that were really fast. We were faster than the leaders. We got really, really good. Than at one point, we quit adjusting on it and lost it again. We got it back and it turned out to be a great night. I told Pat I've never had a car start that bad and actually make a race car out of something I could drive. I'm proud of the NAPA guys for all their efforts. Our team is a work in progress. We're constantly growing as a team. Tonight was really good for us. I just want to thank all those guys and all the guys back at the shop. It was really good.”
Leading the most laps and winning the race was Toyota driver Kyle Busch.
Martin Truex Jr. Race Summary: Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota team proved it’s not where you start—it’s where you finish. After starting the race in the 26th position and struggling to find the proper balance early, the No. 56 team fell a lap down to the leaders on lap 129, but raced its way back onto the lead lap by way of the lucky dog on lap 170. The team made adjustments during their pit stop at that time and seemed to find the right mix to make a run toward the front. Truex Jr. found himself gaining ground quickly and was racing in 19th just 20 laps later. As the race progressed, the No. 56 team continued to gain ground and found itself inside the top-10 racing in eighth by lap 269 and raced as high as fifth before the final three cautions. Truex Jr. and the No. 56 team raced hard with the leaders over the final 30 laps to bring home a seventh-place finish.
Martin Truex, Jr., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota
“I cannot get over how bad our NAPA Toyota was at the start of the race. And then (Crew Chief) Pat (Tryson) started adjusting on it and bam! It came to life. In the history of my career, I've never had a car turnaround that well. It was a fun night. We may have adjusted on the track bar a little too much at the end, but it still drove off the corners really well. I cannot get over how our night changed. Tryson and the team did an awesome job for me. It was an awesome night!” Martin Truex, Jr.
David Reutimann Race Summary: David Reutimann and the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine started the race on the outside of the front row alongside Kyle Busch following a solid qualifying effort on Friday afternoon. At the start of the race on Saturday night, Reutimann looked to continue his strong effort by maintaining a top-five position for the first 160 laps. As the track conditions changed into the night time hours the No. 00 team fought a tight center condition and continued to work on the car throughout the race. Reutimann consistently ran in the top-15 the entire race which is exactly where he finished as the checkered flag waved. Reutimann is now 27th in points as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to Darlington for Saturday night’s race.
David Reutimann, No. 00 TUMS Toyota
“That wasn't really the result we wanted. We had a very good Aaron's Dream Machine early on, but it just got tighter and harder to turn the center as the race went on. Just disappointed. We were so good early I was hoping to finish a little better than we did. That said, we brought home a clean car with a top-15 finish. Hopefully we can do a little better next week.” David Reutimann