CONCORD, N.C. – Martin Truex Jr. saved the best for last Saturday night and walked out of Charlotte Motor Speedway with a second-place finish in the Sprint All-Star race. Not a bad night for the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver who won the Sprint Showdown earlier in the day to transfer into the All-Star Race. Truex enjoyed a relatively calm event until the final 10-lap segment when he charged to the front of the field. He started the final green-white-checkered finish in fourth and moved to second before running out of laps to catch the race winner Kurt Busch.
“To come here, not be in the show, win the open, run well all night, it was a lot of fun for us,” said Truex who started the Sprint All-Star Race in 19th place. “We just fought track position all night and finally got up there at the end. The closer we got to the front, the better we got. The guys did a good job with the car, adjusting the car from the sunlight of the open, to win that, and then throughout the race tonight. They did a good job. It was a lot of fun. It was fun to let those guys get in there, do their thing. We just needed a few more laps. I was catching Kurt there at the end. But it was a good day for us.”
Truex’s All-Star weekend began with qualifying on Friday night. The NAPA driver delivered a fast lap that equated to third quickest, but with four drivers left to make an attempt, rain moved in forcing the cancelation. NASCAR opted to set the starting lineup by the qualifying draw. That meant Truex dropped from third to 20th. The driver was somewhat concerned as there were only 40 laps in the Sprint Showdown and only the top-two finishers would transfer into the main event.
When the green flag dropped for the Sprint Showdown, Truex wasted no time. By the 10-lap mark he was scored in 10th. He called into his crew chief Pat Tryson to say he was pushing in the center and then spinning out. The chance to work on the car came seven laps later after Juan Pablo Montoya and Regan Smith brought out the first caution of the night. Tryson ordered his driver on pit road for wedge and air pressure adjustments along with more fuel and two tires. The NAPA Know How Pit Crew was fast allowing the NAPA Toyota to go from eighth to fifth place. Another caution was thrown on lap 21 as Truex maneuvered his way to second place and in a transfer spot. When the race went back to green, Truex put his team on notice that he had the leader Greg Biffle in his sights. He remained on mark and with just six laps to go, the NAPA Toyota took over the lead and never looked back. Truex went to victory lane for the first time with sponsor NAPA AUTO PARTS and scored his fourth berth into the coveted dash for the $1 million pay day.
“That was fun,” said Truex in victory lane. “We knew it was going to be a challenge coming in. We had to start in the back because of the (last night's) rain. We knew it would be challenging because when you get on these big tracks you get in the dirty air. It’s really, really tough.”
The first 50-lap segment of the NAPA team’s Sprint All-Star Race saw the driver continue to battle with a tight condition. Despite the challenge, he still drove up to 13th by lap 18. Then on lap 26, Tryson called his driver in for air pressure, four tires and fuel. The changes freed up the car and by lap 40, the NAPA Toyota was turning in top-five lap times and knocking on the door of a top-10 run.
At the end of the 50-lap segment, Truex told his crew chief he needed to turn better and was now loose off. Tryson ordered up a two-tire stop. The NAPA Toyota would return to the track in fifth position and in contention for the $1 million.
Restarts would not favor the driver during the All-Star Race. On the first restart, he went from fifth to 10th due to the field getting all jammed up. He patiently drove out of it, but got frustrated again at the start of segment three.
The key to the NAPA team’s race came during the 10-minute break. Tryson put into motion track bar, camber and spring rubber adjustments. It was followed by a four-tire stop that was completed at a blistering fast pace. Unfortunately, it appeared NASCAR did not track pit road speeds so what should have been a gain of at least two track positions ended up being no gain at all. Truex returned to the track in 10th position.
The final segment restarted, and as before, the field got bunched up. This time it created a multicar crash triggered by Joey Logano. Truex was able to drive through it, but his teammate David Reutimann was not so lucky. Reutimann suffered significant damage. Also collected in the melee were Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
When the race did get going, Truex raced his way up from eighth to fifth with just four laps to go. Then on lap 98, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch brought out the caution to put into motion a green-white-checkered-flag finish. Another caution soon followed when Jimmie Johnson spun out on his own. A second attempt at a green-white-checkered flag finish was successful with Truex lined up in fourth and focused on the leader Kurt Busch. When the checkered flag waved, Truex was on the tail of the winner Kurt Busch to finish second.
“I could smell it (the money),” smiled Truex. “A couple more laps and I would have been right there. What a great night. We had a lot of fun. Second isn’t what we came here for, but we just came up one spot short. So proud of everyone here at Michael Waltrip Racing. We have a lot of work to do for next weekend, but this was a great night for the NAPA team.”
Martin Truex, Jr., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota
David Reutimann Race Summary: No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota driver David Reutimann couldn’t have been at a worse place at a worse time. A seven-car accident ended Reutimann’s Sprint All-Star race Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway just as the field took the green flag for the final 10-lap segment. The accident left the Michael Waltrip Racing driver with a 19th-place finish. Until the wreck, Reutimann raced at the front of the field and despite some mechanical issues appeared to be one of the fastest on the track. Reutimann never got a chance to show his speed in the final segment.
David Reutimann, No. 00 TUMS Toyota
“That was disappointing because we had a good Aaron's Dream Machine all night and were able to run pretty well. My car was great through the corners, but we had a carburetor issue that was hurting us down the straightaways. We fixed in during the break and it seemed to be really good on the restart. I just wish we would have had a chance to compete for it at the end. Not really sure what happened in the wreck. I just saw (Mark Martin) come across my nose and didn't have anywhere to go. It was just guys racing hard.” David Reutimann