LONG POND, Pa. – Martin Truex Jr. had a solid run spoiled on Sunday at Pocono Raceway after a last lap incident caused major damage to the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. Truex and crew chief Pat Tryson communicated well together to make adjustments that transformed the No. 56 machine from a top-15 car for most of the race into a top-10 contender. Unfortunately the race came down to fuel mileage and teams who were struggling for position remained on track. It caused the frontrunners, including Truex, to take the restart deep in the field with less than 30 laps to go. In impressive fashion, the veteran driver sliced and diced his way up to the top 12 before a caution flag flew forcing a green-white-checkered-flag finish. The dash for the checkered flag saw AJ Allmendinger make a move that sent his teammate Kasey Kahne sliding through the grass and getting airborne. Kahne landed into the path of many competitive cars including Truex. The NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota sustained major damage and was forced to limp to the checkered flag in 25th place.
“There’s not a whole lot I can say about today,” said Truex who settled for a 27th- starting spot after a mechanical problem developed during his attempt. “It’s a shame to race your way up into a top-10 position and have the race unfold the way it did. Fuel mileage is always a part of the equation and we dealt with it. We drove back up to 12th only to be wrecked on the final lap. It’s tough to have a good run taken away like that. We had a good car and the guys did a great job for me today. We had a good car and got crashed. A 25th-place finish isn’t what we deserved or a reflection on how competitive our car was. I hate that this happened.”
The start of the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 saw the 43-car field out on the track for parade laps until a severe storm blew through the Pocono Raceway. Fortunately, the sun came out and strong winds created optimum conditions to quickly dry the track. Shortly after 3 p.m. the green flag waved and by the time a competition yellow was thrown on lap 15, Truex had driven up to 20th position. His only real complaint was his NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota was loose in Turns 1 and 3. Crew chief Pat Tryson ordered up a stop that consisted of air pressure and track bar adjustments.
The loose condition continued, but the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota still continued to pick up positions on the track. By the time the team’s first green-flag stop occurred on lap 47, the No. 56 Toyota was just shy of a top-15 spot. More air pressure and track bar changes were completed. The fast stop enabled Truex to be scored in 15th position by lap 50.
The NAPA Toyota started picking up more steam after the third stop of the afternoon was completed on lap 75. The NAPA Know How Pit Crew made a new change to the car – wedge. After the 13-second stop was completed, Truex would tell Tryson that the adjustment was in the right direction.
The NAPA Know How Pit Crew recorded its best four-tire stop of the day on lap 98 under caution. In 12.4 seconds, the team made air pressure changes, bolted on four fresh tires and added fuel. The fast service allowed Truex to pick up three positions on the track to take the restart on lap 101 in 12th place. The driver said his car was the best it had been all day and Truex’s lap times reflected it.
Tryson continued to fine tune the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. More wedge was added during another green-flag service on lap 128. The four-tire service lasted for 12.9 seconds and gained Truex two more positions. He returned to the track in 11th place, just shy of the top 10. During this run, Truex felt he was faster despite the frontrunners having a slight advantage on the NAPA team as they were on fresher tires. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was able to pass Truex on the newer Goodyear tires, but the NAPA driver passed him back just as a debris caution was thrown. Tryson chose to bring his driver down pit road for a small wedge adjustment. The fast stop took just 13 seconds and bolstered Truex up to ninth place.
The restart on lap 158 was good for Truex as he picked up one more position before Casey Mears crashed on lap 159. The NAPA Toyota was scored in eighth position. This yellow created a key moment in the race as teams running in the back opted to pit for fuel while the frontrunners, including Truex, stayed out in anticipation of another yellow in the near future. They were right. Three laps after taking the restart on lap 168, Jamie McMurray crashed hard. The leaders pitted for fuel while the 13 teams who were serviced during the Mears caution moved to the front. After getting gas on lap 168, Truex was in 22nd place.
Next, a debris caution was thrown on lap 174. Truex was frustrated as his line would not go. Despite the challenge, he took the green on lap 178 in 16th and was just outside the top 10 in 14th position when the race went into overtime after Joey Logano spun. The green-white-checkered flag would trigger a free for all that sent Kahne airborne and ending a solid finish for Truex. The 25th-place result dropped the NAPA team to 15th place in the championship point standings – 65 points out of 12th.
Martin Truex, Jr., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota
David Reutimann Race Summary: David Reutimann salvaged a top-12 finish out of what looked to be an extremely difficult weekend at Pocono Raceway. Reutimann started 29th following his Friday afternoon qualifying effort and began working his way forward at the start of the race. When the first caution came out Reutimann and the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine came to pit road for service and went back out to restart in the mid-20s. On the restart, Reutimann received both front and rear damage after contact with another car. The damage caused the No. 00 to have a loose handling condition that eventually led to falling a lap down to the leaders on lap 70. Reutimann did his best to work with the car until he could come in for repairs on lap 100. The No. 00 Aaron’s team worked throughout the race to make the car better and work on several different options for pit strategy. A late caution with just two laps remaining forced the event into a green-white-checkered finish that saw the No. 00 restart 20th before another caution came out due to a massive incident involving several cars. Reutimann avoided the incident and crossed the finish line in 12th.
David Reutimann, No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry
“The Aaron's Dream Machine had a pretty rough day. We struggled and just couldn't get a handle on it. We got into someone early with it and it knocked the quarter panel loose. Everything is so aero-sensitive that it just made us bad, bad loose all day. We lost a lap before we were finally able to come in and fix it. Then I got back in the fence again with it. To come home 14th (12th according to NASCAR's unofficial results) is a lot better than we were looking at most of the day. The No. 00 crew worked on the Aaron's Dream Machine all day and did a great job. It was just a rough day.” David Reutimann