LOUDON, N.H. – Handling issues and long green flag runs in the first two-thirds of Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway spoiled what could have been a good finish for Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. The NAPA driver battled through a fierce final 50-lap segment to cross the finish line in 22nd place. The result moves Truex up one spot to 18th in the point standings and just 148 points out of the top 12.
Truex left disappointed after two strong practices on Saturday. Both sessions had him scored sixth quickest. He believes his Michael Waltrip Racing team needs to improve before its return to the flat mile oval and the start of the 10-race Chase on Sept. 19.
“We definitely need to be better when we come back here in the fall,” said Truex. “Qualifying definitely hurt us because it was so hard to pass. It seemed as if nothing really worked out in our favor.”
Truex started 26th but only a single caution made up the first 236 laps. The pace caused the field to spread out and lose time to the leaders. Despite running competitive lap times, working through traffic and the loss in real estate would eventually cause Truex to go down a lap to the leader.
Crew chief Pat Tryson opted to put a pit strategy into motion to overcome the deficit. He called his driver onto pit road a few laps early on lap 236. As the NAPA Toyota was getting back up to speed, an untimely caution was thrown four circuits later when Kasey Kahne blew a motor. It caused Truex to drop from 17th to 25th position, two laps down.
The team chose to take the wave around to gain one of their laps back. Then when the green flag waved on lap 245, it was time for Truex to go. The NAPA Toyota took off to climb from 25th to 18th by lap 279. The position was just two spots shy of being the Lucky Dog contender. Unfortunately the chance to pick off the remaining two spots was stalled when the yellow flag was thrown on laps 281 and 289. Tryson called his driver in for four fresh tires on lap 291. The No. 56 returned to the track in 24th. With 10 laps remaining, Truex was able to pick off two more positions to finish in 22nd place.
“I think that last caution really hurt us,” said Truex. “If it would have stayed green, we would have been OK. I'm looking forward to returning to all the tracks now. Pat and I have notes now to work off of and he’s got a better idea of what I need to go fast. I am hoping this tough stretch we’ve been having will come to an end and that everything will work out.”
The Sprint Cup Series now heads to Daytona International Speedway for Saturday’s race.