AVONDALE, Ariz. – No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Martin Truex Jr. finished 14th in Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Truex Jr. qualified seventh and raced his way into the top five before a mishap on pit road on lap 128 caused left-front damage. It dropped the No. 56 Toyota to 20th place. The driver remained focused and used the final 170 laps to race back through the field to score the top-15 finish. The result enabled Truex to advance two positions to 16th in the championship standings - just seven points out of the top 10. Next Sunday Truex and the NAPA team compete at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"We had a much better car than 14th," said Truex. "We had a problem on pit road and it cost us. Our NAPA Toyota was very capable of winning. My guys did a great job to improve the car all weekend. We will learn from this and be ready for Las Vegas."
Just 20 laps into the event, the NAPA Toyota raced in the fifth position and ran speeds equal to or faster than leader Carl Edwards. Truex was second before pitting under caution on lap 35 for an air pressure change, four tires and fuel. He restarted on lap 38 in 12th.
Less than 15 laps later, Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne brought out the caution. Crew chief Pat Tryson opted to pit the No. 56 on lap 51 for right-side tires to see how they reacted. Truex returned to the track in 10th position and quickly notified his crew chief that he liked the way his NAPA Toyota handled on the track.
Lap 67 saw a 13-car wreck bring out the red flag. Brian Vickers spun in front of Truex to trigger the incident. The No. 56 came out unscathed despite the close call. During the red flag, driver No. 56 told his NAPA Know How crew that he had a car that could contend for the win. And when the pits opened, Truex pitted for four fresh tires and fuel. He took the restart on lap 72 in ninth place.
On the next green-flag run, the No. 56 comfortably ran in third position. His only real complaint was his car was too tight in the center.
Then during the team's routine pit stop on lap 128, an air hose was pinched due to the jack being on top of it. It caused a chain reaction that led to damage to the left front of the car. The team pitted an additional time to make repairs. Truex returned to the track in 20th place.
During the next green-flag sequence, Truex gained five positions on the track. A stop under green on lap 187 consisted of a four-tire service. The driver's biggest challenge was the No. 56 would not turn. A chance to pit again happened on lap 219 under caution. Tryson used the yellow-flag condition to continue work on the left-side damage. Truex restarted in 18th position.
The next run Truex made it up to 14th before an untimely caution put the NAPA team down a lap on circuit 285 due to pit sequence. However, Martin was the first car one lap down qualifying him for the Lucky Dog free pass. Truex raced hard for the remaining laps and ended the day 14th.
Jeff Gordon won the Subway Fresh Fit 500. It was his first victory since April 2009. Rounding out the top 10 was Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, A.J. Allmendinger and Dale Earnhardt Jr.