BRISTOL, Tenn. – -- No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Martin Truex Jr. finished 17th at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday. For the third-straight race, the Michael Waltrip Racing driver turned in a top-10 qualifying effort by starting eighth. Over the course of 500-circuits, he drove to the lead on lap 92 and held the position for 63 laps. As the race progressed, a cut tire and handling issues dropped his Toyota through the field forcing him to twice utilize the Lucky Dog free pass to stay on the lead lap. Truex's top-20 result keeps the driver 10th in the championship standings -- just 13 points out of the top five.
"We got extremely loose at the midpoint of the race and finally got it pretty good at the end," said Truex who took home the American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award for recording the fastest average speed on restarts during the Jeff Byrd 500. "We smoked the right rear tire off racing Marcos Ambrose on the final green-flag run. We'll have to work on our car a little bit to figure out what we need to do to stay up front. We were pretty darn good in the beginning and it was nice to lead all those laps. We just have some more work to do. As the rubber started building up that's when we started to struggle."
The opening laps saw Truex drive up to third position after only 28 circuits. The driver said his NAPA Toyota turned the best it had all weekend. The only thing it needed was a little more rear grip. Crew chief Pat Tryson ordered a small air pressure change, four fresh tires and fuel during the first pit stop on lap 53. Truex returned to the track in eighth position as several cars only changed two tires.
After 20 laps into the next green-flag run, Truex drove back to third and was running laps times equal to the leader Ryan Newman. By lap 92, Truex shot to the lead passing Kyle Busch.
Truex's only challenge during the run was a loose condition during the early stages so the NAPA Know How crew went to work on lap 131 under caution with another small air pressure change. The NAPA Toyota won the race off pit road and remained the leader until lap 154. Kevin Harvick passed the No. 56 as a loose condition hampered Truex's efforts. During this run, he maintained a top-10 position, but more needed to be done to once again challenge for the lead.
Then on lap 246, Truex reported a right front tire going down. The driver took evasive action and slowed. It triggered a spin by Bobby Labonte to bring out the caution. Fortunately it did not cause any real issues and both came to pit road for service and returned to their top-10 positions when the green flag waved on lap 252.
At the midway point, the NAPA Toyota's performance continued to challenge the driver. Truex persevered by racing his way onto the lead lap two times to maintain 18th position. Then with less than 45 laps to go, the team's final stop helped improve the car for Truex to record the 17th-place finish.
Kyle Busch recorded his second-straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Bristol. The victory also completed the weekend sweep of NASCAR races at the bullring. Rounding out the top-10 was Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman.
Next Sunday the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns out west for the Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.