RICHMOND, Va. – -- No. 56 NAPA Ultimate Tune-Up Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. finished 27th in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver started 20th and broke into the top 10 at the 100-lap mark. Then on lap 245, Truex went three wide to take the lead from Denny Hamlin and held the position for 11 circuits. But with less than 30 laps to go, an unscheduled pit stop ended the NAPA team's chance for a top-five finish.
When the green flag dropped, Truex raced his way up into the top 15 before green-flag stops happened at the 80-lap mark. Crew chief Pat Tryson opted to bring his driver in on lap 84 for an air pressure change to address a tight through the corner condition. The No. 56 returned to the track and immediately picked up the pace. When the scoring pylon hit lap 100, the NAPA Ultimate Tune-Up Toyota ran in 10th position.
A debris caution came out on lap 107 after polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman made contact. Truex came over the radio to say his car's forward bite improved, but the tight through the corner condition appeared midway through a long run. The NAPA Know How crew went over the wall to make another small air pressure adjustment, change four tires and add fuel. The No. 56 restarted in 10th as Kyle Busch was the leader
Approaching the halfway mark, Truex yelled to his team, "Yeah, baby!" as his NAPA Toyota continued to respond after the crew completed another air pressure change on lap 187. At mile-marker 220, the driver from Mayetta, N.J. raced in sixth position. Then on lap 236, NASCAR threw the yellow flag. The NAPA Know How crew went to work two circuits later. The fast service enabled Truex to gain two positions on the track to take the green flag on lap 244 in fourth place.
Minutes later, Truex reached the front of the field and raced three wide against Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon for the lead. Lap 246 saw Truex scored as the leader and he remained in the top spot until Joey Logano spun out to bring out the yellow flag. Crew chief Pat Tryson used the caution to once again fine tune the NAPA Toyota. Due to several teams staying out or only taking two fresh tires, Truex lined up in seventh position after taking four tires. Truex's fresh rubber enabled him to drive back up into fourth position after only one lap.
At the 300-lap mark, Truex dodged a bullet when going door-to-door with Gordon. That's because Clint Bowyer made contact with Matt Kenseth. The result sent Kenseth into the door of Gordon. Somehow, Truex made it through unscathed. The cars of Paul Menard and Mark Martin also suffered damage. Tryson kept his driver out to take the restart on lap 314 in sixth. In six laps, the No. 56 competed in third position. The tight-handling condition remained, but it didn't seem to slow the driver down until he started to report a vibration. Unfortunately, the vibration resulted in an unscheduled pit stop on lap 317 which led to a loss of laps and the 27th-place finish.
Kyle Busch won the event. Rounding out the top 10 was Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, David Ragan, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, A.J. Allmendinger, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers.
Truex and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team are now 22nd in the championship standings - 65 points out of the top 10. Next Saturday the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competes at the Darlington Raceway