DARLINGTON, S.C. – No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. finished 10th in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver started 29th and raced into the top 10 at lap 100. The No. 56 led lap 176, but one circuit later, Truex spun entering pit road. The mishap cost the team a lap, but their fast NAPA Toyota raced back onto the lead lap and back into contention. For the remainder of the Showtime Southern 500, Truex battled a tight-handling condition, but the team's stop on lap 324 breathed new life into the No. 56 resulting in the top-10 finish.
"I am so happy for my NAPA Know How guys," said Truex to the media after the race. "They've been through a lot this week and did a great job for me in the pits. I feel awful for spinning out. It was my fault. I'm just glad we were able to race our way back to 10th. I knew we could do it because my NAPA team has been giving me good cars all year. We just haven't been getting the results to show for it. I'll take this top-10. This team deserves it."
As the green flag dropped for the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, Truex encouraged his NAPA team that a strong finish was in the cards as the "Track Too Tough To Tame" is one of his favorites. The opening laps saw Truex run in 26th with a lack of grip being his biggest challenge. NASCAR's competition yellow flew four laps earlier than planned after a motor let go on one of the competitors. The NAPA Know How crew went to work to add a packer, adjust air and wedge. A solid stop enabled Truex to take the green on lap 41 in 28th position.
By lap 100, Truex raced into the top 10 and ran lap times equal to the leader, Kasey Kahne. Shortly after a debris caution and a stop on circuit 124, the No. 56 ran just two positions shy of breaking into the top five.
After leading lap 176, crew chief Pat Tryson called his driver into the pits. Upon entering, Truex spun. The incident caused the NAPA team to lose a lap, but with half the race remaining, the driver apologized to his team and kept up the fast pace in hopes of racing back onto the lead lap. Mission accomplished when the caution flag flew on lap 230. The NAPA team earned the "Lucky Dog" and was back on the lead lap.
At the 250-lap mark, the NAPA Toyota struggled to get its balance back as it was tight through the corners. Truex ran in the top 20, but needed more help to have a chance to return to a top-10 spot. The opportunity to tune-up the NAPA Toyota happened under green on lap 324. Tryson added a track bar change to the mix.
The adjustment helped allowing Truex to race into 15th by the time a caution came out on lap 357. Most of the frontrunners pitted including the NAPA team. Truex lined up 14th. But just one lap later, the caution came back out for a three-car incident that broke out directly in front of the No. 56. Involved were the cars of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer.
The caution put the race into overtime creating a green-white-checkered-flag finish. Truex lined up in 11th position after taking on four fresh tires while the new leader Regan Smith stayed out. The green flag waved one final time on lap 368.The new tires enabled Truex to pick up one spot before the checkered flag dropped giving the NAPA team its second top-10 of the season.
Regan Smith held on to beat out Carl Edwards to score his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and Truex.
Truex is now 20th in the driver standings -- 50 points out of the top 10. Next Sunday, Truex will make his 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at his home track - Dover International Speedway.