DOVER, Del. – NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Martin Truex Jr. finished eighth in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver started eighth after rain cancelled qualifying on Saturday. Truex raced comfortably in the top-10 throughout the 400-mile race even leading lap 110. Truex battled a bounce on entry condition and needed more grip on the concrete track, but the team overcame the handling challenges to score a second consecutive top-10 finish.
"I'm satisfied," said Truex after climbing out of the No. 56 NAPA Toyota. "I'm not totally happy. I was looking for more. We got up to third about the mid-point (of the race). We just lost the handle a little bit. I think some guys got a little bit better. We didn't really fight a major balance issue, we just didn't have the overall grip and the car was bouncing back and forth between loose and tight, and it was hard to tell them what I needed. One lap it would try to spin out and the next lap it plowed. So, it was just real hard to hit it just right. It was very, very hard to drive. It was hard to know what to ask for other than more grip and a little bit of a smoother ride. It just got real bouncy out there on the rubber build-up."
The start of Dover's 400 mile event went off without a hitch as rain stayed away. The early stages saw Truex battle a slick track and a loose in, tight off condition. The first chance to pit occurred on lap 42 during the competition yellow. The NAPA KNOW HOW crew adjusted wedge and air pressure. Truex returned to the track in 11th and quickly jumped to ninth by lap 52. His lap times were in line with the leader's, Jimmie Johnson.
At the 100-lap mark, the NAPA Toyota raced in ninth. Truex complained of being loose and his car bounced which caused a lack of rear grip. The chance to fine tune the No. 56 happened while leading lap 110 under green. Crew chief Pat Tryson ordered an air pressure change. The NAPA Toyota returned to the track in ninth position.
All was quiet on the radio during the next green-flag sequence. The NAPA Toyota raced in seventh and ranked in the top-three in lap times. Rain started to fall on lap 160 so NASCAR threw the caution on lap 162. Tryson called his driver in for another air pressure adjustment on lap 164. The NAPA KNOW HOW crew busted off a fast 12-second stop to gain one spot on the track.
The green flag waved on lap 169 with Truex in sixth. One lap later, he raced into the top five. His highest-running position of the segment came on lap 184 when he ran fourth, but dropped to fifth when the NAPA Toyota started to bounce the right rear again. The next time to pit occurred when NASCAR threw a debris caution on lap 216. The NAPA Toyota came in two circuits later for more air changes.
The race returned to green on lap 222 with Truex in fifth position. The NAPA Toyota challenged the No. 56 driver as he raced against Marcos Ambrose, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for a coveted top-five spot. The NAPA Toyota ran fast as it lacked rear grip and the front pushed.
Green-flag stops started to happen at the 280-mile mark. Truex came in on lap 284 and on lap 300, he ranked 10th. As the laps dwindled down, the No. 56 picked up the pace to record lap times equal to Johnson, the leader. By the time the yellow flew on lap 331, Truex raced in eighth. Then the NAPA KNOW HOW crew went to work on lap 336. More air and the addition on wedge completed the four-tire stop.
The race returned to green on lap 336 and Truex picked off two positions on the opening lap to run eighth. NASCAR threw the yellow flag less than 30 laps later. Tryson called for a four-tire stop on lap 363. The No. 56 returned to the track in 14th after the first seven cars only took two fresh Goodyear tires. Then when the green flag dropped one final time on lap 366, it took just one lap for Truex to drive up to ninth position and 14 laps to race in seventh. In the end, the NAPA driver crossed the finish line in eighth to record his second straight top-10 finish and third of the season.
"It was honestly the toughest race I think I've ever run here, as far as being line-sensitive," added Truex. "You would run two or three laps okay and then on lap four you almost spin out and just about wreck. And, then you'd run three or four okay, and almost wreck again. It was very, very crazy. I think we were just off a little bit on our set-up -- overall grip-wise. If we could get some clean air, we could run as fast as the leader. But, we really struggled in traffic. I know a lot of guys did. You could tell, even at the end, it was hard to pass. I think that was part of what we were fighting. But, overall it was a solid day and a good job by all the guys on the team."
Truex's top-10 result moves him up one spot to 19th in the championship driver standings and only 46 points out of the top 10. Truex will defend his 2010 Sprint Showdown win and attempt to transfer into Saturday night's NASCAR's All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Matt Kenseth gambled and went with the two-tire call on the last stop to win the event. Rounding out the top 10 were Mark Martin, Marcos Ambrose, Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Truex, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick.