LONG POND, Pa. – No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. finished 10th in Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver started 31st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 500-miler that served as the debut race for new crew chief Chad Johnston. Truex battled handling issues while racing in the top 20 during the first half of the race. The NAPA Toyota came to life at the halfway mark running with the leaders before securing the 10th-place finish. Truex and the NAPA KNOW HOW team return to action Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.
"That was a hard fought 10th," said Truex after climbing out of his NAPA Toyota. "I'm just proud of the guys on pit road and proud of Chad (Johnston, crew chief) -- that was his first race on the box. He did a good job of keeping me calm. We were pretty far off to start. We weren't very good all weekend for some reason. We just stuck with it and kept plugging away and he did a good job calling the race and making the adjustments. We were still just lacking a little. We're just missing a little bit with the NAPA Toyota. It was a good run for us. I hope we can find it soon because we'll have some fun if we do.
"The shifting was fun here at Pocono, especially on restarts. If guys checked up a little bit then you could get third gear and you could get a run. It was a lot more fun than in the past here. We were a lot busier, which was a good thing."
Truex took the green flag under cloudy skies and it was not long until the NAPA driver reported a loose in and tight off the corner condition. On lap eight, NASCAR threw a debris caution so Johnston called his driver in for four fresh tires along with air pressure and wedge changes. The NAPA Toyota restarted in 34th position when the green flag dropped on lap 11.
Just eight laps later, another debris caution slowed down the action. NASCAR used the opportunity as its designated competition yellow. The NAPA KNOW HOW pit crew went to work and changed just two tires and added fuel. The No. 56 returned to the track in 25th place.
Truex and the field made their first green-flag stop of the race around lap 44. The NAPA Toyota lacked rear grip according to the driver so an air pressure adjustment, four tires and fuel completed the stop. Less than 10 laps later, Truex told his crew chief that the NAPA Toyota handled very loose in Turn 1 as he raced in 24th. Johnston mentioned another wedge change was in the works.
The NAPA Toyota pitted under green two more times on laps 67 and 92. Both times the No. 56 battled a loose condition in Turn 1 and as well as the Tunnel Turn. Changes during the stops included more air and wedge. The No. 56 raced inside the top 20, but still needed improvements to contend for a top-10 spot.
Shortly after the NAPA team's stop on lap 112 under caution, the No. 56 came to life. Truex told his crew chief the NAPA Toyota drove competitively. His biggest challenge was the Tunnel Turn as his car move drove tight in that area of the track. He showed 17th position on the scoring pylon and focused his sights on breaking into the top 15. He accomplished the task after the NAPA KNOW HOW pit crew completed a 12-second stop on lap 139. When the green-flag pit cycle ended, he raced in 12th place.
Another NAPA KNOW HOW pit stop happened on lap 156. The four-tire and fuel service moved Truex from 13th to eighth place when the green flag waved on lap 159. Then one final stop under green happened with less than 25 laps to go. Truex returned to the track with plenty of fuel to make it to the end to earn 10th place.
Winning the race was Jeff Gordon. Rounding out the top-five finishers were Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick.
The Sprint Cup Series returns to action next Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.