Martin Truex Jr. New Hampshire Recap Video (via Michael Waltrip Racing)
LOUDON, N.H. – No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Martin Truex Jr. finished eighth in Sunday's 300-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver started 13th and drove into the top five by lap 65. Near the halfway mark, the NAPA driver battled an ill-handling race car. Crew chief Chad Johnston worked diligently to overcome the handling issues and fine tuned the No. 56. Heady fuel strategy at the end of the race saw the No. 56 finish strong while others ran out of gas in the closing laps. The top-10 result enabled Truex to move up to 22nd in the championship standings and only 38 points out of the top 15.
"It wasn't pretty, but with the bad luck we've had all season, it's nice to come out on the positive side of things," said Truex after the race. "Our NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota started out pretty strong, but I think me asking for track bar changes hurt us out there for awhile. That's my bad. It got us behind a bit. Then when it counted most, Chad took a big swing at it one final time and it got us going again and with enough gas to make it to the end. I'm so happy for my NAPA guys. They've been working so hard. It feels good to leave this place with eighth so we all can go and enjoy the off weekend."
The opening laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway saw Truex mixing it up with Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano and A.J. Allmendinger. After 20 laps, the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota came to life to run lap times as fast as the leader. The driver's biggest challenge was a tight through the center of the turns. A debris caution flew on lap 29 to give crew chief Chad Johnston a chance to improve the No. 56 with a pit stop for two right-side tires and fuel.
The green-flag waved with Truex scored in 15th due to several cars staying out or taking fuel only. The loss of track position didn't hamper the No. 56 as it raced into the top 10 at lap 57 and into the top five by lap 65.
The caution flag flew for a third time on lap 99 for debris. For the first time in the event, the NAPA KNOW HOW pit crew bolted on four fresh tires. Truex restarted in 19th when the race restarted on lap 104. During this run, it took a few laps for the air pressures to come in, but he remained challenged with the tight-handling condition to the point where he reported the car wouldn't turn at all. The No. 56 raced in the top 25, but needed more help to drive back into the top five.
Yellow flags dropped on laps 143 and 161. Johnston ordered up a two-tire service and a track bar adjustment on lap 145, but stayed out on the latter caution. The NAPA Toyota raced in 13th position while pit strategy became the main topic all down pit road when the race resumed on lap 168.
Denny Hamlin spun beside Truex to bring out another caution on lap 171. Johnston decided to go back to work on the NAPA Toyota. The NAPA KNOW HOW pit crew lowered the track bar and bolted on two fresh tires while the majority of the field stayed out. Truex returned to the track in 26th.
Mark Martin spun on lap 183 to bring out the seventh caution of the event. Truex forged ahead with the tight condition to race in 14th when the race resumed on lap 188. During the green-flag run, Johnston planned just one more stop for the NAPA team en route to the finish.
With less than 100 laps to go, Truex's Toyota remained a challenge so Johnston took one final swing at dialing in the No. 56. Under caution on lap 215, the NAPA KNOW HOW stop consisted of air pressure, track bar and wedge adjustments. Then under yellow on lap 226, the No. 56 quickly dove onto pit road for a splash of fuel. The extra time on pit road put the NAPA team within four laps of making it to the end.
Truex conserved as much fuel as he could while his car greatly improved. Then with less than 60 to go and in 15th position, Truex got the go ahead to mash the pedal as he had enough fuel to the end. The NAPA team's strategy paid off as the combination of a solid-handling car and fuel conservation resulted in the top-10 finish.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to action Sunday July 31 for the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.