Martin Truex Jr. Watkins Glen Recap Video (via Michael Waltrip Racing)
BRISTOL, TENN. – No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. finished second in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Truex raced at the front of the pack throughout the 500-lap race. During a pit stop with about 80 laps remaining, crew chief Chad Johnston called for two new tires while the rest of the contenders opted for four. The move put Truex in the lead on the restart. Eventual race winner Brad Keselowski raced past Truex but nobody else could as Truex held off Jeff Gordon by just a few feet culminating a scintillating battle during the final 50 laps. The second-place finish marks Truex's best Cup finish at Bristol and vaults the NAPA team to 17th in the championship standings - 45 points out of 11th place.
"It was a great night for all of us on our NAPA Toyota," said Truex who qualified 27th. "I'm so proud of all the guys at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) - Chad, (Johnston) my crew chief who is still pretty new to this stuff and all the guys in the pits. We got two tires on our final stop and got the lead. We were just a little too tight on restarts to be able to stay with Brad (Keselowski) there. On the long run we were as good as anyone. We just couldn't quite hang with him on two tires and I was a little disappointed because I thought we had a shot at it. Again, I want to thank all these guys. This place has been a tough track for me in the Cup Series. We've had a lot of good runs and we led over half the race in the spring and finished 20th or something. Just hadn't ever had the luck we needed here or a car good enough in the second half of the race. We worked really hard this weekend on being good the second half of the race and not the first half. We were really good on long runs all night and just needed a little more on the restarts."
As soon as the green flag waved, Truex wasted no time bettering his starting position of 27th by making his way up through the field. At lap 39, the scoring pylon showed Truex in the top 10. It was at that time the driver informed his crew chief that his No. 56 Toyota bounced a little but was manageable.
Then on lap 42, Truex made contact with the back of the No. 16 car causing his NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota to break loose. The driver quickly straightened out the car to only lose six positions to run 13th at lap 45.
By lap 75, Truex drove up to 11th. His lap times were equal to or as fast as the leader's. The chance to visit pit road came under caution on lap 105. Johnston called for an air pressure change to help loosen up the car through the center of the corners. The NAPA Toyota lined up 10th on the restart.
The next green-flag run saw Truex drive up to eighth on lap 160. Johnston informed the driver he was the fastest car on the track. The driver remained focused and quiet on the radio and at lap 200, he ran in seventh place.
The NAPA KNOW HOW pit crew completed its first stop under green on lap 242. The crew changed four tires, added fuel and made air pressure adjustments. The NAPA Toyota remained in competitive form to run in eighth.
A multi-car crash occurred on lap 297 after teammate David Reutimann made contact with another car. Johnston ordered up a four-tire service that included more air pressure adjustments. Several teams opted for two tires so the NAPA Toyota lined up 11th on the restart on lap 310.
Truex went back to work to pick off more positions on the track. By the time the yellow flag flew on lap 361 for an accident involving Mark Martin, NASCAR's timing and scoring showed Truex in eighth place. Then during the team's pit stop on lap 363, four fresh tires and the addition of fuel completed the stop. The No. 56 lined up seventh.
The race slowed again on lap 413. The NAPA KNOW HOW pit crew went back to work to change two tires. Truex returned to the track as the new leader and in the hunt for the race victory.
The final 80 laps saw Truex go head to head with Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon. In the end, Keselowski had just enough speed to edge out Truex for the victory. Truex's second-place finish is his best result so far driving for two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip.
The NAPA Racing team returns to action next Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.