Martin Truex Jr. Watkins Glen Recap Video (via Michael Waltrip Racing)
HAMPTON, Ga. – No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. finished 14th in Tuesday's rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
It was another good performance for the Michael Waltrip Racing driver who has scored the tenth most points of all drivers in the last ten races and climbed to 16th in the standings.
Truex appeared ready to contest for the victoryon Tuesday battling at the front of the field throughout the race and even leading two laps with about 70 laps remaining. But, handling issues in the closing laps kept him from contending for the checkered flag.
"For some reason we were never able to get our balance quite right," said Truex who has led 128 laps in 2011. "We were tight and then loose. We just never hit it the way we needed. I feel like we were better than our 14th-place finish. But overall, it was a decent day for our NAPA Toyota."
Rain was the story Tuesday as well as the entire weekend in Georgia as the remnants from Tropical Depression Lee limited track activity. Heavy rain Sunday night and throughout Monday postponed the race to Tuesday morning.
The green flag finally flew a few minutes after 11 a.m. in front of about 30,000 fans who wouldendure two more weather delays during the four-hour race. But the side-by-side, high-speed racing with drivers running sometimes two- and three-abreast made for an entertaining show.
Truex started eighth and flirted with thetop-five telling the crew he couldn't turn the car in the center of the corner. He pitted on lap 13 and returned to the track in 20th after many teams took just two tires.
Truex raced around tenth to 12th place as the race progressed with pit stops on lap 76 and 95. He often turned laps faster than leader and eventual race winner Jeff Gordon before climbingback into the top 10 at lap 125.
A fast stop by the NAPA Know How crew under green on lap 172 saw Truex move to ninth just before rain brought out the caution. After a brief delay, the race restarted on lap 185 and Truex climbed from ninth to seventh place. Rain caused another delay just after the 200-lap mark.
During a caution after the second delay, Truex pitted when the rest of the field stayed on the track enabling him to take only two tires during the next caution. The quick stop saw Truex move from 18th to first.
When the race restarted on lap 246, Truex drove three-wide with Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kensethin a bid to hold on to the lead with only two fresh tires. By lap 263, he raced in 10th and was 13th on lap 270. The NAPA team made its final stop of lap 284 and returned Truex to the track in 14th where he finished the race.
"It was an interesting day for my team. You never like to have the rain affect the race like it did today. It was stop and go then stop and go. It sure threw us a curve and affected our race car a great deal," Truex said.
"We were really good then at the end we couldn't get the balance right. Like I said, we had a lot better car than a 14th-place finish."
Gordon edged Jimmie Johnson by .598 seconds to win his 85th Sprint Cup race moving him to third on NASCAR all-time victory list. Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five.
The No. 56 returns to action Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway in the final event before the 10-race "Chase for the Championship" begins.
Truex needs a victory as well as an unlucky night from a few competitors to make this year's 12-driver field. But, he's looking forward to racing on the three-quarter mile, D-shaped oval in Virginia
"If we keep running this well then Richmond will be fun."