Martin Truex Jr. Recap Video (via Michael Waltrip Racing)
LOUDON, N.H. – No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Martin Truex Jr. started ninth and finished 16th in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Throughout the 300-mile race the Michael Waltrip Racing driver battled a car that wouldn't turn in the corners. Despite the challenges, Truex never fell out of contention racing in the top 15 much of the race. The NAPA team hoped to take advantage of a caution in the final segment and improve its position, but the caution never came and Truex ended the race in 16th. For the fourth time in the last five races, Truex led laps. The three laps he led Sunday pushed his 2011 total to 146.
"Our strategy at the end didn't work out as we had hoped," stated Truex. "We needed a caution to come out shortly after our final stop with about 50 to go, but it didn't pan out. Only a few teams ran out of fuel at the end. Track position here is so tough because we all are pretty much running the same lap times. Our NAPA Toyota needed to turn better today. We were just too tight in the center. We've got some work to do on these flat tracks. We're not quite where we need to be, but we'll get it figured out."
NASCAR dropped the green flag shortly after 2 p.m. ET. Truex called into crew chief Chad Johnston that his NAPA Toyota ran a little snug through the corners. As the run progressed, the car's handling remained tight as the NAPA driver ran in eighth position at lap 25 and ninth at lap 50. The team's lap times remained on mark with the leaders. Johnston formulated a plan for air pressure changes along with four tires and fuel during a green-flag pit stop. The NAPA Toyota dove down pit road for service on lap 63.
Truex drove a different line the next run to help improve tire wear. He radioed to Johnston he needed more adjustments in order to contend for a top five. Less than 20 laps later, a debris caution flew. Johnston ordered his driver in for an air pressure change along with right side tires and fuel. Truex returned to the track in 11th after two cars chose not to pit. The driver reported the NAPA Toyota had a little problem on takeoff on two tires. His biggest challenge remained the tight through the center especially in Turns 3 and 4.
Meanwhile at halfway, Truex raced in fourth as the front runners started to pit. The NAPA Toyota visited pit road on lap 151 for air pressure and track bar adjustments along with fresh four tires and fuel. Then four laps later, the No. 51 car caused the caution. Four cars had not pitted so the majority of the field starting at sixth place took the wave around when the green flag dropped on lap 162. Truex raced in 13th.
Matt Kenseth spun to bring out the next caution on lap 173. Truex did not like the handling on his NAPA Toyota stating it plowed. Truex dove onto pit road for chassis adjustments while half the field stayed out. The fast service saw the NAPA Toyota return to the track in 15th.
The restart on lap 177 saw Truex involved in heated battles with Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers. The NAPA Toyota remained tight in the center and loose off. Then with 100 laps to go, Truex needed more help to climb back into top-10 condition as he lost some footing to race in 17th.
The chance to come in one final time happened under green after Truex led three laps on circuit 242. Johnston hoped the track bar and wedge adjustments would boost his Toyota into contention. Due to pitting somewhat off of sequence, Truex returned to the track in 22nd with a greatly improved NAPA Toyota. The NAPA driver picked off several positions but desperately needed a caution for Johnston's strategy to reach full potential. Unfortunately, there would be no caution and only a handful of teams who gambled on fuel ran dry.
Truex is 18th in the championship standings and only 29 points out of 13th place. Next week the NAPA team returns to Dover International Speedway - site of Truex's 2007 Sprint Cup victory.