Martin Truex Jr. Recap Video (via Michael Waltrip Racing)
CONCORD, N.C. – No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Martin Truex Jr. finished 23rd in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Mayetta N.J. native started 18th and quickly broke into the top 10 within the first 125 laps. Truex turned lap times equal to the frontrunners for most of the race but like many drivers battled an aero push in traffic. The NAPA team's bid for a top-10 finish came to a bizarre halt after two caution flags waved after routine back-to-back green-flag pit stops. It cost the team several laps which put an end to the team's solid run.
"We had a decent NAPA Toyota, but it needed to be a little better," said Truex. "Chad did a great job on adjustments and it really was fast at the end. I still can't believe we lost laps the way we did. This team just needs to catch a break. The last couple of weeks have really been unbelievable and so very frustrating. We've had competitive cars and not a lot to show for it. All we can do is keep digging and hope for the best next week at Talladega."
When the green flag waved, Truex proved to be one of the fastest cars on the track. He drove from 18th to 14th in just three laps. The driver's biggest handling challenge was a tight condition especially off of Turn 4. The chance to pit happened under green on lap 44. Crew chief Chad Johnston called for a small air pressure change. The NAPA Toyota raced in 15th once everyone pitted.
The air pressure change didn't improve the NAPA Toyota, so during a caution on lap 78, the NAPA KNOW HOW pit crew went to work. Johnston called for another air pressure change and four tires. Truex returned to the track in 17th as several teams tried a two-tire stop.
During the next green-flag run, Truex raced comfortably in 16th. He continued to battle an aero-tight condition. His lap times were competitive. All he really needed was clean air to help make passes and gain track position.
The NAPA Toyota returned to pit road for a routine service under green on lap 122. The pit crew made another air pressure adjustment. Not long into the run, the NAPA driver radioed to report a good neutral handling condition. By the time pit stops cycled through by lap 128, Truex was scored in 10th place.
A debris caution flew on lap 148. This time Johnston ordered a two-tire stop. The majority of the frontrunners took just two fresh Goodyear tires as well. Truex lined up in 10th for the restart and got an impressive jump. By the time the field completed a lap, the No. 56 Toyota raced in sixth position.
At lap 200, Truex lost several positions due to a tight condition to compete in 16th. The driver told his crew chief that his NAPA Toyota was decent, but not good enough yet to climb back into the top 10. Johnston formulated another air pressure change to help loosen up his Toyota. This time it would be to the left-front tire. Then on lap 235, the four-tire service took place. Unfortunately two laps later, the caution came out. It put the NAPA team down a lap, so they stayed out as the remaining 12 teams pitted. The race returned to green with Truex scored in 18th.
Johnston did everything he could to formulate a plan to get Truex back onto the lead lap. But first, a routine-service needed to be completed. The crew chief ordered up track bar and air pressure changes to help regain some lost ground. The NAPA Toyota still drove extremely tight. The service happened on lap 282. But just as before, another yellow flag flew on lap 287. As before, it cost the team another lap.
Unfortunately, the team was not able to race back onto the lead lap despite having a car that produced lap times equal to the top-10. Truex and the NAPA KNOW HOW crew had to settle for a 23rd-place finish.