Martin Truex Jr. Recap Video (via Michael Waltrip Racing)
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. finished eighth in Sunday's TUMS Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Superspeedway. Truex escaped relatively unscathed in the 500-lap race that saw 18 cautions slow the field for more than 100 laps. Truex started 24th, after rain washed out qualifying on Saturday, but the New Jersey native broke into the top 10 at the lap 110 mark. He stayed near 10th place throughout the race and drove from 11th to eighth in the final three laps. Sunday's finish marked the second consecutive top-10 finish for the No. 56 team and tenth of the 2011 season.
"This is by far my toughest track. I want to thank Pat Tryson for helping us out this weekend and the rest of my NAPA team for stepping up and making it through a very tough week," said Truex. "I am so proud of my team. My biggest challenge today was all the restarts. I pretty much lined up on the outside for all but two or three of them. Fortunately I was on the inside for the one that counted the most -- the last one. It was pretty crazy out there so I'm happy to end up eighth. We'll take eighth and go to Texas."
The race got underway under perfect fall conditions. It took just eight laps for the first caution flag to appear. It all began when Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed a synchronized slide and triggered a massive traffic jam. The NAPA Toyota came to a complete stop to miss the melee and avoided damage.
The race restarted on lap 21 with Truex scored in 19th position. But after six more laps, another incident occurred. NASCAR chose to use this time out for their competition yellow. Interim crew chief Pat Tryson ordered his driver down pit road for an air pressure change, four fresh tires and fuel. The NAPA driver returned to the track in 25th after many teams stayed out or pitted for just two tires.
The NAPA Toyota returned to pit road under caution on lap 68. Truex said his car needed more help. Tryson added wedge to the mix and when the race went green on lap 71, the NAPA Toyota raced in 27th. Adjustments made helped Truex pick up the pace. He went on to dodge two more wrecks to race up to seventh place by lap 120.
The chance to return to pit road and to improve the NAPA Toyota's forward grip came on lap 151. The NAPA KNOW HOW pit crew changed four tires, added fuel and made an air pressure adjustment. Truex returned to the track in ninth and drove back up to seventh place on lap 171.
The long green-flag sequence saw the NAPA Toyota continue its top-10 run. Truex's only challenge was his car needed to turn better through the center. A caution flag flew on lap 196. Tryson called his driver in for track bar and air pressure changes. Truex returned to the track in 12th when the race went back to green on lap 203. Adjustments helped as it took only eight circuits for the NAPA Toyota return to the 10th position.
However, by the halfway mark, the NAPA Toyota needed more front grip. The chance to improve the car happened under caution on lap 258. When the green flag waved again on lap 263, Truex wasted no time to climb back into the top 10 at lap 285.
Lap 361 saw another yellow flag wave. This time Truex raced in 13th. Tryson ordered an air pressure change to improve the front grip. The fast stop improved the NAPA Toyota's track position by one spot to race in 12th on lap 368.
Meanwhile, two quick caution flags came out on laps 407 and 414. Finally Truex got the preferred inside line on restarts. It worked as the NAPA Toyota drove back into 10th at lap 422.
Another restart on lap 432 saw several cars bunched up including Truex. Once things settled down by lap 444, the driver of the NAPA Toyota had a battle on his hands for track position as he drove in 13th position with a car more than capable of earning a top-10. He needed the preferred inside line on the restarts.
Then on lap 457, the caution waved again. Truex pitted for more wedge adjustments while several cars stayed out. The NAPA Toyota returned to the track in 18th which meant another restart on the outside. Despite the disadvantage, he drove up to 12th before the caution flag waved on laps 464, 474 and 493. However, on the final caution, Tony Stewart had a cut down tire forcing him to pit. It allowed Truex to move to the 11th position and the chance to restart on the inside with three laps to go.
When the final restart got underway, Truex went to work and picked off three more positions to finish the caution-plagued race in eighth place.
Next week the NAPA team competes at Texas Motor Speedway with only three more races remaining in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.