Martin Truex Jr. Phoenix Recap Video (via Michael Waltrip Racing)
CORNELIUS, N.C. – No. 56 NAPA Filters Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. finished seventh in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver took the lead twice for a total of 29 laps. The No. 56 used good strategy and was also very fast. Truex restarted 16th with 50 laps to go and raced his way to seventh by the checkered flag. The top-10 finish moves Truex to sixth place in the standings, tied with teammate Mark Martin after the first two events. The NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota team returns to action Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"It was a good day for our NAPA Filters Toyota. We fought for track position all day long. Finally at the end we had a little bit better tires than some of the guys and knew we could make it on fuel and were able to go the distance there, so that helped a little bit. We were just really fast at the end on new tires. We were able to get the lead and with no tires and 20 lap tires were able to check out and leave them. It's just a shame we had to pit. I'm not sure how those guys made it -- there's no way we could have made it from there. We'll work on that. I'm really pleased with the team and the car. We fought hard all day and got us a good finish.
"Our NAPA Filters Toyota was really fast when we get some clean air today. It was a lot of fun when we got out front there on 20 lap tires and we were able to drive away from (Kevin) Harvick who had new ones and able to get a big lead. It's just a shame we had to pit there. I'm proud of the team, proud of what we did all day long. We messed ourselves up yesterday when we qualified bad and we fought that all day long. This NAPA Filters Toyota was a rocket when we could get to clean air. I'm proud to drive these things and looking forward to the rest of the year with cars that have speed like this."
The green flag waved shortly after 3 p.m. ET and Truex picked up five positions before the caution flag flew on lap 16. MWR teammate Clint Bowyer cut down a tire. Crew chief Chad Johnston called for fuel and a track bar change on lap 17. The NAPA Filters Toyota restarted in 19th, but shortly into the next green-flag run, Truex lost some ground to teams on fresher tires.
The driver's biggest handling issue was tight in the center of corners and loose into Turn 1. Johnston informed his driver that air pressure and track bar changes were coming. Truex raced in 22nd place before pitting on lap 60 under caution.
Changes made helped Truex gain more ground. By lap 80, his lap times improved to compete in 15th. Then at the lap 95 mark and in 13th, his times equaled leader Jimmie Johnson.
A debris caution flew on lap 110. The NAPA KNOW HOW crew changed four tires and made air pressure and track bar changes. Truex took the green flag on lap 117 in 13th. However, the adjustments made were not to his liking. He dropped to 19th place and then dodged a wreck in front of him involving AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard on lap 132. Johnston put all the adjustments back from the previous service during the caution. Truex lined up 19th when the race went back to green on lap 140.
The NAPA Filters Toyota came back to life and at halfway, Truex raced in 15th place. His lap times equaled the top-10 cars. He worked with driver Johnson to race up through the field and on lap 197, Truex was the new leader. He held the top spot until lap 206 when he came down pit road for fuel.
Truex returned to the track and remained in winning contention. By lap 225, he was the fastest car and scored in 13th. NASCAR threw the debris caution on lap 227. Johnston kept Truex out to retake the lead and held it until a caution on lap 247. Johnston called his driver in for the team's final service of the day which included a four-tire change and fuel. The stop ensured the NAPA KNOW HOW team enough gas to make it to the end. Truex returned to the track in 16th position with plenty of time to race back to the top spot.
With 50 laps to go, the NAPA Filters Toyota turned the fastest laps on the track and patiently picked off positions one by one. When the checkered flag waved, Truex made it all the way to seventh place at one of the toughest tracks on the circuit to complete passes.