By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Martin Truex, Jr. had an eventful afternoon in the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn Sunday, but not the kind of day he’d hope, finishing 14th after leading 25 of 200 laps.
“We had a rough day for sure, everything that could go wrong, did. We got wrecked early by a rookie mistake underneath us and then ran out of gas – could have won the second stage, we just ran out of gas,” said Truex. “The Camry was fast and we just couldn’t catch a break. We kept losing track position and then we got a lap down. We never could get on the right end of things. We had a good car and that was cool because we worked hard on it today and we learned a lot this weekend.”
The seventh-place starter’s chaotic day began on Lap 17 when William Byron’s No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 snapped loose in Turn 1, getting into Truex, resulting the two spinning.
While Byron hit the wall on the rear of his car, Truex made an incredible save and didn’t hit anything.
Truex described his save, and added that Byron getting into him was a rookie mistake.
“When you’re 90 degrees to the race track and you’re really fast, you know the car is trying to go that way towards the fence and all you can do is spin the tires and just mat it and hope for the best. Thankfully I was able to keep it out of the fence,” said Truex.
“One of them deals, William (Byron), rookie mistake – he just drove in there way too deep. I was just going to give him the middle lane. When you’re racing side-by-side, you have to go to the bottom, the inside guy has to go to the bottom. He tried to go to the middle and I tried to move up and I gave him plenty of room – I was in the third groove and he had too much speed.
“Dumb move on his part that early in the race without a question, but we recovered from it and luckily we didn’t get torn up in it too bad.”
The caution allowed the defending champion to continue, but this led to different pitting strategy.
Under the competition caution, Truex’s No. 78 5 Hour Energy Toyota Camry pit crew went for fuel only and restarted in 20th.
Shortly thereafter, Truex saw himself back into the top-10, and would ultimately finish fifth in Stage 1.
In Stage 2, a spin by Erik Jones brought a caution, and it was when Truex saw himself in front of the field after staying out on Lap 85.
He would hold on to the race lead, as he held off the Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick, who was hot on his tails to regain the lead.
On Lap 110, however, Harvick passed Truex because he began saving fuel, hoping he’ll make it to the end of the stage. It didn’t pan out as his car ran out of fuel on the backstretch with two laps to go.
Adding insult to injury, pit road was not only closed, he would also lose a lap due to an uncontrolled tire.
Truex would eventually get his lap back on Lap 134 as he was a recipient of the free pass after a strange accident by Ty Dillon, who was behind him, in Turn 3.
For the rest of the race, he wasn’t able to get back into the top-10 without others pitting, and finishes outside the top-10 for the third time in the last nine races.
Truex added a 14th place finish wasn’t a bad day after the kind of day he had, and felt he indeed had a fast car, but the incident with Byron might’ve factored into his performance.
“There’s one thing that was for certain, it was not our day. I told our friends in the 5-hour Energy suite this morning that whatever it is, we either finish top-five or 14th. Sure enough we’re 14th,” said Truex. “I think what we can take out of today is that we got the race car a lot better and we had good speed, we were up front there saving fuel and they couldn’t do anything with us until we started saving so much that obviously I had to let them go.
“I passed a lot of cars today and had a good car today when we could get some track position. It’s one of those days where we had bad pit stops and nothing just went our way. Getting spun out early really hurt. That damaged the car and that hurt us, but we were able to recover from that and then the fuel situation and being a lap down because of the penalty, it just wasn’t our day. Still to come back to 14th isn’t awful.”
Truex and his Furniture Row Racing team will vie for an elusive short track win at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday August 18, where he failed to finish in April due to a crash.