By Michael Guzman, Contributing Writer
Entering the Hellman’s 500 at Talladega SuperSpeedway, teams knew the risks associated with a pivotal playoff race at the 2.66 mile track. Most feared the notorious big wrecks, but it turned out to be engine troubles that derailed the championship hopes of Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr.
Keselowski, who led 90 of 144 laps before his engine expired, had established himself as the class of the field while battling temperature issues stemming from debris on the grille of his no. 2 Ford.
“I’m not an engine guy, but the car was really strong and we definitely kept finding debris,” Keselowski said in the garage. “I thought I got it cooled off and only got it slightly over, but I don’t know.”
After a whirlwind weekend that included a pole run amid concerns of a potential penalty, Truex Jr. paced the field for a pair of laps and showed speed before feeling a vibration prior to a green flag pit stop. Moments later, his motor and championship hopes went up in smoke, eliminating a bit of drama in the playoff picture after just 44 laps.
“Just developed a vibration and started to lose a little bit of power,” Truex Jr. explained. “Originally I thought it could have been a tire because it was shaking worse and worse and worse until it was time to pit.”
Unable to advance in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, both Truex Jr. and Keselowski have their sights set on more victories going forward.
“Hopefully we’ll win the next four, I want to finish with the most wins and we’ve got a great shot at that right now,” Keselowski said to NBC Sports’ broadcast.
A dejected Truex Jr. has the same idea after a year with four wins abruptly came to an end. Now a perennial championship contender with a second team coming on board next season, Truex Jr. remained optimistic that a tough afternoon at Talladega will help Furniture Row Racing going forward.
“All in all, we can’t hang our heads and we have a lot to be proud of,” said Truex Jr. “This is going to make us stronger.”