By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Martin Truex, Jr. was again denied a second NASCAR Cup Series championship. Instead of hoisting the Bill France Cup, Truex had to settle for second in Sunday’s Cup Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway.
When the laps were winding down, Truex appeared to have the title in the bag. That’s when debris from David Starr changed the outcome of the race, bringing out the caution flag on Lap 282. Erasing Truex’s lead, the caution flag would bring the field down pit road for the final pit stop of the 36-race campaign.
Truex’s Joe Gibbs Racing crew was no match for Kyle Larson’s number-one pit stall and blistering fast crew. This put Truex on offense with Larson playing defense on the final restart, which made all the difference on who would come home with the title.
As Larson went on to score his 10th win of the year to lock up the championship, Truex finished as the runner-up in the 312-lap contest, which ended his season in second place in the standings.
Since winning the 2017 title, Truex has felt the frustration of finishing runner-up in the championship standings on numerous occasions. Sunday’s result marked the third time he’s ended up as the sport’s vice champion.
“We had a car capable of winning, just for whatever reason it didn’t go the way we needed it to at the end there,” said Truex.
“We didn’t have quite enough speed to get to (Larson) and then around him. I thought he would stay on the bottom a little longer and I would have a shot, but he moved up and then I couldn’t do anything on the bottom, so it is what it is. They did a great job. They had a great season, congrats to them. We will go back and try next year.”
Clean air also played a pivotal role on Truex’s struggle of beating Larson. Adding more to the pain after proving he wasn’t a dark horse but the man to beat.
“Whoever got out front was there for 20, 30, 40 laps and then the long run cars would start coming around. I don’t know,” Truex explained.
“Ultimately, we needed to beat them off of pit road. It’s unfortunate, but we win and lose as a team. I’m really proud of our efforts this year.
“Second hurts, I’m not going to lie, especially with the car we had and the job the guys did. That’s racing as they say, and sometimes you’re just not on the right side of things,” Truex continued.
“We were on the right side of things to get the lead there, and weren’t able to hang on to it. If we could have had the lead, I think it would have been over, but that’s kind of how (Larson) did it. They had a hell of a season, congrats to them. Gosh, dang, it sucks. I hate it.”