By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
The Overton’s 400 was almost a case of going from worst to first for Martin Truex, Jr. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver had plenty of speed, but not enough to contend for the victory.
After the final restart, Truex battled with Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, and eventual race winner Kyle Busch. He pushed Logano into the lead with his No. 78 5-hour Energy / Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry. Truex hovered just outside the top-five for the next few laps. As others slipped back, he moved forward. As Busch, Harvick, and Larson pulled away, Truex, comfortably settled into fourth for the finish.
Truex, and fellow Toyota Racing driver Denny Hamlin, likely passed more cars in the 400-mile race than any of their competitors. Both drivers, along with Jimmie Johnson and Chris Buescher, had their qualifying times disallowed after failing post-qualifying technical inspection. As a result, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn did not get to choose their pit stall. This left them next to Larson’s pit stall, costing both drivers spots on pit road throughout the race.
“Up and down for sure. Starting in the back and we overcame that pretty quickly,” Truex said. “Our pit stall was awful. I feel bad for the 42 (Larson). To pit behind us and there is nothing we could have done about it. That rule where NASCAR picks your pit stall for you, it hurts the 42. It hurts us just as much. All in all we battled here today with track position and we were a fourth-place car and that’s where we finished so it was a good day.”
Truex not only broke into the top-10 after just 20 laps but was third when Stage 1 ended. It appeared that he would be one of the cars to beat, but Truex never actually captured the top spot at any point of the race.
The fourth-place finish was the 11th top-10 finish of the season for Truex. It also moves him up to fourth in the Championship Points Standings, 142-points behind Points Leader Busch. Truex is locked into the Playoffs via his three wins this season.
Truex remains third among the drivers that have Playoff Points. With 18 Playoff Points, he is now 12 behind Busch and nine behind Harvick.
Now Truex and his Furniture Row Racing team will look to earn their first win in a restrictor-plate race in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 7.