By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
On paper, Martin Truex, Jr. started fifth in Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That all changed during pre-race inspections when his No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry failed twice.
The first issue came from the deck lid, which NASCAR deemed to be too high. His Joe Gibbs Racing crew were able to fix the issue, but a new issue rose. The tail wasn’t compliant to the sanctioning body’s liking.
By the rulebook, Truex had to give up his starting position and work his way from the rear of the field.
260 laps later, Truex crossed the line in third. No question, he had a car capable of mowing down the competition. But nowhere near the pace the Busch Brothers had all afternoon.
When asked about the notion that he passed the most cars, Truex bluntly said it was factual.
“It’s funny you look at results and oh, you started fifth and finished third, that’s a pretty good day,” said Truex. “We definitely had the speed to battle for the win at the end, just had to come from too far back.”
Sunday’s result was Truex’s seventh top-five of the year, but only the second in a span of a month since his last win at Darlington. That in mind, Truex and runner-up finisher Kyle Busch showcased JGR are still front runners on what’s been a Hendrick Motorsports stranglehold.
When it comes to laps led, HMS went amiss for the first time in quite some time. JGR led 93 laps (Busch leading 91 of them) while seventh-place finisher Chase Elliott led all of HMS’ 13 laps. In fact, behind Truex in the final order was HMS’ highest finisher by the name of Alex Bowman.
Truex felt that JGR are close to returning to its old form where they won week in and week out. At the same time, he mentioned the characteristics of the 1.54-mile circuit played a role on the race.
“Atlanta is such a handling track. If you hit it just right, you are going to be really, really strong. It’s so hard. It’s like every other week there is different guys that run good,” Truex explained.
“It’s crazy this season how it’s been. These cars have been really sensitive. It’s hard to hit it right and that’s what it takes. Whoever does it most consistently is going to be the one to beat. Hendrick cars, don’t count them out – that’s for sure.”