CONCORD, N.C. – Martin Truex Jr. had the same car he dominated Charlotte Motor Speedway with in May, but it did not have the same performance Sunday afternoon.
Although he started seventh, Truex never posed much of a threat for the victory in the Bank of America 500, placing 13th.
It was a surprising turn of events after Truex led 392 of 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600 en route to picking up his first win of the season. It was also the same car that went to victory lane three weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway in the Chase opener.
“We just missed it,” Truex said as he walked through the garage. “We had good speed; we just needed clean air to be able to do it because we were on a splitter so bad. I don’t know, we just missed our travels for some reason and were just plowing the hell out of the ground all day long. We made a few packer adjustments to try and get it off the ground, we just never did go far enough.
“Even with that said,, we still had a second-, third-, fourth-place car towards the end of the race, which for as bad as we were is saying something because it wasn’t very good. We just missed it. Kind of banking off what we did here in the first race and just didn’t get enough practice to work out those little details.”
With an average running position of 9.93, Truex was in contention for a top-five finish until he lost his track position on the race’s final pit stop. After entering pit road fourth, the No. 78 car stalled when Truex went to pull out of his pit box, a faulty clutch the culprit.
“Just freak deal with the clutch going out,” Truex said. “I’m not sure what happened there; clutch engaged itself and stalled the engine then we just sitting there dead. So luckily it started in gear. I was worried it wasn’t going to start at all, so luckily it started and we got back going.”
Things could have been worse, Truex acknowledges. He escaped without damage when he got into the back of Austin Dillon on a Lap 260 restart. The crash claimed a total of 11 cars, including Chase contenders Dillon and Chase Elliott.
Truex took the blame over the Furniture Row Racing team radio and admitted following the race he had made a “stupid” move.
“I flat ran Austin over,” Truex said. “He got going pretty good, started spinning his tires a little, and I tried to give him a shove to get him going, thinking I was going to help him out, and I guess hit him way too hard. I thought I was square, and we were going to be good, and I was just going to help him out. As soon as I hit him, just turned him around, so completely my fault. I feel awful for him and Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) and all those guys and all the other guys I tore up behind him. I just misjudged it trying to help. Just a stupid move, I guess.”
The positive from Sunday is that Truex remains above the Chase cutoff line heading into Kansas Speedway. Five other Chase drivers finished 30th or worse Sunday, giving Truex a 19-point advantage over Dillon, who is the first driver out of a transfer spot.
“I think we’re fine,” Truex said looking forward. “One race at a time. Thirteenth, like I said, it was a disappointing ending to our day, but all in all, a lot of guys had a lot worse days. You only got to beat four of them. We’ve got a good track next week, and we’ll go get after them in Kansas.”