Martin Truex Jr. doesn’t get chance to challenge for win after pit call backfires

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After leading a race-high 95 laps and running near the front when he wasn’t pacing the field, Martin Truex Jr. never got the chance to go for the win.

A decision by crew chief Cole Pearn not to change any tires on Truex’s final pit stop backfired, and Truex left Kansas Speedway with a misleading ninth-place finish.

“I’m sorry, man,’’ Pearn said to Truex on the radio after the race. “We didn’t do you any favors. Had we taken two it probably would have worked out better. Sorry man.’’

“I hear you, man,’’ Truex responded. “Live and learn, bud. We’ll get one. You made the right call all year, so I wouldn’t get too upset about it.’’

“I wish we had half a gallon more,’’ Pearn said. “We could have at least thought about staying out there.

“I hear you, man,’’ Truex said. “I told you I hate fuel-milage races and that’s exactly why. They suck.’’

While Truex’s winless streak increased to 67 races since his last win – June 2013 at Sonoma – he again proved that this single-car team can compete with the sport’s top teams and is closing on a victory.

Truex is one of five drivers who have scored top-10 finishes in each of the four races on 1.5-mile tracks this season. Truex’s average finish of 6.5 in those races is better than every driver this season but Kevin Harvick (1.75 average finish), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3.25) and Joey Logano (5.75).

“Definitely not the finish we wanted, obviously, but proud of the guys for the weekend we had, just had good speed all weekend,’’ Truex said.

Truex’s race turned when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brought out the caution on Lap 257 in the 267-lap race. Harvick led but had been saving fuel. Truex was second and also had been doing so. Truex was about to make his charge when the caution waved.

Close on fuel, Pearn had Truex pit but didn’t change tires. The quicker stop allowed Truex to exit pit road first but four cars did not pit – eventual winner Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon. Truex restarted fifth. Harvick, with two fresh tires, started sixth.

Busch, starting in front of Truex, got a poor jump and that boxed Truex with nowhere to go. By the time Busch got back to speed, Truex was too far from the leaders and with no fresh tires, fell back.

Had Truex taken two tires, he likely would have started behind Harvick, putting Truex sixth. In that scenario, he wouldn’t have been boxed in by Busch’s slow restart.

“We should have either stayed out or took new tires,’’ Truex said after the race. “We probably did the worst thing you could have done there with just staying out and getting gas only because we ended up being the last guy with no tires. Everybody else behind us had two and they ate us up on the restart.

“All in all, I told Cole that he’s still new at this, this is his first year calling races, and he’s been spot‑on all year long. He’s taken gambles when he needed to that paid off. He’s been smart when he needed to. He’s done everything right, and tonight he just … he didn’t make the right call.’’

Despite the disappointment, Truex sees progress with his team.

“I felt like we were more competitive this weekend than we’ve been,’’ he said. “We’ve been a consistent top-five to top-10 car. I felt like tonight we kind of gained a big step in speed, and hopefully that’s something that will continue.’’

 

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.