After starting from the pole position at Pocono Raceway, Martin Truex Jr. won’t be finishing in first.
Truex’s No. 78 Toyota slammed the wall on the 20th lap Monday, shortly after the first restart of the 400-mile event.
After changing two tires on a pit stop during a scheduled yellow flag on the 15th lap, Truex restarted in third but quickly skidded up the track with the white smoke trailing from his car.
Truex led 16 laps before the incident. NBCSN’s Marty Snider reported Truex’s right-front tire went flat because a valve stem on the inner liner was knocked loose.
Truex told reporters that a lug nut hit the ground and bounced behind the wheel, slicing off the stem.
“It’s just bad luck honestly,” he said. “I knew something wasn’t right in (turn) one and two and I got real tight off of (turn) two on that restart and went down the back and was like, ‘Ah, it feels OK.’ And, as I got closer to the tunnel turn I felt it start to go down and by the time I let off and tried to slow down it was just going straight for the fence.”
The Furniture Row Racing driver was starting from the pole for the third time this season. At Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, Truex started first and won by leading a race-record 392 of 400 laps. He was racing the same Camry at Pocono.
After the crash, Truex immediately was concerned with preserving the car for the playoffs
“That was my initial thought after it happened is like, ‘All right, let’s go to the garage and make sure we don’t blow another tire and destroy the thing,’” he said. “God, it was so good. I mean, unbelievable that it happened the way it happened. … Crazy bad luck and just a shame. The car was so good. I was literally on cruise control and driving away.”
The team made repairs, but another right-front tire problem on the 41st lap sent Truex to the garage. He returned 17 laps down on the 2.5-mile track.
Truex is accustomed to having strong cars without getting the results. A pit penalty at Kentucky Speedway negated a shot at a victory, and he also led the most laps without winning at Kansas Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.
Paul Menard, who restarted fourth alongside Truex, also had problems on the restart, losing spots apparently because of a broken transmission.
The green flag fell at Pocono shortly past noon after being postponed for a day because of rain.