Engine failure effectively eliminates early title favorite Martin Truex Jr. from playoffs

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Martin Truex Jr.’s engine expired on the 41st lap Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, effectively ending the championship bid of a prime Chase for the Sprint Cup contender.

Smoke began billowing from the No. 78 Toyota shortly after the first round of green-flag stops, bringing out the first yellow flag of the 500-mile race.

“It just developed a vibration and started to lose a little bit of power,” Truex told Marty Snider in an NBC Sports interview. “Originally, I thought it might have been a tire because it was shaking. Once I slowed down and hit pit road and felt the vibration still there in the engine, I knew we were in trouble.

“It’s a tough way to go out. Tough way to go out, but I’m proud of the effort, proud of all the guys.”

Truex had entered the race with a 13-point cushion on the cutoff after finishing outside the top 10 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway. The Furniture Row Racing driver likely won’t advance to the Round of 8 after winning two of the first three races in the playoffs at Chicagoland Speedway and Dover International Speedway.

“It’s going to be really tough when we win four of the last five races,” he said.

It was the first engine failure of the season for Truex and the second in three races for Toyota Racing Development. Denny Hamlin had an engine failure at Charlotte.

“The engines have been great all year,” he said. “Every once in awhile, you have a failure. Unfortunate it was with everything on the line.”

The engine failure completed an eventful weekend for Truex, who qualified on the pole position Saturday after NASCAR confiscated jack screws from his car during inspection. Officials said that Truex likely would face no points penalty for the parts.