Late gamble to skip tires keeps Martin Truex Jr. from Fontana win

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Martin Truex Jr. will never know what might have happened if he had pitted for four tires late in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Cup race.

“I’d like to find out,” Truex told Fox Sports afterward.

By not pitting, Truex wound up finishing fourth after being the top challenger to winner Kyle Larson for most of the 404-mile race at Auto Club Speedway.

“It was definitely not the situation we wanted to be in, but we thought more guys would stay out there,” Truex said. “It was definitely a disadvantage at the end and just really tight. Holding on for fourth was good for points.”

Even though Truex fell to fourth, it was pretty much him vs. Larson for most of the race.

“We were right there all day long,” Truex said. “I felt like (Larson) had everybody covered. It was just a matter of who got out front and got clean air.

“Towards the end we had a little trouble in the pits. We didn’t take tires, everybody else did and we were at a big disadvantage those last couple restarts. Definitely happy to come out of here with a fourth with the tires we had on the car at the end.”

It still was a strong day for Truex, who led 73 laps. It just wasn’t a strong enough finish that kept him from a second win of 2017.

“We had a big disadvantage at the end, playing defense more than offense. We played offense all day, and I was able to run first or second most of the day.

“At the end of the day had a disadvantage on tires and that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Sometimes you make the call and it’s right and sometimes your call is wrong. We made the wrong one today, but to come home with a fourth after all that, definitely a good day for us.”

One of the few not so good things that happened Sunday was when Truex was involved in a tangle with Matt Kenseth on Lap 184 that sent the latter driver into the inside SAFER Barrier.

“We got together with the 20 on that one restart and I feel awful about that,” Truex told Fox. “I don’t know whose fault it was. I think we were both kinda moving at the same time.

“I was still coming up and he started to come down and we got together. Obviously, I’ve got to go talk with him about that. I feel terrible.”

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