Traffic thwarts strategy, chance to win for Martin Truex Jr.


LONG POND, Pa. — For all the planning, there was nothing crew chief Cole Pearn could do about the traffic.

Focused on a win — Pearn pitted Martin Truex Jr. before the end of Stage 2 even though Truex was leading — Pearn thought he had the right strategy Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

Instead, Truex finished third to winner Kyle Busch and runner-up Kevin Harvick.

When Truex exited pit road after making his final stop on Lap 126, he returned to the track behind Denny Hamlin, who had pitted a lap earlier. Both ran into heavy traffic.

“We were in a good spot there,’’ Truex said. “We proceeded to catch lapped traffic in every single wrong place possible. That ultimately cost us second.’’

Truex got bottled in traffic a few laps later. That allowed Harvick to pass. 

Busch pitted from the lead on Lap 135. Crew chief Adam Stevens said he kept Busch on track longer to ensure that traffic wouldn’t be an issue when Busch exited pit road. That allowed Busch to catch the leaders.

“I think the key for him was staying out there and then having clean air on old tires,’’ Hamlin said of Busch. “He was running good times, 52.5s or so. We come out on new tires where we should be running 51-somethings, but we’re running 53s in the pack. We didn’t get any benefit from our new tires, so when he comes back out, and has the new tires and clean air, you see what happened there, he was able to maneuver pretty easily.’’

Said Truex: When (Busch) got to us, we were all half used up. He still had really good tires because he was in clean air the whole time.

Pearn’s strategy was partially set when he pitted Truex on Lap 97 — three laps before the end of Stage 2.

“Five (playoff) points is a lot better than one bonus point,’’ Pearn said for the decision.

Pearn said it also helped that Kyle Larson, who is second in the points to Truex, had problems earlier in the race and was due for a poor finish (33rd). Knowing that Larson wasn’t going to gain any points made it easier for Pearn to make the call and give up the one playoff point and 10 stage points for winning that stage. Truex has an 85-point lead on Larson in the season standings with five races left until the playoffs begin.

That set Pearn for the next stop. Then Hamlin pitted.

“Our original plan was to split the run like (Busch) did,’’ Pearn said. “We were ready for whatever. We were going to let everybody behind us dictate what we did. I thought (Busch) was going to come too (with Hamlin). It was just a scenario you didn’t want to be way off strategy to everybody. Didn’t quite anticipate hitting the lapped traffic as bad as we did. And we hit them like every corner.’’

While traffic didn’t go Truex’s way, pit road wasn’t an issue. Truex raced with new front tire changers. The team gets its pit crew from Joe Gibbs Racing, which suspended Truex’s tire changers for an incident on pit road with Stevens last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Pearn said he was pleased with the how new front tire changer John Royer and new rear tire changer Kip Wolfmier performed.

“They did good,’’ Pearn said. “The first (stop), they hung a lug (nut) but then after that they settled in. For coming together as a group you couldn’t have asked for them to have done any better. I’m proud of them.’’

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COTA Truck race results: Zane Smith wins

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Reigning series champion Zane Smith won Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas for the second year in a row.

The victory is Smith’s second of this year.

MORE: COTA Truck race results

MORE: Truck points after COTA

Kyle Busch finished second and was followed by Ty Majeski, Tyler Ankrum and Ross Chastain.

The key moment came when Parker Kligerman‘s truck came to a stop on the frontstretch at Lap 28. Smith, running second, made it to pit road before it was closed. Busch, who was leading, had already passed pit road entrance.

Smith gained the lead with the move, while Busch had to pit under the caution and restarted 16th. Smith was able to build a lead and beat Busch by 5.4 seconds.

Stage 1 winner: Christian Eckes

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Busch

Who had a good race: Ty Majeski’s third-place finish is his best of the season. … Tyler Ankrum’s fourth-place finish is his best of the year. … Corey Heim has finished sixth two races in a row. … Rookie Nick Sanchez finished seventh, giving him back-to-back top 10s.

Who had a bad race: Parker Kligerman was running third when electrical issues forced him to stop on track just after the end of the second stage. … After winning the first stage, Christian Eckes had mechanical issues and had to pit for repairs, costing him several laps.

Notable: Front Row Motorsports has won the Truck COTA race all three years. Todd Gilliland won the race in 2021 and Zane Smith has won it the past two years.

Next: The series races April 1 at Texas Motor Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
COTA winner Zane Smith’s truck catches fire after he did his burnout on the frontstretch. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

COTA Cup starting lineup


Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who has won two of the first five races of the season, will lead the Cup field to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron will be joined on the front row of the starting lineup by Tyler Reddick, the only driver to win multiple races at road courses last year.

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Austin Cindric starts third and is joined in the second row by Jordan Taylor, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick car.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

William Byron wins Cup pole at COTA


William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.

Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.

Sunday Cup race at Circuit of the Americas: Start time, TV info, weather


Is this Toyota’s weekend?

Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?

Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy with a high of 80 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: COTA Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.


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