Rough day for Martin Truex Jr. results in 14th-place finish

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Simply, Martin Truex Jr. said, “it was not our day.”

The reigning series champion spun after contact from rookie William Byron, had a pit road penalty and saw a fuel gamble fail before the end of the second stage. The result was that Truex finished 14th and watched as Kevin Harvick swept both stages and won Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway.

This marked only the second time in the last eight races Truex has not finished in the top five.

“We had a rough day for sure, everything that could go wrong, did,” Truex said. “We got wrecked early by a rookie mistake underneath us and then ran out of gas – could have won the second stage, we just ran out of gas. The Camry was fast and we just couldn’t catch a break. We kept losing track position and then we got a lap down. We never could get on the right end of things. We had a good car and that was cool because we worked hard on it today and we learned a lot this weekend.”

Truex spun after contact from Byron, an incident that brought out the caution on Lap 17 of the 200-lap race.

“William, rookie mistake,” Truex told NBCSN. “He just drove in there way too deep, thinking I was going to give him the middle lane. When you’re racing side-by-side, you’ve got to go to the bottom. The inside guy  has got to go to the bottom. He tried to to go to the middle. I tried to move up and give him plenty of room. I was in the third groove and he had too much speed. Dumb move on his part that early in the race, no question.”

Truex recovered from that and finished fifth in the first stage.

With a couple of cautions during the second stage, crew chief Cole Pearn tried to have Truex go the whole stage without pitting. Truex moved to second when most of the field pitted during the caution from Laps 76-79. Truex passed Jimmie Johnson for the lead on Lap 85 and held it through Lap 109.

That’s when Pearn told Truex to start saving fuel.

“It sucks because I’m … faster than them,” Truex said on the radio.

Pearn said: “Yep. That was our play to get track position.”

Truex radioed he was out of fuel and would pit just before the stage ended — when pit road was closed. He lost a lap from the stop and the team also was penalized for an uncontrolled tire. He restarted 31st.

“We were up front there saving fuel and they couldn’t do anything with us until we started saving so much that obviously I had to let them go,” Truex said. “I passed a lot of cars today and had a good car today when we could get some track position. It’s one of those days where we had bad pit stops and nothing just went our way.”

 

NASCAR America: Kevin Harvick’s team failed to keep up with Miami

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Under NASCAR’s current playoff format winning the most races means a lot. It doesn’t win the championship, however, unless one of those victories comes in the season finale.

After the race in Miami, Kevin Harvick was not ready to call his season a failure. He won eight times during the year, tying him for the lead with Kyle Busch. But he was noticeably disappointed by coming up two positions short of claiming his second Cup. Harvick finished behind the 2018 champion Joey Logano and last year’s champion Martin Truex Jr.

“When I look at the 4 team through the whole weekend, they just seemed a little bit off,” Parker Kligerman said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “You look at qualifying, it didn’t go well. And then Saturday practice, they had a short run to start off the first practice because he wasn’t happy with the car. He wasn’t able to find the feel in the car. It just seemed like they were searching a little bit.”

MORE: What went wrong for Kyle Busch in Miami?

Harvick started the race strong, moving up to the lead on Lap 43 after starting 12th. He won the first stage. When the field pitted, the team did not make any significant changes to the car and Harvick was never quite the same.

Jeff Burton said that indicates the team failed to adjust to the changing characteristics of the track.

“In this kind of race when it all comes down to one race and you just get off that little bit at the wrong time, there’s no time to recover,” Burton said.

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

NASCAR America: What went wrong for Kyle Busch in Miami?

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Kyle Busch was one of the dominant drivers of the season with eight wins during the season to his credit and an incredible number of bonus points as the playoffs began. Two of his wins came during the playoffs, which led many to consider him one of the co-favorites to win the championship along with Kevin Harvick.

Instead, Busch finished a distant fourth in the race and the championship.

“There was nothing in the 18 car that was magical,” Steve Letarte said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “The 4 (of Harvick) when they dropped the green drove right to the front. … The 22 (of Joey Logano) at times, you said ‘he’s got great short run speed; if it comes down to a short run, he should be good.’ The 78 (of Martin Truex Jr.) had great long run speed. The 18 had none of the above.”

Busch was forced to gamble in the championship race to simply have a shot at winning. Staying out longer than most of the competition, he entered the pits on Lap 248 as the leader and rolled off pit road as the leader. When the green flag waved on Lap 253, he fell back quickly.

“(Busch) wasn’t better in any category,” Letarte added. “And that’s what really surprised me: A team that didn’t have a lot of weaknesses coming into the race really raced with nothing but weaknesses. Average pit crew, average speed, I think decent pit calls by Adam Stevens was the only thing that kept them in the picture for that last restart.”

Letarte went on to describe what he was watching in the final laps. While Logano drove to the front, Busch fell four seconds off the pace.

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Breaking down Joey Logano’s championship

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Today’s NASCAR America breaks down Joey Logano and Tyler Reddick‘s championships plus the best moments from the 2018 season.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman from Stamford, Connecticut. They are joined by Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte in the Charlotte studio.

On today’s show:

  • Coming off the heels of a memorable Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, we’ll recap Sunday’s thrilling season finale that saw Joey Logano become the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion. We’ll break down the key points of the race and get reaction from Logano and team owner Roger Penske.
  • We’ll hear from Championship runner-up Martin Truex Jr., who finished second at Miami in his final start with Furniture Row Racing.
  • Take a look at Tyler Reddick’s championship performance in Saturday’s Xfinity Series finale and what it means for his career going forward.
  • And we’ll look back at some of the best moments from the 2018 NASCAR season.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Penalty report from Miami

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NASCAR issued a $10,000 fine against Aric Almirola‘s crew chief, John Klausmeier, for an unsecured lug nut after Sunday’s Cup season finale.

Almirola finished ninth in the race.

No other penalties were announced.