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.”