Martin Truex Jr. called Aric Almirola an “idiot” and blamed his late-race blocking for Truex losing Saturday’s Cup race at Dover International Speedway to Denny Hamlin.
After getting caught behind Almirola, Truex lost the lead to Hamlin with nine laps to go and Truex finished second, ending a stretch of five races with third-place finishes.
“Really, I think if the 10 (Aric Almirola) car just wasn’t pinning on the bottom in front of me I would have been fine,” Truex told NBCSN after the race. “Every time I tried to move up and get some air on my car, he would just slide up in front of me like an idiot. He’s the reason we lost the lead, but in the end we just weren’t good enough.”
While Truex led twice for 88 laps, Hamlin led 115 of 311 laps and swept every stage.
“I thought the 11 (Denny Hamlin) was better than us all day long,” Truex said. “We got the lead there in the pits and was able to use clean air to our advantage. I was never happy with the car all day long. The SiriusXM Camry was fast, but the balance was all over the place. It was firing off tight and getting loose on long runs. At the end, just nothing I could do. It was out of control, sideways.”
Truex later doubled down on his criticism of Almirola, who finished 17th, the first driver two laps down.
“When he’s holding me up clearly, the second-place guy is catching me, obviously,” Truex said in his post-race press conference. “I’m sure he was getting that info. I was fine with him running where he wanted to run … I had a problem with every time I tried to move up he’d just drive up the race track in front of me. That’s not really cool to do to the leader when second’s catching him. I think that’s kind of (expletive) to be honest.”
Saturday’s result was the third straight Dover race Truex has finished in the top two. He won last year’s spring race and finished second last fall.
Truex has finished worse than third just once in the last eight races. He placed 29th at Texas on July 19 after being part of a 12-car incident.
But through 24 races he has just one victory. He had seven wins in 2019.
“I think we’re close,” Truex said. “You got to be consistent. You got to be top two or three every week to consider yourself one of the guys that’s going to make the final four. From that standpoint, yeah, we’re right there.
“I definitely think we can find a little bit more. We can definitely still be a little bit better. Certainly no practices has been a challenge. I think (crew chief) James (Small) has done a great job of dealing with that in his first year. The past I guess seven races we’ve been second or third every one of them. That’s something to be proud of.
“I feel like we’ve had the best car a few times along the way. Certainly today we didn’t. We were right there. As long as we can keep doing what we’re doing, the wins are going to come, no question.”