Martin Truex Jr. Finishes Second in NASCAR Cup Title Race for Second Straight Year

By David Biggy | Nov 20, 2019
Source: Joe Gibbs Racing Martin Truex Jr., a Stafford Township native, drives the No. 19 Toyota during the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Miami-Homestead Speedway on Nov. 17.

Stafford Township — When mistakes happen in a championship race, the result can be a disappointing one. Such was the case for Stafford Township native Martin Truex Jr. on Nov. 17, when a tire flub on lap 120 of the 267-lap Ford EcoBoost 400 ultimately cost him a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.

“One little mistake is hard to overcome here,” Truex said immediately following the race at Miami-Homestead Speedway. “We lost track position, fell back too much and got too far behind. It was just too much to make up. It’s another one that got away. I felt like we had what it took to win tonight. We needed to be a little bit better. It hurts to run second again when you feel like you could have done it.”

After taking the lead on the 21st lap and dominating the first stage of the race, leading for 98 laps before making his scheduled Stage 2 pit stop, what typically is a routine, four-tire swap became a small nightmare in a hurry. The new tires had gotten mixed up and Truex exited the pit with right-side tires on the left side of the car and vice versa.

Even though crew chief Cole Pearn noticed it immediately upon Truex’s exit, it was too late to get him back and the rare mistake forced the No. 19 driver to return to pit road under a green flag, which dropped Truex to 13th in the running order and a lap down on leader and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch.

Truex regained the lap during the only incident-related caution flag of the race 18 laps later, but he never got close enough to Busch to challenge for the win and the championship. Later in the race, after Busch already had made a stop on lap 210, Truex went to the pits four laps later and Busch made it count, taking a lead of nearly 11 seconds.

During the last 45 laps, Truex managed to cut the gap to 4.578 seconds, but when the last checkered flag of the season came out, Busch was at the front to win his first race since June and, more importantly, his second championship.

“Ultimately, it was the loss of track position that bit us,” Truex said during the post-race press conference. “We restarted the third stage in third. I got blitzed on the outside by the 20 (third-place finisher Erik Jones) and the 22 (fifth-place finisher Joey Logano) and a couple of those guys, and then I had to just run the crap out of my right front to get back by them. I got tight on that run and it took me forever to just get by a few cars, so I lost a bunch of ground on that run.

“Ultimately, it came down to track position, and I felt like if I could have been up front and controlled the race, I could have drove away from them. I was just too far back to make anything happen. At the end, we were quite a bit quicker, but it was too much of a gap. That’s part of the deal. You’ve got to be perfect and one mistake probably cost us a shot at it.”

Despite the disappointing finish to the 2019 season, Truex registered seven victories, finished among the top five 15 times and led 1,371 laps in 36 starts. Only Busch led more laps this season (1,582).

Last season, Truex reached the “Championship 4” race and finished second to Logano, after capturing the championship in 2017.

“Taking second two years in a row definitely stings a little, but the fact we have one is still really a big deal,” Truex said. “It’s hard to win these things. It’s a huge accomplishment just to get here, and sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t. It just wasn’t our day.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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