Expectations matched reality Sunday for Martin Truex Jr.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver got exactly what he predicted out of his No. 19 Toyota at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Truex finished third in the NASCAR Cup Series’ race in Loudon, New Hampshire. Brad Keselowski won, while Denny Hamlin was the runner-up. Joey Logano was then fourth, followed by Kevin Harvick in fifth.
“Still a solid effort,” Truex said. “I thought we were a third-best car, fourth-best car. I think the 4 (Harvick) was pretty strong at times as well. He kind of got messed around with track position. We finished where we should have. We just have to figure out how to get a little bit better here.”
The top-three run marked Truex‘s third in the past four races — highlighted by a runner-up finish at Kentucky Speedway at the beginning of that stretch. Overall, it‘s his fifth top five and 11th top 10.
Truex, the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion, is already locked into the 2020 playoffs. He won at Martinsville Speedway back in June to solidify himself a berth in the postseason competition. Truex currently ranks seventh in the points standings, too, with 648 points — 155 behind leader Kevin Harvick — and six races remaining in the regular season.
The finale will be held at Phoenix Raceway with the same rules package ran at New Hampshire since both are mile-long tracks.
“That’s definitely a good point,” Truex said. “It’s interesting to see how it played out today, where we kind of stacked up. I felt like we were right there. Obviously, as I’ve been talking about, needed the car to be a little bit better.
“The win that Martinsville, that was huge for us. I think going forward, we’re going to learn a little bit more about this, who has been working on it. They know the championship race at Phoenix will use this package.”
Seven different drivers led laps in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, and Truex was not one of them. He did get up to second come the conclusion of Stage 1 on Lap 75 after firing off 11th when the green flag dropped.
On Lap 97, though, Truex was hit with a pit-road penalty from NASCAR. The No. 19 team had an uncontrolled tire get away from its stall, forcing Truex to drop to the tail end of the field on Lap 100.
Truex battled his way back through the field to place eighth at the end of Stage 2 on Lap 185.
“I mean, I think no matter what’s going on as a driver you face those things,” Truex said. “Mistakes happen. Pit road speeding, I’ve done that this year. Yeah, I mean, when those things happen, you just have to buckle down and get what you can get. Fortunately we were able to come back from it. We probably lost out on a few stage points there in Stage 2 because of it.”
The stage finishes added 12 stage points to Truex‘s race total (46).
Up next, Truex and the rest of the NASCAR Cup Series field take on a doubleheader weekend at Michigan International Speedway. Truex has yet to win at the 2-mile track. In 28 career starts, he has eight top-five and 11 top-10 performances — that includes three runner-up showings. He‘s averaging a 14.6 finish.
“I was happy, like I said, with our performance today,” Truex said. “I felt like there was a lot of room for improvement with our handling. That’s always encouraging when you know your car can drive better and we ran as well as we did. We’ll see how it goes.
“Every week you got to do the best you can, kind of the best educated guess you can come up with.”