Controversial Pit Road Penalty Relegates Martin Truex Jr. to 10th

Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

By Summer Bedgood, Managing Editor

Martin Truex Jr. has had speed in his No. 78 Toyota all season long, leading at least one lap in nine of the first 17 races of the season. Truex added to those numbers by leading 46 laps on Saturday night in Kentucky Speedway. However, as has happened many times this season, the New Jersey native encountered an obstacle that prevented him from getting to Victory Lane in a race where he had one of the best – if not the best – cars on the track.

On lap 196, Truex and many of the other lead lap cars were on pit road. As he began to pull towards his pit stall, Truex passed to the inside and ahead of Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 car. Though Truex questioned the call after the race, indicating that drivers make the same move several times in every race, NASCAR considered the move to be a safety violation, and forced Truex to start at the tail end of the field for the ensuing restart.

Though Truex was able to make an impressive run through the field – working his way up as high as third before making his final green flag stop of the night – the 36-year-old driver expressed frustration about the penalty after the race.

“It’s all you do in instances like that is keep your head down and dig,” said Truex. “We went all the way to third place from the back. That was cool, all in all we still finished 10th. It’s just one of those deals. I’m not sure why we got penalized. It’s a timeline thing, everybody does it. You get your line and you gas it up to your pit, it’s what I did. I don’t know. I guess it wasn’t my night on that deal. It’s frustrating, we had the car to beat and I felt like if we didn’t get the 4 (Kevin Harvick) on the pit stop, we weren’t going to be able to pass him. It was so hard to pass. We came out with the lead and they took it away from us. It’s just the way it goes I guess.”

Crew chief Cole Pearn also questioned the call. Both Truex and Pearn went to the NASCAR hauler afterwards and discussed the penalty, emphasizing that it doesn’t specifically state in the rulebook that Truex’s move was illegal.

“The 20 did the same thing right behind us,” said Pearn. “I mean, you (drivers) do that every week! We were pulling into our pit stall. There’s no section in the rulebook about it but I’m sure they’ll have something.”

Senior Vice President of NASCAR Scott Miller addressed the concerns in the media center.

“I didn’t expect him (Cole Pearn) to be happy, but you can’t pass on pit road,” said Miller. “If you do pass on pit road, it specifically says it has to be to the right when somebody is peeling off into their box.  Without getting too deep into it, I didn’t expect for him to be happy, but you can’t pass cars on pit road.”

Truex’s 10th-place finish was his eighth top 10 finish this season. With one victory in the Coca-Cola 600 earlier this season, the No. 78 team already has secured a Chase berth with eight races left in the regular season. He is eighth in points, 85 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.

The next race is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 17th.

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