Ryan Truex on playoff odds: “I won’t feel safe until I win a race”

Logan Whitton/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

BROOKLYN, Mich — Given his top-five performance and the post-race inspection failure of playoff rival Grant Enfinger, one might expect that Ryan Truex was overjoyed with his run at Michigan International Speedway.

Think again.

“It was a good run I guess, but it wouldn’t have mattered if the (No.) 19 (of Cindric) would have won,” Truex said. “He was so close to winning.”

Sitting one spot above the current playoff bubble in fifth – two drivers further back in the standings have earned a spot with wins – Truex is one of a handful of drivers that find themselves in danger of missing the postseason.

The New Jersey native is currently five points ahead of sixth-place Ben Rhodes on the playoff bubble, and holds a 19-point advantage on seventh-place Enfinger – a gap that could increase with Enfinger due for a potential penalty.

With drivers further back such as Enfinger, Cindric and Noah Gragson appearing capable of winning and stealing a playoff berth, Truex still isn’t confident he can give Hattori Racing their first playoff berth without a win.

“Honestly I won’t feel safe until I win a race,” Truex told Kickin’ the Tires. “We’re so close. We’ve got a few more chances, and if we keep running like this and keep knocking on the door eventually it’s going to go our way.”

Truex was in contention to win Saturday’s Lit Printing 200 as one of six drivers that filled a small pack up front in the closing laps. But the 25-year-old couldn’t work his way past the Kyle Busch Motorsports duo of Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch to contend for the win with Darrell Wallace Jr. in the race’s waning moments.

He ultimately finished fourth – earning his second top five in as many races after taking the checkered flag in third in the Camping World Truck Series’ prior outing at Pocono Raceway. Truex looked at the Truck Series’ current aerodynamic package as a source of his inability to win at Michigan.

”It’s tough, because you’re really at the mercy of those around you,” Truex said. “If you try to pass someone and don’t complete it, you end up getting freight-trained. When (Wallace) was able to get the lead, he basically cleared himself.

“Once he got out there, he controlled the race. Nobody could get by him at that point. Just really tough to pass with this package.”

Truex’s recent surge has been enough to lift him back into the playoff grid with three races remaining in the regular season. Given the many contending teams behind him and unpredictable strategy of 2017’s new stages, Truex feels points racing won’t be enough to guarantee himself a shot at the championship come the opening race of the playoffs at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“Anybody can win one of these races, especially somewhere like here,” Truex said. “It seems like pit strategy has been really important in races this year with the way the stages have worked out.

“There’s been races I thought we were good enough to win, and we ended up 10th because some people stayed out or did something different during the second stage. You never know when somebody’s going to jump up there. Look at today – (Wallace) came from out of nowhere and won the race.

“We’ve just got to keep trying to win and hope that one of these weeks things go our way.”

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