Truex’s miserable start to 2020 Cup season continues at Phoenix

Photo by Alan Marler/Harold Hinson Photography

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

A miserable start to the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season for Martin Truex, Jr. was capped off with a race-ending crash at Phoenix Raceway.

The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Champion has had his worst start to a season since 2014. Truex was involved in ‘the big one’ at Daytona International Speedway. At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Mayetta, N.J. native crashed early. Last week, at Auto Club Speedway, inspection issues kept the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry from qualifying.

The Fan Shield 500 at Phoenix Raceway looked to be a change of pace for Truex. He was inside the top-10 for both stages and lead 11 laps. With 30 laps to go in the scheduled distance, everything changed.

On a restart, Martin Truex, Jr. found himself between Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE and Aric Almirola’s No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang entering turn one. Truex checked up to avoid Johnson’s Chevrolet as the field fanned out.

With nowhere to go, Almirola rammed the No. 19 Toyota Camry. The contact sent Truex into the outside wall. After his pit crew evaluated the damage, he went to the garage in 32nd.

“I just got ran over,” Truex simplified. “He (Almirola) ran into the back of me earlier getting into (turn) one. I hung on to it. These restarts are crazy, it’s fanned out.

“The 48 (Jimmie Johnson) was in front of me. I wasn’t sure if he was going to come up in front of me on the short shoot or not. Then the 10 (Aric Almirola) ran into us. Can’t finish a race, it sucks.”

The start of the race looked like ‘the same song but a different verse’ compared to Auto Club Speedway. Crew chief James Small changed the engine on the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry after the team discovered a major, terminal oil leak.

Despite starting from the rear of the field as a result, Truex quickly sliced through the field and inside the top-10 by the green and white checkered flag. He cracked the top-10 just before the first caution on lap 58.

Four races into the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, Truex has yet to score a top-10 finish. With a best finish of 14th, this season has mirrored the 2014 season for the 39-year-old.

During the 2014 season, it took Truex nine weeks to earn a top-10 finish. It was also the last season in which he was not paired with his recently retired crew chief Cole Pearn.

Truex and his Joe Gibbs Racing team will look to turn his luck around in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 15.

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