By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
BRISTOL, Tenn – Cautions in NASCAR wave for a variety of reasons from spins to weather to wrecks. Most of the time, when the NASCAR Cup Series officials wave the flag, the explanation is clear. Martin Truex Jr was left confused by a caution in Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race.
As Truex fought to stay on the lead lap, he broke loose exiting Turn 4. The No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry tagged the outside wall at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Mayetta, N.J. native quickly regained control of his Joe Gibbs Racing machine as teammate Denny Hamlin sailed by. NASCAR quickly threw the caution.
Though a lap down, Truex would have been eligible to get the free pass, however, race control deemed the 2017 champion as being involved in the debris caution. That trapped the Toyota Racing driver a lap down for the remainder of the race.
“(I don’t know) why [NASCAR] threw a caution, I scraped the wall and got sideways, kept digging,” Truex said. “They said the caution was for debris and then they changed their mind and said it was for me. So, I have no idea why that was a caution. I would have really enjoyed getting the free pass there because the leader, literally was barely passed me at that point. It was kind of weird but just got loose scraped the wall. I don’t know what they were thinking.”
Despite falling a second lap down and finishing 19th, Truex scored enough points to climb out of the bottom four on the NASCAR Playoff grid and advance to the Round of 12. That was aided by a little luck. A mid-race wreck ended the race for defending Cup champion Joey Logano and an ill-handling car for Kevin Harvick left the 2014 champion five laps down.
Advancing to the next round of the playoffs erases the miserable opening round for Truex. The 43-year-old struggled at Darlington Raceway, wrecked early due to a flat tire at Kansas Speedway, and struggled at Bristol. Following the reseeding of the points, Truex is once again tied for the lead with William Byron. Neither Byron, nor the Regular Season Champion scored any additional Playoff Points in the Round of 16.
“It’s great (knowing that by moving on the last three weeks don’t mean anything),” Truex explained. “Obviously we didn’t score any more bonus points, but we’ll be in a good spot to start off, so just got to go get after it.”
Next for Truex is the Autotrader Echo Park Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Since the last reconfiguration of the 1.5-mile track, Truex has scored two runner-up finishes and five top-10s in 10 starts.
The Autotrader Echo Park Automotive 500 at Texas is scheduled for Sunday, September 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.