By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Even damage and a pit road speeding penalty can’t keep Martin Truex Jr. from finishing third in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The Go Bowling 235 at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course was a wild race for Truex. Prior to the end of the second stage, he brought his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry down pit road. Crew chief James Small called the 2017 Champion to pit road to get track position after the stage end.
However, as Truex exited pit road on lap 27, he sped. NASCAR issued a penalty, but with pit road closed for the end of the second stage, Small instructed the Mayetta, N.J. native to stay on track. Truex finished the stage in seventh. However, he was not credited with the stage finish because he did not serve the penalty prior to the end of the stage.
Run to the Finish
At the start of the final stage, Truex lined up at the rear of the field. The 40-year-old methodically started climbing his way up to the front. After a delay for lightning slowed the field once more, Truex picked off more positions on the restart.
During a round of green flag pit stops, Truex briefly took the lead. However, he rejoined the race in fourth, behind Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, and his teammate Denny Hamlin. A late caution gave Truex another chance, but Elliott and Hamlin left him behind. On the final lap, he passed Johnson to finish third.
“Just a strong run for our Bass Pro Toyota,” explained Truex. “Thought we had a chance to win, no doubt about it. Just got caught speeding on pit road. Had to go to the rear and then got damage so we had to go to the rear again.
“We passed a lot of cars that last run. I know we had the speed at the end there, we were faster than anyone. Just ran out of time, but that’s how it goes. Proud of everybody on the team and still feeling really good about these road courses.”
“It was a lot more fun than I anticipated it to be,” Truex continued. “My opinion, this track suits our cars better than the Roval does for whatever reason. Even though the tire was really hard and not much tire wear, it was pretty slick out there. It was drivable and manageable. Charlotte kind of chatters and it’s hard to feel. This place was actually a lot of fun. I look forward to coming back.”
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver got slight damage at the end of the first stage. Truex brought his Toyota Camry to the attention of his crew under the ensuing caution. Although the Small-led team initially brought the saw out to cut away the damage, it was less than expected. The tire change batted the sheetmetal away from the left front tire.
The third-place finish at Daytona is the eighth top-five for Truex this season and 110th of his Cup Series career. It is also his fifth consecutive third-place finish, a streak that stretches back to Kansas Speedway.
Truex remains seventh in the points standings, 186 behind leader Kevin Harvick. He is locked into the playoffs via his win at Martinsville Speedway earlier this season.
Next for Cup Series is a doubleheader weekend at Dover International Speedway next weekend.
Photo by NKP / NKP Photo