By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Shortly following the competition caution on lap 15 of Saturday’s Firekeepers Casino 400 from Michigan International Speedway, the 400-mile race already seemed out of reach for driver Martin Truex Jr.
Making contact with Tyler Reddick on a lap-19 restart, Truex suffered a flat right-front tire, forcing his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota off the pace in Turn 3 and onto pit road moments later.
Losing a lap while the field raced by, the battle was on for Truex to climb back into contention.
“We just fought back,” Truex said. “Our Camry was really strong. If we could have ever gotten to the front, I think we would have had something for them. Lots of restarts and they’re crazy here. A couple of them didn’t work out, the last one did.
“It was a good day. I just made a little mistake there and barely rubbed the No. 8 [Tyler Reddick]. I guess I cut both of our tires down. I really don’t know how it happened. My bad on that one. I hate it for Tyler, it messed up his day early as well.”
Jumping back on the lead lap on lap 94, Truex gradually eased his way into the top 15, then the top 10. And as a breed of cautions flew in the final 20 laps, Truex was in the top three. The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion finished third following an overtime restart.
“A really good car and a really good job by the guys to come from the back like that,” he said. “We just need a little bit more.”
Restarting eighth with two laps to go, Truex jumped to the third spot. Though losing spots on the “choose rule”, Truex opted to pick the outside lane. And it paid off.
“The choose rule is cool, it gives us an option,” he said. “The hard part is that you’re still at the mercy of the other guys around you. Sometimes it’s a little bit of luck with whether or not you pick the right [lane]. All-in-all, it didn’t really change the race around that much.”
The podium result was the third consecutive third-place finish for Truex in 2020 and his sixth top five through 21 races this season.
“Just proud of the guys for sticking with it,” he said. “I obviously made a bonehead move there early on and it was weird. I barely felt like I rubbed the No. 8 car there and flattened both of our tires. It was definitely an odd situation and I feel bad for screwing up his day because he got a lap down as well.
“All in all, special Auto Owner’s Camry today with 1900 names on the hood. They’re such great partners of ours and I really wanted to give them a strong run at their home track. We had a top-three or four car all day.”