By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
With just a little less fuel in the tank for race leader Kyle Busch Wednesday at Texas Motor Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. would have no worries entering Martinsville Speedway this weekend.
However, with Busch grabbing the fuel-mileage win at Texas, Truex could only manage second place, stacking up significant points as the series heads into the third and final race of the Round of 8. What comes after is the championship finale at Phoenix Raceway.
Finishing second in both stages and the race, Truex was happy with the performance, however, was disappointed to not catch teammate and race winner Busch.
“We knew he [Busch] was close [on fuel],” Truex said. “The only thing we could do at that point, which we did all day anyway, was try to run flat out. Hell of an effort by the Bass Pro guys and everybody that helps us.”
For Truex, his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team entered the rain-punished weekend with an even bigger points hole after being penalized 20 driver/owner points due to an improper spoiler. Starting the race 51 points behind, the 2017 champion left Texas 36 points in rears of the cutline.
A Texas win, however, would have ended any stress toward Martinsville.
“It just seems like one of those years where we’re second, third, fourth – we’re right there a lot,” he said. “Just need a little bit more to be better.”
Indeed, Wednesday’s result was Truex’s 13th podium finish in 2020, with only one being a victory. That win was Martinsville in the summer, the track we head next to this weekend.
“I think coming here, we had a lot of confidence and obviously we had a good car,” Truex said. “This time of the year, playoffs – to finish second is great, but it’s not enough.
“I don’t know. Excited about Martinsville. I know we can win there and obviously we’ve shown that in the past. It’s a new race and a new week. We have to figure out how to be better than we’ve been there and feel like everybody will get better. Looking forward to it, excited for the opportunity to get to do this.”
Truex is looking to advance to the Championship 4 for the fourth consecutive year. Additionally, he’s looking to extend his streak of top-two finishes in the championship, finishing 1-2-2 the past three years.
“Hopefully we’ll put ourselves in another championship race,” he said. “Great job by our team. I can’t say enough. We just lack a tiny bit of speed off the No. 18 [Busch].”