Martin Truex Jr. hasn’t been his easy going self lately. He was heated all day last Sunday in Fontana. Truex, was likely mad from having to start in the back following his No. 19 Toyota failing pre qualifying inspection three times on Saturday morning. As a result, he didn’t get to take a lap for a starting spot. Due to other penalties, Truex would roll off 32nd in last weekend’s Auto Club 400.
He didn’t stay in the back for long. That’s how good of a car that he had and how good of a driver Truex is.
Within seven laps, Truex had already found the top 15. He’d remain up front for most of the way and while he was doing so, he got real testy.
Truex, was mad at everyone including two of his teammates. He was mad early that Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones were racing side-by-side in front of him as he had an explosive, cussing laced tirade directed their way on his radio.
Then, in the second stage, Truex was furious at Joey Logano and told his spotter to let Logano’s spotter know that he should have wrecked him just then and if Logano did that move again then he’d have no problem wrecking him.
Still, his climb to the top continued. Truex, finished 13th in Stage 1, fifth in Stage 2 and then took the lead for the first time on Lap 130. He’d only lead three laps though as he had to let Alex Bowman back by so he could clear some trash from his grille.
On his final pit stop, he got testy again.
His left rear tire changer suffered an injury on the stop which caused a lengthy delay on pit road. He went from second to outside of the top 10. He’d finish 14th in the end, the worst among the four JGR drivers.
The weekend prior, Truex was furious about a bad pit stop which put him in dirty air midpack which was a byproduct of him crashing shortly thereafter.
During the pit stops following the second stage, Truex’s pit crew didn’t get his tires all the way tightened and he’d have to come back down pit lane to do so. That cost him a top row restart spot to now at the end of the lead lap. In turn, that pretty much ended his day.
Now, Truex was having to race in dirty air and with guys he was better than. Unfortunately, another car was blocking him which resulted in Truex getting into the outside SAFER Barrier on Lap 177, bringing out the fifth caution of the day.
He (Kurt Busch) kept blocking until I hit the fence,” Truex said after Vegas. “Then it was tire rub, blew the tire and hit the fence. That was it.”
When asked last week how things are in the first real test with new crew chief James Small, Truex said everything was fine. “We just need to quit having mistakes on pit road.”
Truex, was happy with how fast of a race car that he did have early on. It’s just that incident with Busch to what hampered what should have been a solid day.
“Just unfortunate this early in the season. It’s nice to have a fast race car. Our Bass Pro Shops Toyota was really good. We were top two or three early in the first half and then the pit stop issue. We got back in traffic. I had a role on the 1 (Kurt Busch) car and he just moving up until I hit the fence on the front stretch. I thought we were going to be okay after that. Then just cut our right front tire down and pretty much ended our day. It is what it is, but luckily we got some good stage points the first two stages. We have a fast race car we can move forward with. The guys did a good job, just have to clean up pit road.”
He had a fast race car again on Sunday but had to come from the back and a pit road issue cost him a potential win. Will it happen again in Phoenix, the site of this weekend’s race?
Truex, has been stout lately on the Arizona oval. He was third and sixth in two of the last three playoff races there to go along with being fifth and second in each of the last two spring races. He’s due for a win and has had a car capable of doing so this year, it’s just those pit stops that have plagued him from celebrating in victory lane.