Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. clinched a spot in the next round of playoffs with a podium finish at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.
After dominating the first two stages of Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400, it appeared Truex might finally be on his way to earning his first win on a short track in the Cup series.
Unfortunately for him, there was trouble on the pit stop after the end of Stage 2 that made the night much harder.
Truex had to restart from the rear of the field after his No. 78 Toyota team was assessed an uncontrolled tire penalty during his pit stop.
Although he could have been really upset about the miscue, Truex took it in stride.
“You can’t beat a dead horse,” said Truex. “If you start yelling and screaming at them they’re just going to do worse the next stop. For me, I let Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and the guys in the pit handle it.
“I just do all I can do behind the wheel to get back to the front. That’s all you can do.”
Truex went to work and made his way back through the field and was all the way up to 12th by Lap 270 of 400 and in the top 10 will a little over 100 laps remaining in the race.
“Like I said, it was a good recovery,” said Truex. “Their stops after that (penalty) were all good. We had a new front changer this week and thought he did a really good job.
“Aside from the penalty, we were probably the fastest we’ve been on pit road in a while. That’s really encouraging for the playoffs and going down the stretch here when you need to win races off pit road and things like that.”
In four of the last five Cup races at Richmond Truex has led more than 100 laps but has yet to visit Victory Lane.
When asked if he felt like the track “owed” him one, Truex felt it might.
“If there’s one that does, it’s here, I can promise you that,” Truex said. “I don’t know what we’ve got to do to win one of these things. God, it’s awful frustrating to come here and be so good and lead so many laps and find every single way possible that just things don’t work out for us.
“It’s pretty frustrating. But at the same time, it feels good to run that good, and we recovered well and did what we came here to do, which is move on to the next round.”
The third-place finish also assured Truex would make it to the Round of 12 in the playoffs and he doesn’t have to worry about next week’s race on the Roval course at Charlotte Motor Speedway now.
“I wish we would have been in Victory Lane right now, but in a few days I guess the pain will go away a little bit and we’ll be able to go to the Roval and have some fun with no pressure,” he said.
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