Crew chief Todd Berrier and Martin Truex Jr. put their heads together and made a decision with 32 laps remaining in the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, and they played it out to perfection over the remaining distance on the 2.45-mile road course.
The result was a 13th-place finish in the 90-lap Sprint Cup road race that had many twists and turns.
After a long red-flag period to replace a guardrail damaged by a thunderous crash involving Ryan Newman and Michael McDowell—which Truex missed by a couple of feet--Berrier called Truex to the pits with 32 laps remaining for fuel only, despite tires that were wearing faster than Truex liked and an alternating feel on the brake pedal.
With the red flag, which lasted one hour, 21 minutes, strategy became everything. By getting a full tank of fuel, Berrier gave Truex what he needed to stay in the mix until another caution came out and he could put on new tires.
That didn’t mean the driver was happy about it, but it worked out.
With 12 laps to go, Josh Wise stopped on the course and brought out the yellow the team needed.
Truex reported that his Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet was worn out, he couldn’t hold anyone off and was having trouble keeping a solid pedal underneath his brake foot.
Berrier made track bar and wedge adjustments, threw four Goodyear Eagles on it and just enough Sunoco gas to make it comfortably to the finish even with a green-white-checkered finish.
“We’re good on gas, guys, and the guys at the front aren’t,” Berrier told his team. “Maybe we can get us a green-white-checkered here.”
Truex restarted 21st, and gained three spots almost immediately when a crash in Turn 1 on the restart took out Jimmie Johnson and Regan Smith, who was subbing for the No. 14 team. After some clean-up, Truex made another restart and was working to stay in the top 20 only to have a caution come out with three to go.
This one turned into another red flag, as Denny Hamlin struck the sand-filled barrels at the end of pit road and scattered it all over the pit entrance.
“This thing is never going to end,” Truex said from the cockpit.
Eventually, however, the mess was cleaned up and the field took off for what turned out to be the final time of the day. Truex started 16th and gained three spots in the final laps to wind up 13th on the day.
Truex started the day from the 25th position and advanced early, moving up 12 spots in the first 26 laps before pitting.
A dust-up with the Toyota of Kyle Busch in the early portion of the race nearly cost the team a promising run. Busch trapped Truex on the outside coming off the Inner Loop and made contact with the right front of the matte-black Furniture Row Chevrolet heading through Turn 5.
The contact wrinkled the top of the right front fender on the Chevrolet, but didn’t affect the handlng too much.
As it was, a lap-27 pit stop took care of the damage to the fender, and Berrier made adjustments to even up the handling, and four new Goodyears went on as well.
The finish kept Truex Jr. 26th in points after 22 races, just 44 points out of the top 20 with four races remaining before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins.
AJ Allmendinger won the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, turning back Marcos Ambrose over the final two laps to earn his first career series victory. Ambrose was second, followed by Kurt Busch, rookie Kyle Larson and Carl Edwards. Joey Logano was sixth, followed by Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers.