It was a performance of being steady and savvy for Martin Truex Jr., who nailed a fifth-place finish in Sunday's Geico 500 at the harrowing Talladega Superspeedway.
The result moved Truex into second place in the Sprint Cup driver point standings. The Furniture Row Racing driver has now claimed nine top-10 finishes in the first 10 races of the season. The Talladega finish gave him two top fives for the season, one more than he achieved all of last year in the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet.
"Talladega is a wild card, and any time you can come out of here with a fifth place finish that's a good day," said Truex.
Without a steady drafting partner, Truex was shuffled in and out of the top-10 throughout the 188-lap race. But with 20 laps remaining on the 2.66-mile tri-oval he didn't flinch while running in sixth place. He maintained that position until the final lap when he was able to pick up one spot to notch his first top-five at Talladega since the 2006 fall race.
"It was kind of interesting -- I think everybody was on the same plan, waiting for the last lap," explained Truex. "If you make a move and it doesn’t work you are going to lose a lot of spots and you try to minimize that. We took a shot there on the last lap and had a great run going into (Turn) 1, got up to third, then got blocked a little by the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) and lost our momentum. I was still able to gain one spot. The No. 27 (Paul Menard) helped us pretty good and I got a good shove at the end from my friend (Ryan) Newman."
First year crew chief Cole Pearn also felt Truex had a chance of pulling off a victory at the end.
"I wish we could have gotten around the No. 11, but got blocked a bit, which is fairly normal here," said Pearn. "When you come away with a top five at a superspeedway it's a good performance day. We're plugging away with consistency and hopefully we can get that elusive win sooner rather than later."
Truex started the race from the 36th position and by lap 46 he was running in the top-10.
"We always say when we come to Talladega you need to be patient, stay out of trouble and be there at the end -- and that's exactly what we did today," noted Truex. "I am enjoying this season after last year and can't say enough about the guys at the track and all the guys back at the Denver shop for their hard work and talent."
Thanks to quick pit stops by the Furniture Row crew, Truex's No. 78 Chevrolet spent the second least amount of time on pit road during five pit stops -- 163.537 seconds. Jimmie Johnson's crew ranked first -- 155.898 while Dale Earnhardt's crew was third at 165.848.
The race winner was Earnhardt Jr. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Johnson, Paul Menard, Ryan Blaney, Truex, Sam Hornish Jr., Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Josh Wise.
The race had 27 lead changes among 15 drivers. There were six caution flags for 23 laps and one red flag for 11 minutes.