For the second straight points race, Martin Truex Jr. had the fastest car, but saw victory elude him as NASCAR's longest race of the year turned into a fuel mileage gamble.
Though he finished fifth in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Truex couldn't help but feel disappointed after leading four times for a race high of 131 laps.
When Truex made his final stop (under green) for fuel and tires on Lap 379, he felt he only needed to pass the No. 11 car of Denny Hamlin, who snatched the lead from him following a Lap 328 pit stop. Truex did pass Hamlin, but a number of cars that were out of contention did not pit late in the race, taking a gamble of having enough fuel to complete the 400 lapper.
"I didn't even think fuel mileage strategy was an option," said Truex, who also led the most laps in the previous race at Kansas Speedway. "I felt I only needed to pass the No. 11 (Hamlin). We had a very fast car all night. It really hurts knowing that you had the fastest car and didn't win. I don’t know what to do about fuel mileage races. I’ve never ever in my entire career come out on the right end of them."
Truex added, "What can I say about my guys? The Furniture Row team and everybody back in Denver and ECR engines and RCR chassis. The guys just give me an awesome race car. I’m so proud of them. It hurts to come home fifth and run that hard. But at the same time, it’s pretty awesome to run like that, too. So, we’ve just got to keep plugging away and sooner or later we’re going to get a little bit of luck on our side. Right now, we can’t get anything to go our way.”
Truex's No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet that was carrying the name of Colorado war hero, Sgt. Edwin Penn, who was killed in action in 1968 in South Vietnam, ran the majority of the race in the top-five. Truex started ninth and first took the lead on Lap 192.
"We didn't make many adjustments throughout the race, the car was fast from the get-go," noted Truex. "Whatever we needed to do, Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and his engineering staff made the right calls. This is a talented team that works extremely hard and I want nothing more than to drive their car to victory lane."