A win was in clear sight for Martin Truex, Jr. on Saturday night in Texas, but it all slipped away in the last stint of the 500-mile event. The No. 78 car came home sixth.
After leading 141 laps in the Lone Star State, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn had a decision to make with roughly 45 laps to go when a late race caution came out when Greg Biffle got into the outside wall.
Truex and Austin Dillon were the only drivers to stay out, while the remaining 13 teams pitted for four fresh tires. Kyle Busch led the race off pit road.
On the restart Truex pulled away as Dillon faded back, and two laps later got spun, triggering a 13 car pileup on the backstretch.
For the second consecutive caution the No. 78 team decided not to pit, resulting in the oldest tires throughout the entire field.
The final restart came with 33 laps to go as Busch restarted on the outside of Truex and cleared him out of Turn One, driving away to his second consecutive Cup Series triumph.
“It was Cole’s call,” Truex said of the decision not to pit. “Our plan was to stay out and he called me in at the last second and I didn’t want to hit the cone. Had we went green the next restart we would have been okay. We kept getting caution laps and the tires would get more air in them, by the time we finally got rolling there we didn’t have the grip that everyone else had. ”
For the second time in the last four spring races at Texas Truex led the most laps, coming home on the short end of the stick. This particular racecar was hooked up on the long runs, where he would recapture the lead time after time.
Throughout the weekend it became clear that tires would be at a premium for every team. There was fall off up to three seconds in a given green flag run and in the end it cost the Furniture Row Racing team a shot at its first victory of 2016.
“It’s frustrating but that’s racing,” Truex said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes. Proud of my guys for the racecar they brought. That thing was so fast all night and we did everything that we were supposed to do except for that one deal there. It hurts. It’s tough, but we’ve got a lot to look forward to this year.”
The sixth-place finish snapped a skid of four straight finishes outside of the top 10. Though this is going to be a tough one to swallow, Joe Gibbs Racing has won three of the seven races this season and the No. 78 car is basically a fifth JGR car.