Martin Truex Jr. and the Furniture Row Racing team continue to search for their first win of the brand-new 2016 Sprint Cup season. Despite coming so close on numerous occasions, like leading the most laps this past weekend at Texas Motor Speedway and coming inches short in the season opening event at Daytona International Speedway, they haven’t been able to lead the most important lap of an event.
Truex and the team go into Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend with momentum after a huge weekend for the team at Texas. Truex led 141 of 334 laps of the 500-mile event, the most of any driver that night. Unfortunately, for Truex, a caution came out on lap 289 and forced the team to make a decision whether to stay out or pit. The team would elect to stay out, which would eventually cost them the victory as race winner Kyle Busch would take the lead away from Truex on the next restart on lap 302.
“We just ran out of tires, you know. Made it through (turns) one and two side-by-side, got to three and just didn’t have the grip,” said Truex after the race. “Then we fell back because we were sliding around. Everybody had new tires, we ran under caution for a long time, they keep building air pressure and losing grip. Pretty big disadvantage, but can’t say enough about the guys for the race car they brought here and the weekend we had. It hurts. It’s happened a few times to me here. Hurts a little bit, but we’ll get over it and we’ll move on and we’ll take the positives out of it tonight.”
Truex talked about the call of staying out, which ended up being a mistake as crew chief Cole Pearn would change his mind at the very last second.
“It was Cole (Pearn, crew chief) who called me in at the last second,” Truex continued. “Our plan was to stay out and he called me in. I didn’t want to hit the cone. It’s just the way it goes. Had we went green that next restart, we did OK. We got the lead and we drove away. We just kept getting yellows and caution laps and the tires just kept getting more air in them and more air in them.”
Truex would end up finishing the Duck Commander 500 in sixth after starting in third.
Many drivers said Truex found himself in an unfortunate situation after the race. If he had pitted; everyone would had stayed out. If he had stayed out, which he ended up doing, almost everyone behind him would come to pit road for fresh tires.
“I feel bad for him. You love to see your friends do good. He had a great car tonight, and I was hoping obviously if we couldn't win the race that one of my teammates would, but also you're pulling for your buddy,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the media center following the Duck Commander 500. “He had such a dominant car, but he's just got to remember that he's with such a good program now, he's in a very good position personally and professionally, and that he's got such a great crew chief and a great group of guys around him that he's going to get opportunities like this again. You know, he just has to not beat himself up or make it too hard on the guys, just kind of bring your guys up and get them excited for the next race and be excited about how fast your car was.”
The first seven races of 2016 have been great for Truex and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team. They have led laps in four of those races for a total of 198 laps combined. The team led 34 laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway and 21 laps at Auto Club Speedway in late March. The No. 78 team showed the way for only 32 laps in the first seven races last season.