Furniture Row Racing drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones ran a strong race in Monday’s rain-delayed Food City 500 but late race issues prevented both drivers from posting better finishes at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Truex came back to finish eighth after being called for a speeding penalty while Jones overcame a flat tire and contact with the wall to finish 17th in his No 77 Sport Clips Toyota Camry.
Truex was running a close second to Jimmie Johnson when he came down pit road for the final time on Lap 462 of 500. It appeared that his No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota was going to take the lead when he exited pit road, but NASCAR called Truex for a speeding penalty that sent him back to 16th place with not many laps remaining at the half-mile oval.
“We were going for it, I wish we could have had a shot there just to see if we could have won,” said Truex. “This Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota with everyone that helps us make it right – Toyota, TRD, 5-hour ENERGY, WIX Filters, Bass Pro Shops, Auto-Owners Insurance and just everybody.
“This is the best run we’ve had here in a long time. It’s bittersweet, I wish we could have seen if we could have beat the 48 (Jimmie Johnson). We were close there before that last caution, but it is what it is and you try to get what you can get and sometimes you cross the line and today we crossed the line. All in all, it was an awesome day and a lot of fun.”
There were indeed plenty of positives that came out of the race for Truex, who ran inside the top-five until the speeding penalty. He won the second stage and was second in the first stage. He picked up an extra 19 standing points and one playoff bonus point. He leads the series with five stage wins and is tied with 10 playoff bonus points.
His eighth-place finish was his first top-10 in five years at Bristol and he also led 116 laps, two more than he led in his first 22 starts at the Tennessee short track.
Truex remains third in the driver points.
The 20-year-old Jones was turning heads all weekend at Bristol. Along with winning Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race, he posted strong practice numbers in the NASCAR Cup Series.
His performance on Monday was equally impressive, running solidly in the top 10 and top five until he made contact with another car that sent his Toyota Camry into the wall with a cut right-front tire. He earned eight championship points for finishing third in the first stage and five more for finishing sixth in the second stage.
After eight Cup races Jones is 12th in the driver point standings.
“We were passing the 23 (Gray Gaulding) and I don’t know if he got loose, but he got into us about halfway down the backstretch and must have cut the right front,” said Jones. “It’s unfortunate because I thought we had a really good car. If we could have got some track position and maybe got up front, I think we could have led some laps and had a shot at the win. I thought we were just as good as the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) for the majority of the day. We’ll keep working on it and we now have a good package to come back with in the fall.”
The race winner was Johnson. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Truex, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Denny Hamlin.
The race had nine cautions for 76 laps and there were 14 lead changes among seven drivers.
The next Cup race is Sunday April 30 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.