It wasn’t smooth sailing for Martin Truex Jr. but the gritty Furniture Row Racing driver still brought home a fourth-place finish in Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway.
It was the sixth top-five finish of the year for Truex, who snapped a bad-luck, four-race streak of finishes of 37th, 30th, 14th and 26th.
But even with the good statistical news, the Dover result was also a little frustrating for Truex.
He qualified third for the 400-lap NASCAR Cup Series race at the Monster Mile and was running second with approximately 25 laps remaining in the first stage. As he was chasing down the leader (Kevin Harvick) for the stage win, he was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop due to his right-front tire deflating.
The tire issue sent Truex back to the middle of the pack and one lap down. It also shut him out of picking up points in Stage 1. He did finish seventh in Stage 2 and remains ninth in the overall driver point standings.
Truex, who hails from nearby Mayetta, N.J., fought his way back to the front despite handling issues with his No. 78 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry.
“It was an up and down day,” Truex said. “Battling back from that tire issue definitely hurt us. It was frustrating out there because we just couldn’t make the 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Shops Toyota turn off the corners and that really hindered me in traffic. We struggled to get past guys.
“I was able to run really fast by myself but when I got to them I couldn’t do anything with them. The harder I tried the more I hurt my tires. We tried a lot of stuff to make it better but couldn’t make it completely how I wanted it. We took a swing at it on the last caution but it was a swing and miss. The pit crew did a good job today and with all the frustration with the handling we still managed to finish fourth. That says a lot about this race team.”
The race winner was Kevin Harvick. Rounding out the top-10 were: Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Truex, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson.
The race had 17 lead changes among six drivers and there were eight cautions for 48 laps. The race was also red flagged for 41 minutes with 80 laps to go due to rain.
The next NASCAR Cup Series race is Saturday night May 12 at Kansas Speedway.