Though Martin Truex Jr. rebounded to finish 11th in Sunday night’s Southern 500, the Furniture Row Racing driver didn’t exit Darlington Raceway with much happiness.
For nearly the first half of the race Truex was a contender while running in either first, second or third place in his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota. He also led 30 laps during this stretch, which turned out to be the second most for the race.
But then everything seemed to go south for Truex after making a pit stop on Lap 169 of 367. He came into his pit box in third place but was assessed a pass-through penalty for an uncontrolled tire. The pit-stop error was costly as Truex fell a lap down and was relegated to 16th place.
Since there was an atypical lack of cautions on the track known for being Too Tough To Tame, Truex didn’t get back on the lead lap until a caution was called with only 24 laps remaining.
“It’s really disappointing to have a car that good to be up front and have that many troubles on pit road,” Truex said. “It’s pretty disappointing. We have to clean it up. Playoffs are coming. We do that in the playoffs and we’ll be out in the second round.”
Truex will enter the regular season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next Sunday ranked third in both driver and playoff points. The 10-race playoffs will start the following Sunday Sept. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The race winner was Brad Keselowski. Rounding out the top 10 in order were: Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray and Denny Hamlin.
The Bojangles’ Southern 500 had seven lead changes among five drivers and there were six cautions for 35 laps.