As a rule, on any given Sunday (or Saturday) a third-place finish in NASCAR’s premier series would be a satisfying result.
But for Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team the top-three finish left some emptiness after being in contention for a repeat victory at Dover International Speedway.
“Just not the finish we had hoped for, but still when you’re this disappointed with third, it speaks volumes about your team and where you’re at and what’s going on, so I had a lot of fun out there today,” said Truex, who led three different times for 102 laps.
Truex, who qualified second, was strong from the get go in the scheduled 400-lap race at the treacherous Monster Mile. He won the first two stage races. The stage wins – worth a total of 20 championship points plus two playoff bonus points – helped increase his lead in the driver standings, nine points ahead of second place Kyle Larson.
Truex now has eight stage wins, five more than the closest competitor and also leads in playoff bonus points with 18. ThIs was the second time that Truex won the first two stages in the same race. The other was at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier in the season.
Truex, along with Larson and Jimmie Johnson, were the contenders for a good portion of the race, which went an extra six laps into overtime. But on Lap 331 Truex saw his chances for a win sour when a caution came out a few laps after making a green-flag pit stop.
Truex’s No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota fell back to 17th as the race was winding down. But the tenacious Truex picked off positons with a rhythmic flow, and when the race was restarted for the final time he was running third, behind Larson and Johnson.
“We had a good car and just got caught by that caution after we pitted and lost our shot at the win,” said Truex, who won at Dover in last year’s fall race. “The 42 (Kyle Larson), the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and us – I think we were all so close. Whoever it seemed to get out front was the best.”
The drive from 17th to third was indeed a gritty performance by the Mayetta, N.J. native.
“Definitely proud of our finish today,” said Truex, "I can’t even tell you how challenging this track was with these cars and this aero package and all that I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many times I almost wrecked by myself, so it was a lot of fun. It was a challenge. We had to come through the field, which was difficult and that says a lot about our Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota and our team. We’ll keep digging and try to get them next week.”
The third place result was Truex’s fifth top-five finish and ninth top-10 at the halfway mark of the 26-race regular season. It was also his sixth top-10 finish in the last seven races contested at Dover.