Martin Truex Jr Finishes Runner-Up in ‘Interesting Bristol Race’

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

BRISTOL, Tenn – With tire management key and the technique to save those tires paramount, Joe Gibbs Racing’s drivers were the class of the NASCAR Cup Series field. In the final Stage of the Food City 500 Martin Truex Jr. challenged his teammates for the victory but ultimately settled for second.

Depending on how hard drivers were punishing their Goodyear Racing Eagles, they’d last between 30 and 60 laps. Both Denny Hamlin and Truex pitted with about 50 laps to go in the 500-lap race. While the duo were together on track prior to the green flag pit stops, Truex was almost a half a lap behind afterward.

Truex drove hard to try to catch his teammate over the final 50 laps. That left his No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry XSE almost without tires in the final five laps. Still, Truex managed to make it to the checkered flag without incident.

“We just came out too far behind him (Denny Hamlin) there on the green flag stop,” Truex explained. “I was right on his bumper when he pitted and when I came out, he was a straightaway ahead of us and just used my stuff up too much to try to get there. The last five laps, my right rear was corded. It was close. A great run for our Auto-Owners Camry. Great job by everybody on our team all weekend to put us in this position. It was an interesting race, that’s for sure. Just came up a little bit short there.”

Managing the tires proved challenging even for the veterans of the series. Truex barely pushed hard for 10 laps and corded his right rear tire. While he found the fine line and treaded it carefully, many others such as his other teammates Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs both suffered flat tires in the final Stage.

“Early in the race, we went way too hard and realized your tires were gone,” Truex admitted. “And then, it’s like ‘alright, we can’t run as hard as we can.’ Just had to figure out how hard you could push it and what kind of lap times you could run throughout the run.

“Then manage it from there. It was tricky, honestly, I barely pushed harder there on that last run for 10 laps, and at the end, I was right rear corded. There’s a fine line and fortunately for us, we had a lot of speed in our Toyotas today and we were able to save tires and stay up front. That was the key.”

Truex finished the first two Stages of the race in seventh and sixth respectively. The additional nine points moved him into a tie for the points lead with Kyle Larson, though the Hendrick Motorsports driver holds the tie breaker of a victory.

The top-five finish was Truex’s first of the 2024 season. It was also the 143rd top-five of his Cup Series career.

Next for Truex is the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas on Sunday, March 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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