By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
With only one top-10 finish in nine playoff races, it was bound to end early for Martin Truex Jr.
With strong numbers to carry him into the playoffs (three wins, nine top fives, regular-season championship) a nosedive took place once the calendar turned over to playoff time and Truex was found scratching and clawing himself through each round toward the championship finale at Phoenix Raceway.
The final elimination race at Martinsivlle Speedway on Sunday, however, a 12th-place finish was not enough to slip himself into the Championship 4.
“It’s just one of those years. It wasn’t our year,” Truex said.
After starting from pole, Truex eventually lost the lead to Denny Hamlin on lap 48. From there, Truex maintained track position, finishing third in Stage 1.
However, a costly mistake occured on a lap-219 pit stop when Turx sped exiting pit lane. The issue, said Truex, was based off information given from his Joe Gibbs Racing team.
“Basically, I had some information to go off for leaving that box,” he said. “First time we’ve ever had that [first] pit stall, they told me four reds [lights on the dashboard] and I’d be safe leaving my box. I went to two and we were speeding. A little confusing there.
“I felt like I went by that info and we were way over. We got to look at that. If we ever get that pit stall again, we will know better. It was definitely surprising.
“That one is on me.”
Truex will have to wait another year to contend for a second Cup title, last winning it in 2017.
“We gave it a hell of an effort,” he said. “The car was really good today. I think we were good enough to run second or third. [Ryan] Blaney was the class of the field today and he earned that one.
“We always got to the next guy, we could just never pass.”