Martin Truex Jr. came up one spot short of winning once again this season and keeping his mile-and-a-half streak alive, but there was still a silver lining to his day at Texas Motor Speedway.
A second-place finish in the AAA Texas 500 was enough to give Truex a 57-point gap on Brad Keselowski, who is fourth on the playoff leaderboard. The advantage is enough for Truex to clinch a spot in the championship race in two weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“It was an up-and-down day for our Bass Pro Shops Toyota, doing what we needed to do. Just proud of everybody,” said Truex. “We fought hard all day. It was a tough race. Track was slick. At the start of the race, our car wasn’t very good. Track position was a big part of this race.
“We fought the car, we fought track position. We got the lead, led some laps. Ultimately at the end, we weren’t as good as we needed to be to win. A little disappointed to come up short, but to clinch a spot in Miami is unbelievable. Definitely got the job done today and came here and did what we needed to do.”
Truex nearly accomplished the feat by winning his seventh race on a 1.5-mile track this season and with his eighth victory overall. After not having the strongest car early in the race, Truex worked himself into the lead for the first time on Lap 186 off a restart. He would lead four different times for a total of 107 laps before Kevin Harvick passed him with 10 laps to go. In traffic, the No. 78 was loose and when Harvick caught him, Truex was unable to mount much of a defense.
Over the radio, Truex expressed his frustration with lap traffic, such as Trevor Bayne, also playing a part. “Thank the [expletive] dumbass 6,” he said after losing the lead. “[Expletive] idiot.”
In 34 starts this season, Truex holds an average finish of 9.9. In eight playoff races, his average finish is 4.8 with his only finish worse than fifth being a 23rd due to a crash at Talladega Superspeedway.
Long considered the title favorite, Truex is keeping focused forward despite now officially having a spot in the Championship 4. Winning Sunday at Texas would have been nice, but Truex said it wouldn’t have changed anything, either.
“People are going to say, well, I think the balance of power, this and that. Did Harvick steal our confidence by beating us at the end? All that voodoo stuff I’m sure will be brought up,” he said. “The bottom line is our last run we weren’t as good as we needed to be. We got beat, but we still did what we needed to do. We’ve had an amazing run on mile-and-a-halfs, whatever. To win six in a row was ridiculous. To think we came up eight laps short to do seven is pretty good. I’m proud of what we did today.
“Homestead is a completely different animal. Excited to go there. I think next week maybe I’ll just go test at Phoenix for Denny [Hamlin].”