While Martin Truex Jr. admits that Joe Gibbs Racing has some work to do to catch Hendrick Motorsports, he also offers a reminder the season is far from over.
“There’s always a chance,” Truex said after finishing third behind Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott at Sonoma Raceway. “We’ve got a great team and great cars, and we have some time to get with it, and hopefully, make some gains. When the playoffs start, a lot of weird things can happen, and you have to take what you can get.
“Luckily for us, we have some good tracks in the playoffs, which is always good. They’re definitely strong, and we definitely need to keep working on it.”
Leaving Sonoma, Truex and Larson are tied for the most wins in the series at three. However, Hendrick has become the clear leader in the series with seven total wins, including the last four straight. Truex wasn’t shy about the fact that he didn’t have anything for Larson, who dominated the Toyota Save Mart 350 by starting from the pole, sweeping all the stages, and leading the most laps.
“Our only hope was for really to go green the rest of the race there in that third stage once we both pitted and we were one-two,” Truex said. “He (Larson) drove by me, and he was just super-fast for 10 laps. Our only chance was if the race would have gone green from there, and I still don’t even know. He was really fast for 15 laps, and then once we started getting all those cautions, we were toast. Definitely not what we needed.”
Truex said he couldn’t lean on the left rear like he needed to, didn’t have the drive off, and also didn’t have short-run speed. Oh, Truex added that restarts weren’t his thing, either. The finish of the race came down to two restarts inside the final five laps.
Under the last green-flag pit cycle, Truex pitted one lap before Larson to jump ahead, but Larson quickly overtook him as the cycle continued. Larson eventually retook the top spot with Truex in second.
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When the caution flew on lap 71, Truex came off pit road second to Larson but restarted sixth with a handful of others having stayed out. Then Truex was held up in traffic as Larson sliced through the field to retake the lead. From there, Truex did all he good to save what he could while keeping pace with Larson but didn’t have the strength to put up a fight for the win.
“Just not quite good enough,” Truex said. “The Hendrick cars are really strong right now. They are really fast. They are making a lot of grip. They are making our job tough. We definitely needed long runs at the end, not all of those cautions.”