A two-tire call took Martin Truex Jr. from potentially contending for the New Hampshire Motor Speedway win to sitting on the playoff bubble.
Truex dominated Sunday’s Ambetter 301. Not only did he sweep both stages, but he also led 160 of the first 185 laps. In all, Truex led a race-high 172 laps.
Things unraveled under the final caution. The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team called for two tires, which got Truex off pit road first. However, three other drivers stayed out, and he was shuffled into traffic on the lap 210 restart.
Truex fell as far back as 11th and radioed his Toyota wouldn’t go. While he would climb back to a fourth-place finish, he was over 13 seconds behind teammate and winner Christopher Bell. Bell’s team took four tires and quickly moved through the field in the final stint.
“[We] just put on two tires and got in a bad spot on the restart,” Truex said. “I got put three-wide and the No. 22 [Joey Logano] didn’t get going and I was on the inside behind him. I tried to shove him to get him going and get us going, and [Kevin] Harvick made it three-wide and put us in a bad spot — and just my car was terrible on two tires and couldn’t go anywhere. [We] just should have put four tires on, I guess.”
It was a double whammy for Truex. Not only does he remain winless, but Bell’s victory potentially clinches the No. 20 team a playoff berth. Bell had been the driver sitting on the cutline, but now Truex has been pushed there. The No. 19 is 68 points ahead of Kevin Harvick.
Truex is also still winless at New Hampshire despite leading 916 laps at the track and with seven top-seven finishes in the last eight races.
“We had the car to do it; we just screwed it up,” he said. “It’s frustrating and disappointing, but congrats to the No. 20. Obviously, they were smarter than we were at the end.”