‘Nervous’ Martin Truex Jr. fights back to advance to next Chase round
Martin Truex Jr.’s championship hopes were in jeopardy throughout much of Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Yet despite it all, Truex overcame the adversity, finished the day seventh and ultimately advanced to the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
"We accomplish our goals. We live up to our full potential. If we don’t make mistakes, we can go to Homestead without any problems; there’s no doubt in my mind," Truex said after Sunday’s race. "We have the speed. We have the team to do it. Things that happened last week on pit road almost cost us, and they almost cost us again today. We’ve got to clean those things up. We cannot make mistakes. That’s the only thing I think that could keep us from going to Homestead as a part of the (Championship) Four."
Truex described his day as like being on a seesaw. Starting at the rear of the field after his qualifying time was disallowed for going below the yellow line, Truex ran around the back of the pack for the opening segments of the race.
A slow pit stop under the first round of green-flag stops caused Truex to lose the draft, eventually falling a lap down to the race leaders on Lap 67. The race went surprisingly caution-free for the first 132 laps, making things even more anxious for the Furniture Row Racing driver.
"I was nervous, honestly," Truex told FOXSports.com. "Your sitting there riding a lap down, you’ve got six, seven or eight other guys that are a lap down. You’ve got to try and stay in front of them. Here, you know how hard it is to stay in front of people. The lines come and go and shuffle people. There were times we were the third or fourth car a lap down and there were times we were the first. We were able to get through a green-flag cycle and get ourselves established in a single-file line that was pretty far ahead of the guys we were racing (for the free pass). That worked out good for us."
Truex finally caught a break on Lap 133 when the caution flew for Justin Allgaier’s motor failure. Earing the free pass 66 laps after going a lap down, Truex was able to get back on the lead lap and fight to keep his Chase hopes alive.
"Luckily we were able to get that lucky dog," he said. "I really thought we were going to have cautions way before that. For it to go green that long, I was like, ‘Holy crap, this race is going to go green all day long and we’re going to be screwed.’ We never gave up, kept fighting and just kept our head in the game. You never know what can happen here. Once we got back on the lead lap, it was just back to our normal thing trying to get to the front and keep as many guys behind us as we could in the hopes they wrecked behind us."
His seventh-place run was his 20th top-10 finish of the season, setting a personal career record, topping the mark he set in 2012.