Despite his eighth top-10 finish of the season in the Quaker State 400 Saturday night, Martin Truex Jr. left Kentucky Speedway still fuming about a ruling NASCAR made that went against him.
Truex was running second in the race behind leader Kevin Harvick when both came to pit road during a caution on Lap 196.
As he came down pit road and approached his pit stall, Truex dove in front of Harvick. NASCAR penalized him for making an illegal pass on pit road, sending him all the way to 22nd place for the ensuing restart after he came out of the pits thinking he had the lead.
From there, Truex put on a show to get back toward the front — ultimately driving all the way up to third before he had pit again for two tires and fuel with just 10 laps to go.
He ended up finishing 10th.
"All you do in instances like that is keep your head down and dig," Truex said. "We went all the way to third place from the back. That was cool.
"All in all we still finished 10th. It’s just one of those deals. I’m not sure why we got penalized. It’s a timeline thing, everybody does it. You get your line and you gas it up to your pit."
Truex insisted that he did nothing different than he — and every other driver — does in every other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race he runs.
"I feel like I did the same thing guys do every week," Truex said. "You get to your timing line, you step on the gas, and you head straight toward your pit. Obviously I turned left and came up next to the 4 car (of Harvick) and passed him as I was driving to my pit, which is what guys do every week.
"I don’t know why it was different today. I would think that if they didn’t want us to do it any more, they would tell us in the drivers’ meeting. But I mean, hell, I’ve been passed on pit road 15 times this year that same exact way — and I didn’t see guys get penalized. So I guess when you’re doing it for a win, it’s different circumstances or something."
When NBC pit reporter Marty Snider asked Truex on his post-race television interview if it was something the driver would take up with NASCAR, Truex quickly replied: "Oh yeah."
Truex said his mad scramble from 22nd to third before having to make his final pit stop was fueled by anger over the call.
"I didn’t really know where we were on fuel. I was mad," Truex said. "I was just digging — head down, elbows up, just digging."
Truex said he enjoyed competing on the newly reconfigured and repaved 1.5-mile track, where he led 46 laps on the night in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. He just wished he could have finished higher after having such a fast car all night.
"All in all, it was fun," said Truex, whose lone win this season came in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, another 1.5-mile track. "We had a fast race car again. I think that’s five mile-and-a-half race tracks now where we’ve pretty much dominated, and we’ve only won one of them. So we’ve got to clean that up. We’ve got to execute better — but all in all, it was a good night."