Martin Truex Jr. overcame a number of issues to finish sixth in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway.
“No matter how many problems we faced, the bottom line is that we fought to the end and had a shot of winning this race,” said Truex, who retained his lead in the driver standings, one point ahead of Kyle Larson and 104 points ahead of third-place Kevin Harvick.
The Pocono Raceway weekend didn’t start off the way Truex had hoped for with his No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota. His first practice on Friday was cut short due to a power-steering issue. However, the team rebounded later in the day with a second- place qualifying effort.
But on Saturday after a sub-par practice in race trim, the Denver, Colo.-based team was forced to change engines and pay the penalty of starting the 160-lap, 400-mile race from the rear of the field.
“We not only put in a new engine, we basically changed everything in the car,” said Truex.
Whatever the No. 78 team did appeared to work as Truex patiently charged through the field at the 2.5-mile triangular track and found himself running up front with a third-place finish in the second stage.
While teams were on different pit sequences, Truex was running second when the final caution came out on Lap 142. He pitted for four tires and a splash of fuel. With some teams not pitting, Truex was hoping to restart fourth in the preferred outside lane. But eventual race winner Ryan Blaney just beat him off pit road and took the outside lane while Truex restarted fifth in the inside lane.
“No question, the outside lane is where we wanted to be,” said Truex. “We never got going on the final restart and our Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota got a little tight there at the end. Congratulations to Ryan (Blaney) for winning his first career Cup race.”
Truex added, “It was a tough day, a tough weekend, but we battled hard after having to start at the back due to an engine change after Saturday’s practice. This team never quits and we put ourselves in contention for the win. I am proud of the way we came back after the problems we experienced.”
It was the fourth straight top-10 finish for Truex and his 10th top 10 after the first 14 races of the season.
Following Ryan Blaney to the checkered flag were: Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Truex, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth.
The race had four cautions for 18 laps and was red flagged once for 23 minutes. There were 13 lead changes among nine drivers.