CONCORD, N.C - Martin Truex Jr. battled his way to the front after dealing with handling problems for the first half of Sunday’s rain-delayed Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
But while running in third place with fewer than 30 laps remaining, the unimaginable happened to the Furniture Row Racing driver.
When Truex made his final four-tire stop following a Lap-309 caution, his car lost power leaving the pit stall. Though he was able to restart his No. 78 Toyota the incident sent him to 16th place when the green flag waved for the final time with 18 laps remaining in the 334-lap race. Truex was able to pick up three spots in the closing laps to finish 13th.
“The clutch went out,” said Truex, following the Round 2 opener in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. “I had the clutch on the floor sitting there in first gear when they dropped the right side and the clutch just pumped up and pushed my foot all the way up so the clutch just went completely out and I had no clutch at the end. I had to start it in gear and luckily we were able to get it started. Not sure what happened, just one of those freak deals. Just happened at the wrong time – cost us a pretty good finish after struggling for the majority of the race.”
It took a number of well-calculated adjustments by crew chief Cole Pearn and his engineering staff before Truex started to show the speed that the team showcased in the past three Chase races.
As the race approached the 200-lap mark in the 334-lap event, Truex’s Toyota found its rhythm as it started to move up the leaderboard.
“We made a nice comeback,” stated Truex. "But I’m disappointed at how we ran today. As bad as we were we were still going to have a good day and then the clutch problem. That really just took any chance we had away. All in all, we just missed it and we fought hard. We did a good job of making something out of it until the clutch went out.”
Truex also felt bad about an incident that resulted in a multicar accident during a restart on Lap 266.
“I want to say that I’m sorry to Austin Dillon, the (No.) 3 team, Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) and all those guys,” said Truex. “I know they’re working hard and they certainly didn’t need me to turn them around on that restart. I feel terrible about that. I was just trying to help get him going and just pushed way too hard so I just want to apologize to those guys and hopefully I can talk to Austin and make sure he’s okay with everything.”
Of the 12 drivers competing in Round 2 of the Chase, Truex ranks seventh in points after the first of three races. The top eight drivers advance to the third round. Truex is 19 points ahead of the ninth place driver. (see Chase points below).
The race winner was Jimmie Johnson. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray.
The race had eight cautions for 51 laps and there were 17 lead changes among nine drivers.
The next race is Sunday, Oct. 16 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.
Chase Point Standings
(After 1 of 3 Races)
1. Jimmie Johnson, 3045 points
2. Matt Kenneth, 3040
3. Kyle Busch, 3036
4. Brad Keselowski, 3034
5. Kurt Busch, 3033
6. Carl Edwards, 3029
7. Martin Truex Jr., 3028
8. Denny Hamlin, 3012
9. Austin Dillon, 3009
10. Chase Elliott, 3009
11. Joey Logano, 3006
12. Kevin Harvick, 3004