Shortly after a late-race restart Martin Truex Jr.’s season came to a burning end when his car exploded in a rage of flames as a result of being collected in a multi-car accident that halted Sunday’s Sprint Cup finale for 31 minutes at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Truex was able to exit the terrifying inferno before it was extinguished. He was not injured but for precautionary measures he was brought to the infield medical center where he was observed and released.
His charred No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Denver Mattress Toyota suffered a different fate as it was towed to the garage without any salvageable parts.
While positioned in 13th place when the race was restarted following a caution with five laps remaining, the multicar melee was triggered when the leaders, vying for the season championship, were jockeying for position. The end result for Truex was a 36th-place finish.
Carl Edwards, who appeared to have the season title in hand while running second, was also a victim of the accident. The race and Sprint Cup Series championship was won by Jimmie Johnson, who tied Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. with seven season NASCAR Cup championships.
Truex, who spoke to the media outside of the infield medical center said about the incident, “All I saw was the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski’s car) coming up the track and nowhere to go. This is one of those wrong place, wrong time moments.”
Regarding the race Truex added, “We got put in the back a few times --once was our mistake early and (Kevin) Harvick’s after that. It’s unfortunate. We had a really good race car tonight and nothing to show for it.”
Truex started the scheduled 267 lapper sixth. But during the pace laps he radioed the team to say there was a brake issue. He managed to run in the top 10 when the first caution came out on Lap 27. But the brake problem persisted and he was forced to pit twice to fix the issue. The second pit stop relegated him to 36th in track position.
Truex patiently fought his way back to the front, But near Lap 200 as he was passing Harvick for fifth place, Harvick rammed the right-side of Truex’s car, sending it into the wall, causing serious aerodynamic damage.
“At that point we were out of contention, but still felt we had a shot at a top-10 finish,” explained Truex. “It’s two weeks in a row (also involved in accident at Phoenix). It’s frustrating and I am glad this year is over. We will go and regroup and get ready for next year.”
Truex, who won four races in 2016 along with winning five poles and leading the most laps (1809) finished 11th in driver points. His point standing took a serious drop with two accidents and a blown engine in three of the last five races. Those incidents resulted in finishes of 40th (Talladega), 40th (Phoenix) and 36th (Homestead).
“Tough way to go out after starting the Chase with two victories in the first three races,” said Truex.
The 2017 season kicks off with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26.