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NASCAR Cup Series

Truex Confident with Chase Chances Coming Down to Phoenix

After an eventful weekend in the Lone Star state, @MartinTruex_Jr proved that he was still in it to win it.

The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet finished eighth at Texas Motor Speedway and remains in that coveted top four in the Chase standings, just six points behind leader Jeff Gordon.

Truex Jr.’s weekend started with a relatively poor qualifying effort, starting the race in the 23rd spot with a time of 27.608 seconds and a speed of 195.595 miles per hour. The disappointing starting spot was also compounded by the lack of practice due to rain.

In spite of those challenges, Truex had a fast car when the checkered flag flew.  He quietly but quickly worked his forward throughout the AAA Texas 500. By Lap 18, Truex was in the top-10 and by Lap 22, he cracked the top five, where he stayed until the closing laps of the race.

“We had a really fast car all day,” Truex said. “We didn’t qualify well and not having any practice on Saturday (due to a wet track) was a little bit of a concern. But our crew chief (Cole Pearn) and his talented staff of engineers rose to the challenge and once again gave me a competitive car.”

In fact, Truex was so competitive during the race that he actually began to tussle with race leader at the time Brad Keselowski, who had led a track record of over 300 laps. Truex and Keselowski raced head to head in the latter part of the race, at one point even trading some paint.

“We just rubbed a little bit there in the tri-oval,” Truex said. “No big deal at all. We were both racing hard. Good hard racing-rubbing a little.”

“Rubbing is racing. It was fun.”

That tussle, which caused Truex to fall back and out of contention for the lead, was just the start of the solo team driver’s problems. He then suffered a double loss, that of a loose right-front wheel as well as the loss of power steering.

“Once the right-front wheel started to shake I realized I had a serious problem,” Truex said. “And then the power steering went away.”

“I wish I could have hung with Brad a little longer, but my right front wheel starting shaking. We were lucky to hang on and get what we did because with five laps to go, the power steering quit working; it broke a fitting or something.”

“One of those weird days where I thought we had a shot at the win. Our car was real fast at the end of the race. Just a loose wheel and the power steering killed us.”

With the double whammy in full swing, Truex decided he just needed to get his Chevrolet to the checkered flag and salvage the best finish possible for himself and his team.

“At that point I just wanted to hang on and get the car to the checkered flag. I had to conserve at the end, running about 70 percent just to make sure we got to the finish line with all the wheels on the car and not lose a whole bunch of points.”

“It’s a shame we let this slip away, but on the other hand I guess it could have been worse.”

And instead of being much worse, Truex was able to hold onto that fourth and final position in the points standing. With one race remaining in the Eliminator 8 round, he currently sits four points out of second, three points from third, with a seven-point cushion over fifth place driver Carl Edwards.

“We’re still in good shape but it sure would have been nice to have those five or six points that we lost,” Truex said after recording his 22nd top-10 of the season. “Nobody said this was going to be easy.”

Truex, as with his other seven competitors, will now turn his attention to the last race of the season before the championship run at Homestead. And the driver of the Furniture Row team is all about the upcoming race at Phoenix.

“It’s all going to come down on who can perform and survive Phoenix next week,” Truex said. “We feel good about Phoenix — we had a good test there recently.”

“We are in good shape,” Truex continued. “Certainly we would have like to have finished where we should have today. We should have run top-three and should have had a shot at winning. All-in-all, we didn’t beat ourselves.”

“We are still in it. We will have to go to Phoenix and run hard and put together a really good run.”

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By Mary Jo Buchanan

Mary Jo Buchanan has been a race fan since her childhood, having grown up at a local Pennsylvania dirt track. With her experience in the pits, she has developed an interest and expertise in all levels of racing, from the local scene to the highest level of the sport. Many of her articles focus on the ‘behind the scenes’ and sometimes ‘off the beaten path’ stories about the world of racing. Buchanan also enjoys writing about up and coming drivers and the people that make NASCAR work on a daily basis.