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NASCAR Cup Series

Truex Watches Victory Slip Away due to Strategy Miscues

FONTANA, Calif. — Climbing from his Furniture Row Racing Toyota, Martin Truex Jr. was frustrated. It’s a feeling he knows having seen many races slip away.

On Sunday after leading 73 laps, the New Jersey native finished fourth in the Auto Club 400.

“We were right there all day long. I felt like [Kyle Larson, race winner] had everybody covered. It was just a matter of who got out front and got clean air,” Truex said. “Towards the end, we had a little trouble in the pits. We didn’t take tires, everybody else did, and we were at a big disadvantage those last couple restarts.”

Since 2015, the driver of the No. 78 has earned six of his eight career wins in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, including this year’s event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But he’s become notorious for dominating and not finishing the job.

In 2016, Truex led the most laps all season and 425 more than Kevin Harvick, but both had four victories. The year before, he led 567 laps (ranked seventh) but had only one win.

Sunday’s race, it seemed he had a dominant car, but came up short.

“We had a big disadvantage at the end, playing defense more than offense. We played offense all day, and I was able to run first or second most of the day,” Truex said. “At the end of the day, we had a disadvantage on tires, and that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Sometimes you make the call, and it’s right, and sometimes your call is wrong. We made the wrong one today, but to come home with a fourth after all that, definitely a good day for us.”

Truex is fourth in the points standings, and with a win, he’s all but locked into the postseason. He also won Stage 2 of the race, giving him a playoff point.

The next stop on the Cup Series schedule is Martinsville, where he started first last November and finished seventh after leading 147 laps.

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By John Haverlin

John Haverlin is currently studying Communication at Arizona State University. He has been a reporter at Phoenix International Raceway for three years and has written news stories for the track's official site. Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Haverlin has lived in Arizona the past three years.