An early hit, a mid-race pit-road speeding penalty and a late-race spin thwarted Martin Truex Jr.’s charge in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
The Furniture Row Racing driver finished 21st after running as high as 10th in the 500-lap Sprint Cup Series race on the .526-mile oval.
“We passed a lot of cars today but too many things happened to us that eventually cost us a strong finish,” said Truex, who started the race from the 31st position. “After the speeding penalty we were moving again but then I got spun out later which stalled our momentum. As we did last week we battled hard with our Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet but couldn’t close the deal with the finish I felt we deserved.”
Truex’s day of adversity started when a spinning car on Lap 3 resulted in a torn rear bumper on the No. 78 Chevrolet.
Truex overcame the early incident as he radioed the crew on Lap 168 to say that the car was “a bunch better.” He did indeed find the grip on the historic southern Virginia short track and was marching forward.
When Truex left pit road after a Lap 250 caution, he was positioned in 10th place. But then those dreadful words from race control, “No. 78 speeding on pit road” sent Truex from 10th to 26th place in track position.
“That (speeding penalty) hurt,” said Truex. “But we felt we had time to get back up there. I believe we were running in 17th place and moving up when I got spun out (Lap 412). We suffered more damage to an already damaged car, but battled as hard as we could to finish 21st.”
The race winner was Kurt Busch. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Marcos Ambrose, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard.
There were a record 33 lead changes among 12 drivers and 14 cautions for 92 laps.
The next Sprint Cup Series race is Sunday, April 6 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.