AUTO CLUB 400 POSTSCRIPT
Tried and Truex
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Tue, Mar 24, 2015
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story by Brian Kennedy
Photographs by Gabriela Moya
Going Almost Nowhere
Back through the tech line they went, the crew and car of Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Furniture Row Chevy SS. Why? Something wrong on the underside of the car. Guys were lying on the ground at the side of the car with wrenches in their hands. They were measuring stuff. They were frowning a lot. Things looked desperate. This was 10:30 am Sunday, in Fontana. By 11:30, they had to be through tech and on the grid.
Back in Truex’s garage area, I spied someone with a welding mask on and a phone to his ear, about to create or modify a triangular-shaped widget, bracket, or some such. What was going on?
They failed tech and had to get things right to satisfy NASCAR, which is notorious for measuring ride heights, wheel bases, anything quantifiable. The rig which does the work, which was in the garage that Truex’s matte black car had just rolled out of, is high-tech on the order of NASA. When a car fails, it gets back in line, modifications made on the way. That’s why the tools were out and the guys were fiddling with Truex’s Chevrolet.
Things must have been OK second time around, because the car was on the grid half an hour later. By the end of the day, they hadn’t won. Nobody, I dare say, had even noticed their struggles, toils, and tiny triumphs—a solid run, a few points, a brief crack at the lead. Why? Because up front, Harvick-Busch and, later, Keselowski, put on a show. But I also watched Truex do his thing, a story that would be lost but for my writing it down.
Why does it matter? If for no other reason than to make this point: there’s a lot more going on in a race than the simple story of who wins. And by being there, you can see things, creating a narrative that’s not created for you by TV. You weren’t there. I was. So here goes.
The Chevy started twelfth, with a qualifying time of 39.290 seconds, which was about .4 of a second slower than the pole-sitter, Kurt Busch. Truex’s speed was 183.299 mph, whereas the fastest was by Kevin Harvick starting in second, at 185.047. So that’s what? Less than two mph.
Truex hung around the tenth to thirteen spot most of the day. His time in the lead was at lap 100 and thereabouts. Had the race not gone long, he would have been in trouble, because at lap 200, he was scored in 23rd, but he rallied by the end, up 15 places from there. All that work to finish eighth.
His laps were actually pretty close to those of the top cars. He was only about 1/10th of a second slower than the leaders on lap 53, for instance.
His pit crew was also good, holding station most of the day. He typically came out about where he went in. For example, on lap 83, he was ninth after pitting from that same spot. The exception to this was near the end. More in a moment on that.
Much of the day, he diced with cars, including those of Austin Dillon and Trevor Bayne, themselves having rather non-descript drives, if going 204 mph into turn one and bumping around a nearly 20-year-old surface can be labeled that.
Just before he led, which he did by getting two tires when others pitted for four, Truex was 15th. That put him mid-pack of the top cars, and he was about 9 seconds behind the lead car, which at that point was Busch. The two-tire gamble did not work for long, as Busch and Harvick split him on the next lap (105) to take over the lead. Shortly after, that, he dropped to sixth, 3.787 seconds behind the leader, but he was falling, if slowly, back. A few laps later, he was eighth, 6.3 seconds behind first. He fell back some more.
But as time went on, he worked his way up to eighth once more, where he hung in for a good stretch while cars behind him were falling off the lead lap and Harvick-Busch carried on their dominance. By lap 142, he was half a lap behind (20 seconds), and in tenth place. Then it was suddenly 19th after a weak pit stop. He grabbed a few spots to get to 15th by lap 165, and on 168, went by Dillon for 13th, his best move of the race. He shortly had to challenge Bayne for ninth, and then gave the spot back in the pits around lap 185. But he got it back again, sitting ninth as the drama heated up at the front. He would eventually gain one more position on the day, because Tony Stewart dropped back on old tires. Truex ended up earning $136,240 for his afternoon’s work. He led just the once, for five laps, but that got him a bonus point. He earned 37 points for his efforts and now stands in third. So you might say that working your butt off all day to go from the 12 spot to the eight spot is actually quite worth the time. And that’s why we give it the attention we do. Read Brian Kennedy’s Auto Club 400: Cinderella Comes in Third Read Brian Kennedy’s Nuts About NASCAR: Auto Club Xfinity 300 Read Brian Kennedy’s How To Make NASCAR Relevant Again Read Brian Kennedy’s Harvick Does Hockey Follow Brian on Twitter @growinguphockey For more information about the Auto Club races, click here.