RICHMOND, Va. (April 30, 2017) – Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. battled all day to secure a top-10 finish in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway while Erik Jones’ day was over almost as soon as it began.
Truex Jr. struggled throughout the afternoon with a very loose-handling No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota Camry but took a well-earned 10th-place finish by sheer determination and aggressive pit strategy. Jones never got the chance as a cut tire on Lap 5 sent the No. 77 GameStop Prey Toyota Camry into the outside retaining wall and a 38th-place-finish in the 400-lap race.
Stage 1 saw Truex start third and move between there and second for the first 100 laps. His third-place finish in the stage earned him eight bonus points for an even 100 stage points for the season.
Truex overcame what appeared to be a devastating penalty when he was called for a questionable commitment line violation as he was about to enter pit road following a Lap 366 caution. The penalty sent him to the back in 25th place.
But when the final caution came out with 24 laps remaining Truex did not pit for fresh tires. He restarted fourth and as a result of not having fresh tires lost track position, but did a good job to keep his Toyota in the top 10.
“We just didn’t have it today, too many issues with rear grip,” explained Truex. “We were good in the beginning but couldn’t get the rear grip issue resolved with our Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota. Just one of those days where you battle all day and hope to get a top 10 and we barely did that. We have some work to do for next time we come here.”
Truex moved into second place in the NASCAR Cup Series driver point standings after nine of 36 races. His 10th-place finish was his sixth top 10 of the season and his fourth top-10 finish in his last five starts at Richmond International Raceway.
Contact with the No. 5 car of Kasey Kahne while running three-wide on Lap 1 caused a cut left-front tire just four laps later. The heavy contact with the outside retaining wall caused irreparable damage, forcing the team to take a premature exit from the race.
“We got three-wide right on the start and then the 5 (Kasey Kahne) ran us up into the fence,” said Jones. “I was trying not to wreck everybody and then a couple laps later the GameStop Prey Toyota Camry cut a left-front tire. It’s just really a heartbreaking day. It’s not what we wanted, but we’ll just have to come back next week with another fast race car and try to run up front again.
“We’ve been getting a lot of stage points and been running up front and should have had a lot of good finishes. I think we had another good race car today – one that definitely could have got us up into the top 10, got some more stage points and got a good finish out of it. But there’s got to be more respect showing. I mean, we’re one lap into a 400-lap race and we’re three-wide running people into the wall. It’s just really frustrating.”
Jones dropped four positions, to 16th, in the NASCAR Cup Series driver point standings. He is eight points behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for 15th and 36 behind Ryan Blaney for 12th.
The race winner was Joe Logano. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, and Truex.
The race had nine cautions for 53 laps and there were 18 lead changes among eight drivers.
The next Cup race is Sunday May 7 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.