As Brad Keselowski climbed out of his car, with an American flag in hand, Martin Truex Jr. stood adjacent to his car a few hundred yards away, with arms crossed. The source of his frustration was lap traffic.
“They just have no respect for the leaders running for the win,” he said. “It’s completely uncalled for, ridiculous. It’s a shame.”
Truex was trapped a lap down when he pitted with 53 laps to go, because the caution flew for fluid on the track. He took the wave-around and restarted fourth with 43 to go, behind all the lapped cars.
He particularly took issue with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He understood that Stenhouse was racing for the lucky dog, but believed he should’ve let him by when the field got strung out (thus making it unlikely Stenhouse would get his lap back).
“He just kept hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom and knew that’s where I needed to run,” Truex said. “I kept telling – my spotter kept telling his we need the bottom.”
“These cars punch such a big hole and it’s so bad in dirty air, it completely killed us for 25, 30 laps to the point my front tires were gone once I finally got by him.”
Despite the holdup, Truex was cutting two-tenths off Keselowski’s lead with eight to go. With seven to go, after he passed Stenhouse, he ran six-tenths faster than Keselowski.
With less than three to go, he was less than three-tenths of a second behind Keselowski. This time in Turn 1, Keselowski took the bottom from Truex. On the final lap, Truex made a late dive to the bottom, as he drove like he expected Keselowski to take it. While he kept within three-tenths, this moment of indecision cost him a chance at a victory.
“We clearly had the best car and were in position to win,” he said.
His runner-up finish was the end result of an afternoon in which he led four laps and finished fifth and third in the stages. He leaves Atlanta Motor Speedway 12th in points, 30 back of Denny Hamlin.