James: Martin Truex Jr. retains NASCAR playoff momemtum with New Hampshire rally

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James: Martin Truex Jr. retains NASCAR playoff momemtum with New Hampshire rally

James: Martin Truex Jr. retains NASCAR playoff momemtum with New Hampshire rally :- LOUDON, N.H. — Martin Truex Jr. had a race car good enough to lead 109 of the first 149 laps and was gliding to even more playoff points Sunday when an accident not of the points leader’s doing scuttled the mission.

Losing a chance for what would have been a series-best sixth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was disappointing, but racing back through the field despite significant body damage had value. Truex even was amused when Kyle Busch rumbled his race-winning No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota beside him at the mouth of the garage and feigned a crying eye rub before accepting a handshake.

A fifth-place finish wasn’t what Truex wanted, but the recovery from adversity showed his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota might be ready to finish off what would be a first championship just two races into the 10-race playoffs.

“It wasn’t 100 percent. I wasn’t sure what it looked like and I just got out and looked at the right front fender,” he told USA TODAY Sports of his car. “It’s pretty tore up. To come back and run the way we did was a good confidence-builder for us and I think it’s important to keep momentum, keep consistency and confidence and I feel like we did that today.”

Truex was caught in the aftermath of an incident between fellow playoff-qualifiers Kevin Harvick and Austin Dillon, one circuit around the 1.058-mile track before the conclusion of the second segment. The rear of his car was dented when he and friend Dale Earnhardt Jr. attempted to back out of the slurry of cars at the same time.

Truex fell to 18th on the ensuing restart after requiring repairs to the car, but quickly began moving through the field and leaped from 10th to the lead on Lap 265 after taking two tires on a pit stop when the rest of the top 10 drivers took four. He eventually was chased down by drivers with fresher tires, but he recovered to take a 24-point lead to the final race of the first round at Dover International Speedway next Sunday.

“That was a good recovery for those guys,” said Busch, whose team is affiliated with Truex’s organization. “Obviously, they took two tires there. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out for them, but it was tires on a 30-lap tires, 37-lap tires, and he was beating them up pretty well. So I expected him to fade a little bit, probably more so than fifth. But that was a respectable day for sure, for the issues they had.”

Truex has a series-high five wins and qualified for the second round of the playoff by capturing the postseason opener last week at Chicagoland Speedway. His raft of playoff points seemingly would require a massive collapse for him not to advance to the one-off, four-driver finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kyle Larson is one of the fastest cars on the track until he hears an explosion inside the car. For the first time in 360 degrees, follow the action from the race track to pit road to the garage as Kyle’s team works furiously on an emergency repair. USA TODAY NETWORK

But having a weekly carrot until or if that opportunity arises seems important to the 37-year-old. There is no fear of or time for complacency, he said.

“Stage racing helps a lot,” he said of the new system introduced this season. “It kind of helps you stay on top of your game, you know? You’re pushing every lap. There’s never a chance to say ‘Well, we’re gonna back off here and save our tires. We’re gonna ride. We’re gonna take care of our car.’

“There is none of that crap. You always want to just get out there and push as hard as you can and get every point you can.”

He and his team salvaged a few more Sunday.

Source :- https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nascar/columnist/brant-james/2017/09/24/martin-truex-jr-kyle-busch-new-hampshire-playoff-points/698684001/

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