Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team had another stalwart performance, finishing third in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Truex’s Furniture Row teammate Erik Jones was dealt a different fate when a cut tire sent him crashing into the wall, ending his day on Lap 40 with a 39th place finish.
Driving the No. 78 WIX Filters Toyota Camry, Truex was stout from the beginning of the 301-lap race. He led the first 78 laps and claimed the Stage 1 victory, picking up another playoff bonus point. He leads the Cup series in Stage wins at 14 (next closest is five) and playoff bonus points at 29 (next closest is 16).
Truex led two more times for a race high of 137 laps.
Truex also finished sixth in the second stage and continues to lead the overall driver point standings, 38 markers ahead of second place Kyle Larson.
“We were strong for the majority of the race but at the end we lost some speed and couldn’t get to the leader,” said Truex, who last led from Laps 246-260. “The last restart we got the inside lane, restarted third. It wasn’t the place to be, obviously. I think the 11 (race winner Denny Hamlin) started fourth and that was really the place I would have liked to have been. And then we just didn’t get a good restart on the bottom and lost a couple spots and had to battle back and then just didn’t quite have the speed at the end of the race.
“All in all, it was a hard fought day. We had to come from 24th at one point. A good job by everybody and a solid third place effort. Just didn’t have enough there at the end.”
Truex and the No. 78 team had to overcome some hurdles during the race just to finish third. While enjoying a comfortable lead Truex made a green-flag pit stop on lap 219 due to a cut right-front tire.
“That could have been devastating, but we got through it and rallied back to the front,” noted Truex. “The pit crew was spot on and everyone did their job. We just came up a little short. It would have been nice to get WIX Filters a victory in its first race with us as a primary. But we gave it our all and we’ll take a third-place finish and move on.”
It was the seventh top-five and 13th top 10 finish for Truex after 19 races. The finish also equaled his best result at the New Hampshire 1-mile oval. His other third place finishes were at the most recent race (September 2016) and July 2007.
Jones, driving the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, took home the unlucky award.
The rookie driver from Byron, Mich. made contact with two other cars on pit road after stopping for service during the competition caution which slowed the field after Lap 35. The damage appeared to be minimal but Jones didn’t make a full lap once the field went back to green on Lap 41. The 5-hour ENERGY Camry made heavy contact in Turn 3 and was unable to continue.
“I guess we cut a left front or a right front (tire) – I’m not sure,” said Jones. “Just made a little contact on pit road, but didn’t have any marks on the tires. We thought it would be fine but obviously not because we didn’t even make it a lap.
“I think we were just kind of sandwiched in there when I came out and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) was on my door and the 5 (Kasey Kahne) came out and was on my door too. It’s just really unfortunate. The 5-hour ENERGY Camry was a top-10 car for sure, so just got to keep working at it. We’ve had some really bad luck this year and this is another one of those days, so hopefully we can turn it around.”
Jones is 17th in driver points, one marker behind 16th-place Ryan Newman.
The top-10 finishers in order were: Hamlin, Larson, Truex, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson.
The race had seven cautions for 34 laps and there were 11 lead changes among six drivers.
The next race is Sunday July 23 – The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.