HOMESTEAD, Fla – There wasn’t much of a question about it, Martin Truex Jr. entered Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at the Homestead Miami Speedway as the top choice among many to hoist this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy. Truex, had just won the title two years ago and came into the season finale race with a top seven finish in literally all but one playoff race run in this postseason.
That one race that he didn’t grab a top seven? Talladega. How can we fault him for that?
Plus, Truex had five top 10 finishes in his last six starts on 1.5-mile tracks and had been preparing for this race for two weeks now. He had won a season high seven races at the time too.
Early on in Sunday’s race, Truex backed those claims up. He quickly fell to sixth in the opening laps of the 267 Lap race, but as quickly as he fell — he rose back up. The New Jersey native picked up spots one by one. By Lap 20, he was passing Kevin Harvick for the lead.
Truex, would end up leading 98 of the first 120 laps. His No. 19 Toyota was THE car to beat. Then came that costly pit stop error.
Truex, hit pit lane on Lap 120 for his third stop of the race, but his crew members put the tires on the wrong sides of the car. Yes, that’s a thing.
The crew sets up air pressures differently in the tires and that’s based off of the setup of the race car. The right sides are set up differently than the left sides. Well, Truex’s crew put the tires designated for the right sides on the left and vice versa.
Truex’s crew chief Cole Pearn quickly noticed the problem but Truex sped off. Truex, quickly felt the car not handling right and they came back down pit road for the correction.
They’d go from the top car to 13th, one lap down. They’d luck out when John Hunter Nemechek brought out the second caution of the race on Lap 136 for the only on track incident of the day. Truex, was in the free pass position and was back on the lead lap.
He’d go from 13th to finishing fourth in the second stage in a matter of 20 or so laps. The problem was, the clean air was gone and Kyle Busch had found speed.
Truex, would battle his car over the final 101 laps but could only muster a second place finish. He followed Busch across the finish line by 4.578-seconds as Busch won the title and Truex comes home second in the final standings.
It was Truex’s third straight top two finish at Homestead as well as in the final standings too. He was runner-up last year to Joey Logano.
Seven wins, three of which in the playoffs and a top two finish in the standings is a lot for Truex to hang his hat on. He’ll be back in 2020 for more.