Truex won the 2023 regular season championship and entered the 10-race playoffs as the No. 1 seed, was never able to capitalize on the speed his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota had shown all year.
His team seem to struggle on pitroad, whether with penalties or slow stops or poor track position that got him caught up in on-track incidents. In fact, through nine playoff races, Truex has finished in the top-10 only once – a ninth place effort at Las Vegas.
Sunday at Martinsville fared little better.
Despite winning the pole and leading the first 47 laps, he got penalized for speeding on pit road and on his next stop during the break between Stages 2 and 3, he lost even more track position when his pit crew dropped his jack during the stop.
He tried to rally in the final stage but could only muster a 12th place finish. Truex ended up sixth in the playoff standings.
Photo by: Gavin Baker / NKP / Motorsport Images
Martin Truex Jr, Joe Gibbs Racing, Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry
“If we couldn’t find a way to flip track position pit stop-wise, we were never going to get (back to the front),” Truex said. “Our car was good. The field is so tight, so close. Your car drives so much worse in traffic.
“I felt like we did really good to get back to where we did. You just burn the tires off so much worse back there in the hot, dirty track, dirty air. You’re in more rubber. It’s just a dogfight.”
Still a lot to be proud of
Truex said he was still proud of the work his team put in trying to help him rebound from the Stage 2 issues.
“We gave it a hell of an effort. I felt like we had a really strong car,” Truex said. “I don’t think we could have beat (Blaney) He was really, really strong. We were definitely close.
“I mean, I thought I was well under speed leaving that box. Clearly, we were speeding, so … obviously we have something to look at there. It’s devastating. That’s racing.”
Truex said the main issue he believes he and his team fought in the playoffs was execution – they simply could not put solid races together like they had most of the regular season.
And in the playoffs, any mistake can be extremely costly.
“I just feel we couldn’t do anything right. If it was ever a 50/50 call, it always went against us,” he said. “A blown engine, a flat tire, you name it. Problem after problem.
“Just kept setting us back, and we couldn’t get any momentum. I think we did a great job today. It was a tiny little error, .2 miles an hour can ruin your whole year unfortunately.”
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