Boxed in by Pit Strategy, Truex Happy to Run Fourth

Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota, stands on the grid before the start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 26, 2017 in Fontana, California. Photo – Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

When Corey LaJoie’s brush with the turn two wall brought out the sixth of seven cautions on lap 192 of a scheduled 200, Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn gambled.

They stayed out on old tires for a restart on lap 196, but only two other drivers, Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray, followed suit. That left race winner Kyle Larson in the fourth starting position, and one lap after the resumption of action, he had the lead.

Truex considered himself fortunate to hold on to fourth place on old rubber, after the race went to overtime and extended two laps beyond its posted distance.

“It was definitely not the situation we wanted to be in, but we thought more guys would stay out there (under the sixth caution),” said Truex, who led 73 laps, second only to Larson’s 110. “I think we only ran a few laps. It was definitely a disadvantage at the end and just really tight.

“Holding on for fourth was good for points. Overall, it was a good day for everybody. We just had that one pit stop and I slid a little bit – a foot or so further than I had all day. The guys got the air hose caught on the splitter and we lost six spots or whatever it was (during a stop under caution on lap 181). All in all, it was a good day, and we ran up front and led laps. The 42 (Larson) and I felt like we were the class of the field – he just got it done, and we didn’t.”