Martin Truex Jr. missed the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs by three points after Sunday’s race at Daytona International Speedway.
The 42-year old, however, had improved his lead over Ryan Blaney by 22 points after placing eighth in the last race of the regular season on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
However, it wasn’t what Truex and Joe Gibbs Racing needed. It was a day that most teams would take in a superspeedway event. As a result of Austin Dillon winning the race, the winless No. 19 Toyota missed the playoffs by only three points.
On lap 102 along the backstretch, Truex was a part of a multi-car collision which was triggered when Michael McDowell was tagged from behind and sent against the outside wall while in second place.
Truex was running outside the accident and came close to passing it before he veered to the left, hit William Byron and Ross Chastain, and went through the grass.
However, Truex still had a chance because he had beat Blaney in the points through the stages. He maintained his position on the first row as Blaney, who had been caught in a lap-31 collision, proceeded to shuffle around in a damaged car.
“We really did a good job, I think, to make up 22 points in one race is a big gain… Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough today,” Truex said after the race.
“The Bass Pro Shops Toyota was really fast; we ran, I thought, a really smart race and just wrong place, wrong time, which 30 cars out here today could say that.”
“It’s just frustrating here. We run well and then we get wrecked. At the end of the day, we still had a somewhat decent finish, but it really doesn’t matter.”
As the race’s final restart got underway, Truex was still hoping to enter the playoffs. He started fourth, just behind Austin Cindric, and passed the Team Penske driver to take the lead in the race. Cindric already had a victory, so it was a perfect situation for Truex to dominate Sunday’s race.
Cindric took the lead, followed by Austin Dillon, Landon Cassill, and Truex, who managed to hold onto the draft in fourth place, but t he No. 19 Toyota lost the draft before Cassill was shuffled out with him as Noah Gragson and Tyler Reddick caught the four-car pack. Unfortunately, neither could catch up, and soon the remainder of the lead pack outpaced them.
“I just couldn’t make enough speed to push fast enough to keep up,” Truex said.
“Then they came on us so fast from behind with a big run there was no way to stop that and then, at the end, I was just praying they would get two and three wide and I would wiggle my way back in there.”
“We got back to eighth but obviously needed more… Just had too much damage at the end, just couldn’t keep up with them.”
“The only chance I had was when they’d get side by side and start checking up the line, then I could get back to them, but just way too much damage to have the speed at the end to do anything at all.”
“It sucks… No way of sugar-coating it. You race your *** off all year and work hard, and you try to do all the things it takes, and you come up three points short,” he said. “It’s pretty tough to swallow when I know we could do something in the playoffs.”
As he made an effort to hold on, he was aware of that he was set to miss out on the playoffs. Truex is unable to participate in the playoffs just a year after placing second in the championship. It will be his worst finish in the championship four standings since 2014 after earning a championship four appearance in five of the previous seven years,