Truex Jr. misses Michigan win after wrong strategy

Truex Jr. misses Michigan win after wrong strategy

Martin Truex Jr. appeared geared up for another victory celebration on a Monday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway, but the No. 19 team was unable to record their fourth victory of 2023 due to a poor strategy.

In the FireKeepers Casino 400 on Monday, which was postponed due to rain, Truex finished in second place, finishing 0.152s behind winner Chris Buescher despite having been in pursuit of him for the better part of the final lap.

Truex had the lead heading into Monday after winning the first stage before the race was stopped by rain on lap 75. Just after 12:30 p.m. ET, the field roared again to life and he sent it just as fast as the previous day.

Truex surged from outside the top-10 to win Stage 2 after outpacing Daniel Suarez in a drag race to the finish line. His Toyota was so quick that he pitted while others stayed out during a lap 104 caution. No other contender who went to the pits finished the stage higher than ninth.

In order to take less fuel in its final pit stop, the team, confident in the performance of the car, compromised its track position and pitted once more after Stage 2, handing Chris Buescher and RFK Racing the lead.

That would end up being the determining factor in the battle for the race win. The entirety of the third stage was devoted to Truex’s pursuit of leaders Tyler Reddick and Buescher.

On his last stop, Reddick’s team left him with a loose right rear wheel, eliminating him from contention. For the remaining 30 laps, Truex was able to get close behind Buescher, but he was unable to overtake him.

With 13 left, Truex successfully ducked under Buescher around Turn 1. On the subsequent lap, he had to take Turn 1 to Buescher’s inside because he was unable to pass the Texan in Turns 3 and 4.

No matter what he did, Truex was unable to make the move work. He gave up the lead and ran off the trail.

Over the course of the final 10 laps, Truex Jr. was able to get closer to Buescher once more, but ultimately ran out of time to overtake him as the checkered flag was lifted.

“Strategy kind of shook us up a little bit,” Truex said after finishing second in Michigan. “We were luckily able to get our track position back all day just because of our speed.

“Man, that one more (spot ahead) stinks. It’s been tough to get a win here. We’ve been really good in the past, but we just can’t get it done. I don’t know, maybe next year.”

Despite how disappointing the loss was, Monday’s outcome had certain advantages as well. Truex finished with a race-high 55 points, adding to his regular season points lead, and led six times for a total of 47 laps. He also earned two playoff points for winning stages.

With three races remaining until the playoffs, Truex now leads teammate Denny Hamlin by 57 points for the regular season title.

The 2017 Cup winner is one of the league’s strongest contenders and has addressed any worries about his future, leaving his team to concentrate on the future as the postseason approaches.

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