|Martin Truex Jr. driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota for|
Michael Waltrip Racing earned his third top 10 of 2012 in Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway.
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR
Michael Waltrip Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. finished eighth in Sunday’s rain-shortened, but caution-free NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway.
Truex, driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota started the Auto Club 400 in 13th and raced his way up to 10th position around lap 100. When rain put a stop to the race on lap 129, Truex remained on the track during the caution and found himself sitting in eighth when the race never resumed.
“We were a bit off at the start of the race. We made some changes during ‘Happy Hour’ and kind of missed it a little bit, but the guys worked hard on the NAPA Toyota. At one point we were as fast as the leader for the whole run. You run 130 laps with no caution and it can get strung out, but we were able to maintain and obviously stay on the lead lap. We started making some positions up after about lap 80 or so. The very last run there we got too loose and we gave about two of the spots back. Overall, it’s been a decent day. This place was really tough on us last year. It’s nice to come in here and have a decent run -- something we can build on,” said Truex following Sunday’s race.
The finish earned Truex his third top-10 finish of the 2012 season and put him fifth in the championship standings. The driver’s highest finish so far this season was third in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
In comparison to the 2011 season, Truex has more top-10 finishes (three) thus far – at this point last year, Truex had only one top-10 finish. Last season, the driver finished 18th in the standings three top fives, 12 top 10s and one pole.
Now in his seventh full season driving in the Sprint Cup Series, nearly a fourth of the driver’s 230 career starts have resulted in a top-10 finish.
Truex’s Michael Waltrip Racing teammates also had a successful race on Sunday. Mark Martin, driver of the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota finished 12th after starting third and running in the top 10 for much of the race. Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota finished the race in 13th,a successful finish after struggling with handling issues throughout the day.
Next week the team will head to Martinsville Speedway for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. In the 2011 race, Truex’s day ended early when the driver lost his brakes, sending him flying into the wall, while taking Kasey Kahne (then the driver of the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota) along for the ride.
|Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 51 Chevy for Phoenix|
Racing is interviewed during 2012 NASCAR Media Day.
Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR
Another notable “underdog” of Sunday's race is Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevy for Phoenix Racing who finished ninth after starting 23rd. At the halfway point of the race, Busch was one of only 15 drivers still on the lead lap as the team was able to turn laps nearly as fast as the leaders in order to maintain position.
“This just goes to show what results when you are smart all day,” said Busch following the Auto Club 400 on Sunday. “The car’s going back onto the trailer without a scratch on it, with a top-10 finish. That’s a first for us this year, and good adjustments were the key.”
Heading into next week’s race at Martinsville, Busch said, “It was a nice solid day and everyone is pumped about this finish.”
Busch's team also took home two awards - the USG Improving the Finish award and the MOOG Problem Solver of the Race award.
There are several “underdogs” to watch in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500. Martin, Jeff Burton, David Ragan, Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose all have average finishes of 18th or better over the last five years.
Ragan finished eighth in last season’s race, followed by Bowyer and then Martin in 10th. Several other drivers also had solid finishes – Logano finished 13th, followed by AJ Allmendinger in 14th, David Reutimann in 15th and Kurt Busch in 16th.