Sunday, September 10, 2023

CUP: Punctured tire sends title contender Martin Truex, Jr. into the wall early at Kansas

SCREENSHOT: From video by Colby Evans, @StartAndParkCar

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Martin Truex, Jr. picked up the 10th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at the Kansas Speedway when his #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota crashed after 3 of 268 laps.

The finish, which came in Truex’s 649th series start, was his first of the season and first since September 17, 2022 at Bristol, 35 races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 48th for the #19, the 185th for Toyota, and the 657th from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 85th for the #19, the 399th for Toyota, and the 1,352nd from a crash.

When he was last featured on this site, Truex was enduring his first winless season since 2014, ultimately causing him to miss the Playoffs. This year’s turnaround began immediately with a hard-fought win in the Busch Light Clash at the L.A. Coliseum. This was followed by the official end of his winless streak at Dover, where his younger brother Ryan won his first XFINITY race that same weekend. A dominant victory at Sonoma and his long-awaited first at Loudon coincided with a streak of strong runs that earned him the regular-season championship. But he arrived in Kansas after finishing 18th in the Playoff opener in Darlington, where he never led.

With only the 36 Chartered entries once again arriving trackside, Truex began his Kansas weekend 8th in practice, then ran 4th-fastest in Qualifying Round 1A. This put him solidly into the qualifying’s second round, where he secured 3rd on the grid with a lap of 178.767mph (30.207 seconds).

Starting 36th and last on the grid was Ty Gibbs, whose team was sent to a backup #54 Monster Energy Toyota after a blown right-rear tire put him into the Turn 2 wall in practice. Both Gibbs and 35th-place Kyle Busch in the #8 Casey’s Chevrolet were unable to turn a lap in qualifying, and both would incur tail-end penalties on Sunday. Busch had also blown a tire in practice, his incident putting him into the Turn 3 wall. Unlike Gibbs, Busch’s team required only unapproved adjustments, not a backup car. Not incurring penalties were both 9th-place William Byron for a parts issue on the #24 Raptor Chevrolet, and Erik Jones whose transaxle replacement on the 19th-place #43 Allegiant Chevrolet was ruled a vendor issue.

When the race started, Busch remained in last place, 2.885 seconds back of the lead to Gibbs’ 2.748. By the end of Lap 1, the spot fell to Sheldon Creed, the XFINITY Series regular making his Cup debut in Live Fast Motorsports’ #78 Whelen Chevrolet that was prepared in the Richard Childress Racing shop. The next time by, Creed dropped to last J.J. Yeley in Rick Ware Racing’s bright green #15 Jungle Law Ford, opening a gap of 0.483 second, 6.099 behind the leader. Yeley was still last on Lap 4, now 7.727 behind the lead, but trouble broke out ahead of him.

After qualifying in 3rd, Truex began a perplexing drop through the field, complaining of a tight condition. By Lap 3, he’d dropped to 11th. On Lap 4, he was running the high lane when the right-rear tire blew, sending him sliding into the outside wall. Under this first caution of the race, Truex rolled down the banking, but could advance no further as the right-front wheel was pointed at a bad angle, the right-rear tire practically off the rim. The team suggested he get a push, but the car wouldn’t roll. Instead, a tow truck brought him down pit road, during which Truex radioed, “Take me to the garage, James.” Thus, instead of pulling up to their stall, the #19 was brought behind the wall, done for the race. Later reports indicated Goodyear found a puncture in the tread of Truex’s right-rear tire, and that a control arm had been sheared off in the accident. NASCAR declared Truex out of the race on Lap 15.

Finishing 35th was Harrison Burton, whose #21 Menards MasterForce Ford slapped the wall in Turn 3 on Lap 175, then his “Crash Clock” expired about ten laps later. The 34th spot fell to J.J. Yeley, who reportedly ran out of time replacing a bent toe link after wall contact that did not bring out the caution. Yeley was the only other car to fail to finish. Taking 33rd was Austin Dillon, whose #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet slapped the Turn 2 wall and dropped debris on Lap 64, then returned to action multiple laps down. Also suffering misfortune was Bubba Wallace, whose #23 Columbia Sportswear Company Toyota finished 2nd in Stage 1 and was still running there on Lap 109 when he hit the Turn 2 wall, cutting down the right-rear tire.

Legacy Motor Club continues to rise

Kansas saw the continued resurgence of a struggling Legacy Motor Club. Just days after John Hunter Nemechek was revealed as the team’s driver of the #42 in 2024, Carson Hocevar finished on the lead lap in 20th, successfully backing up his 17th-place showing at Darlington in the now-white #42 Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet. Erik Jones did even better in the flagship #43 Allegiant Chevrolet, making the most of his replacement transaxle to finish 6th in Stage 2, then restart 2nd on the overtime finish before coming home in 3rd. Since his 35th-place finish at Indianapolis, Jones has now finished better in each of the four races since, capped by his first Top 5 since he won the 2022 Southern 500.

*This marked the first last-place finish for Martin Truex, Jr. at Kansas since September 28, 2008, when his #1 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet suffered transmission issues after 229 laps of the Camping World RV 400 presented by Coleman. This was Truex’s first career Cup Series last-place finish.
*This is Truex’s third straight last-place finish to have occurred between September 10th and 17th.

36) #19-Martin Truex, Jr. / 3 laps / crash
35) #21-Harrison Burton / 175 laps / dvp
34) #15-J.J. Yeley / 212 laps / dvp
33) #3-Austin Dillon / 259 laps / running
32) #23-Bubba Wallace / 264 laps / running

1st) Live Fast Motorsports, Spire Motorsports (4)
2nd) Joe Gibbs Racing, Penske Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Rick Ware Racing (3)
3rd) Legacy Motor Club (2)
4th) Front Row Motorsports, Hendrick Motorsports, Kaulig Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Trackhouse Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet (16)
2nd) Ford (8)
3rd) Toyota (3)


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