Martin Truex Jr. wins the Playoff opener in Las Vegas
Truex clinches his spot in the Round of 12
LAS VEGAS (September 15, 2019) – Martin Truex Jr. won his series-leading fifth victory of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this evening.
Toyota Racing Post-Race Recap
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Race 27 of 36 – 400.5 miles, 267 laps
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, MARTIN TRUEX JR
2nd, Kevin Harvick*
3rd, Brad Keselowski*
4th, Chase Elliott*
5th, Ryan Blaney*
15th, DENNY HAMLIN
19th, MARTIN TRUEX JR.
21st, MATT DiBENEDETTO
36th, ERIK JONES
39th, JOEY GASE
• Truex earned his second career win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and 24th victory of his career.
• Joe Gibbs Racing have won 14 of the 27 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races this season.
• Truex Jr. takes over the points lead.
MARTIN TRUEX Jr., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
Three of the last four Playoff openers he’s able to do it. What did you tell me earlier this week? We don’t have the magic. Is the magic back now?
“It was today. That’s for sure. We took a gamble this weekend. Thanks to everybody back at the shop that makes this happen: Toyota, TRD, all the guys, Todd (Berrier, Director of Fabrication) and all the guys back there that build these cars. We took a gamble, qualified 24th. For a while, it wasn’t looking too smart with the 4 (Kevin Harvick) out front. Got the right adjustments in the end. Had a great car all day long. Thanks to Toyota, TRD, Auto Owners, everyone who makes this happen for us. Hell of a way to make a championship run. Get some good bonus points, move on to the next round, see what we can do there.”
You gave the credit to Cole Pearn, your crew chief. You said, You gave me exactly what I needed.
“That run before when the 4 (Kevin Harvick) was running away from us, we got too loose. I just had to baby it for too long. The last five laps of the run, we started to equal out to him. I just said, You got to tighten me up some more so I could hustle. At the end I was able to hustle all the way to the checkered and get to the end.”
I think everyone expected you to be in the next round. How big, though, to punch your ticket first race in?
“It takes the pressure off, for sure. Biggest thing is just more Playoff points. Just next two weeks, we can try to get even more of those. That’s huge. I mean, any Playoff points you get are going to help you get to Homestead. I felt like after Charlotte we’d run good here. This package has been so tricky to figure out, you never know. Cole and the guys worked really hard this week to come here with something different. We took a bit of a gamble. But it worked out. Thanks to Bass Pro, Toyota, TRD, everybody back in the shop, everybody on this team. Everybody has been working hard. Say hi to Sherry (Pollex) back home. I’m out of breath; it’s little hot out there.”
Stage 2, Martin, you restarted 18th. You came back and drove through the field and won.
“It was a lot of fun tonight, and anytime you get a car like that you have fun. But we did have our challenges. It wasn’t easy for sure; we had to go to the back that one time for a pit road deal and work our way back to the front and then our car got off, and we lost some spots on that one run and luckily, we got a caution and was able to come in and fix it. We just had to do all the little things right. We went back and forth loose-tight, loose-tight and we just hit it right on that last run. I think the 4 (Kevin Harvick) missed it a little. It was so easy to do tonight. You’d be good one run and sideways the next and you couldn’t go anywhere. Then you’d be good; it was just back and forth. We hit it right when we needed. The 4 was really strong, but we took a gamble to have extra downforce and qualify 24th and it paid off tonight.”
At one point in the final stage, Harvick was pulling away. At that point, what did it feel like and what made the difference?
“At that point, we were pretty good, and then five laps later, we got too loose and that was why he was able to drive away. That whole second-to-last run, I was babying it, trying to save the right rear to like the last five laps of that run. Then, we started being a little bit faster than him. I told Cole (Pearn, crew chief) if you tighten me up, we can get him. He got the car perfect, and I was able to hustle the car there at the end and get the lead and drive away.”
You move to the next round with the win.
“These next two weeks are all about bonus points. This is big today to get six. Those are really important to get to Homestead.”
COLE PEARN, crew chief, No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How did you turn things around in the race today?
“We felt good about it. People don’t always know what they’re talking about. The guys did a great job. We’ve never gone day to night here so that was kind of a wild card. Those guys that were more trimmed out, their car was really strong there after the one restart, but we were fortunate enough to not get any cautions and get long runs and that’s what we needed. Martin (Truex Jr.) did a great job taking care of it and managing tires. The pit crew came together. It was a little rocky early on. Just had to settle their nerves and then they had some really fast stops that really helped us close on the 4 (Kevin Harvick) on that last stop so they were huge.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 15th
It was a handful for Denny Hamlin today. He winds up 15th. At times, I would describe the car as evil. How would you describe it?
“Yeah, very much so. It seemed like we were gaining on it as the sun was out, and as soon as the sun went down – we battled with the 12 (Ryan Blaney) and it looked like we got a little damage to the nose. We took two (tires); we were a little tight anyway and the car just took off. It felt like I had a hole in the nose – a big hole. But I don’t see anything there. Certainly, not as good there at the end as we were expecting. Something is out of whack. All of a sudden, in one run the car went backwards. We will figure it out and go to Richmond and try to clinch our spot there.”
ERIK JONES, No. 20 CRAFTSMAN Gas Monkey Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 36th
First off, you said over the radio that it was stuck in second gear. Any idea on how it happened?
“Yeah, we had an issue with the throttle sticking the run before. I think it got stuck wide open when I was trying to shift to third, and obviously, you can’t shift wide open or else it’s going to jam it in the rails. The rails got jammed there in the shifter on the actual transmission and we couldn’t get it on pit road. You had to take the shifter boot off, and get in there and fix it from the top side. Had to fix it. Just unfortunate.”
Your car was still really fast.
“Yeah, I think we had one of the better cars out there. We were 30 laps farther on tires than a lot of guys and running just as fast if not faster. It’s a bummer. I think we could have run top three. I don’t know. I didn’t race up there with those guys; we broke before the second stage even got going really. 25 points out; we just have to focus and run well the next two.”
Does that make one of the next two a must win?
“No. I think we can still get in on points. The gap is not too big to climb out of. We need to run well, no worse than top-fives the next two weeks if we don’t win. I think Richmond’s our shot to win; the Roval is kind of a wildcard for us – a tougher one to win. We have to push hard. We can’t outdo ourselves and beat outselves, but we definitely have to race hard.”
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