Updated: April 15, 2013, 11:26 AM ET

The Rundown: Nationwide Series

Sprint Cup: You have to respect Truex Jr.

By Ed Hinton | ESPN.com

No matter who you are, or who your favorite driver is, Martin Truex Jr. has earned at least a little place in your heart.

Going into next Sunday at Kansas Speedway, Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards' status as local boys notwithstanding, the sentimental favorite has to be the Jersey boy with the odd touch of Southern accent.

How many times, since his one and only Cup win, at Dover, on the Monday NASCAR czar Bill France Jr. died in June of 2007, have we seen Truex stand sorely disappointed on the pit road, accommodating TV reporters with a gutsy kind of class, calm and dignity?

That's how it went again Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway after Truex had been breezing up front, with little worry about Kyle Busch, until the final caution flew with just 21 laps to go.

Truex Jr/Busch
Sean Gardner/Getty ImagesMartin Truex Jr. came into the final pit stop ahead of Kyle Busch, but came out of it behind.

The leaders pitted, and it wasn't that Truex's crew had a bad stop, it was that Busch's crew had a superb one. Busch got out first, and is of course the master of restarts, and so jumped into the lead when the green flew with 16 to go, and you know how it goes with the guy who has the clean air, all alone, up front.

While the inimitable TMS promoter Eddie Gossage was presenting Busch with a custom broom in Victory Lane, signifying Busch's sweep of both the Nationwide and Cup events for the weekend at Texas, there stood Truex on the pit road again, summoning a smile and all that dignity again.

Truex would have none of a reporter's suggestion of what might have been, had that last caution not come out.

"Shoulda, coulda, woulda -- you know?" Truex replied. "It happened a few times to us last year, too."

Twice last year it happened to him at Kansas, where he dominated in the spring before losing to Denny Hamlin, and then finished second to Matt Kenseth in the fall.

In the six years since his Dover win, he has been so close so many times that the broadcasters in the booths can recite his disappointments by heart, making preparations for perhaps a break-through win and a feel-good story.

But it hasn't happened, 210 times in the nearly six years since Dover '07.

Saturday night, it was the same old story on an intermediate track, in that "The guy who gets the clean air is hard to catch in 10 laps," Truex said, although he'd actually tried for 15-plus after Busch broke away on the restart. "I was a little tight behind Kyle. I started catching him as we were running. Just out of time. The race was over in the pits."

Someone asked wheter this one felt like Kansas last year.

"Actually, it felt more like Atlanta," his heart almost like a computer file of the details of his disappointments. "We got beat out of the pits there and we were leading the race. We had a five-, six-second lead, everybody pitted, we came in first and went out second, and that was the race, just like it was tonight.

"So frustrating."

Back in the 1980s, when Harry Gant had become the most celebrated bridesmaid in NASCAR -- although Gant wasn't the kind of guy you'd call a bridesmaid to his face -- his team owner, the irascible Hollywood stuntman and producer Hal Needham, claimed tongue-in-cheek that there were standing team orders: If Gant found himself leading near a finish, he was to pull over and let someone else win, to continue the steady stream of second-place publicity for the Skoal Bandit outfit.

Truex's team owner, Michael Waltrip, would never even joke about such a thing with his driver. He knows it hurts too bad, and how gutsy Truex has been about it.

So next Sunday, watching the Kansas race, no matter who you are or who your favorite driver is, consider the blue and yellow No. 56, and all that heartbreak. And all that class.

Kyle Busch Wins At Texas