Truex wins two stages, but bad luck denies him the big prize
Martin Truex Jr. thought he had used up all of his bad luck - until he found himself on the wrong side of a caution on Sunday at Dover International Speedway.
Truex led 102 laps at his home track in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism and fought Kyle Larson for the top spot throughout the afternoon. But Truex brought his No. 78 Furniture Row racing Toyota to pit road on Lap 325 - and paid the price through no fault of his own.
Eventual winner Jimmie Johnson stayed on the track hoping for a caution and got one on Lap 330 when Regan Smith's Ford slammed into the Turn 2 wall. The caution temporarily put Truex a lap down, but he took a wave-around after Johnson led the cars that still needed service to pit road on Lap 332.
Truex was mired in traffic at that point and fought his way back to third, but couldn't make progress from the second row on an overtime restart before the race ended abruptly with a wreck on the backstretch froze the field with Johnson in the lead, Larson second and Truex third.
It wasn't an empty day for Truex, however. He won both the first and second 120-lap stages and increased his series-leading playoff point total to 18.
"For us, the ending of the race was really all about trying to pass cars and get back to the front where we'd been all day long," Truex said. "We got caught on that caution there with, I don't know, 60 or so laps to go and we pitted. Caution came out, got trapped a lap down, had to do the wave around and then drive up through the field from the back.
"Definitely proud of our finish today. I thought we definitely had a shot at the win until that happened, and after we were kind of playing catch up. At a place that's really difficult to pass, we had to come from about 15th to get to third. Definitely proud of the run, proud of the effort and the car the guys brought here today. Wish we could have had a little better shot at it towards the end there, but all in all, third is a decent day with two stage wins."
FOR A CHANGE, FORTUNE SMILES ON DANICA PATRICK
In the first half of Sunday's AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway, Danica Patrick bounced off the wall, lost a lap and was hanging out near 25th place in the running order.
Then her day got a lot better.
With her car not severely damaged by contact with the outside wall on Lap 146, Patrick got her lap back as the "lucky dog" under caution for Landon Cassill's accident on lap 218. And Patrick was one of a handful of drivers still on the track when a Lap 330 caution trapped most of the front-runners a lap down.
Patrick avoided the overtime wreck that ended the race and finished 10th, her first top 10 of the season.
"A good day for us," Patrick said. "We got a bit lucky with staying out at the right time and catching the yellow flags. It's the stuff that hasn't been happening for us all year, and it's just nice to catch some breaks today.
"We weren't the fastest car today, not sure we were a top-10 car. A lot of times we have been a 10th-place car and weren't able to get the finish we needed. I'll take the lucky days anytime, I can because there have been plenty of times where it went the other way."
Tire management was an issue for Patrick, as it was for all teams, with the allotment down one set from last year.
"We put scuffs on two or three times on pit stops," Patrick said. "It was an issue, but we saw that all weekend, a lot of yellows. We survived and caught the right breaks when we did. I'll take it."
TY DILLON ENJOYED HIS STINT AT THE FRONT
Ty Dillon made full use of divergent pit strategies to take the lead in Sunday's AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway.
When most of the contending cars came to pit road under caution on Lap 332, Dillon kept his no. 13 Germain Racing Chevrolet on the track, along with the affiliated Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Ryan Newman.
After taking the green flag in the lead on a Lap 339 restart, Dillon stayed out front for 27 circuits, conjuring the prospect of a Dillon brother in Victory Lane for the second straight week (with brother Austin Dillon having won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte last Sunday).
Eventually, however, Dillon succumbed to stronger cars, and his race ended in a 10-car pileup on the backstretch on the first lap of overtime. Credited with 14th, Dillon was elated by his run.
"First of all, I'm really proud of our Germain Racing team," Dillon said. "I can't thank (owner) Bob Germain enough for giving me the opportunity to come out here and race with these guys. It's a lifelong dream. To lead laps like that meant a lot to me. We had to restart fourth on old tires (in overtime), and I just think the air off the No. 31 (Newman) got me a little loose and they left a bunch of sand there off Turn 2 and as soon as I got loose and hit that sand it was all over.
"I feel bad for all the cars that got torn up. But, really, I don't really know what the No. 31 or myself could have done any different to stay out of that crash. Proud of our effort today. We proved to ourselves as a team that we can run up front with the big boys."
--- By Reid Spencer / NASCAR Wire Service ---