For most of Saturday, Martin Truex Jr., worked himself into a solid position to capture his first Sprint Cup Series race since 2013.
But when the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway spilled into Sunday for the final few laps after a 2 hour, 17-minute rain delay, Truex had lost his opportunity.
Truex finished ninth on a night when he led 95 of the 267 laps. Winner Jimmie Johnson led for 10.
The critical moment occurred after Ricky Stenhouse Jr., banged into the wall with 12 laps remaining, bringing out a caution.
Truex pitted for a splash of gas but not right side tires.
“I hate when it comes down to fuel mileage, it always seems like we get the wrong end of that,” Truex said.
The decision Truex regretted was not taking tires during that stop.
“We probably should have stayed out or taken took new tires,” Truex said. “We probably did the worst thing you could have done because we ended up being the last guy with no (new) tires.
“Everybody else behind us had two and they ate us up on the restart.”
With new tires, Truex believed he’d have emerged sixth and in great shape for a charge. Instead, he slipped.
“Sometimes you don’t always make the right call,” Truex said. “Sometimes the circumstances don’t play out the way you think.”
Truex took the lead five different times and ran in the top five the entire race until the final restart. The rain delay didn’t bother him.
“Everybody kept asking me in the rain delay how much pressure are you putting on yourself to win, but’s a long race,” Truex said. “But it comes down to the end.”
Truex has been strong all year with two top five and ten top 10 finishes. A second place at Las Vegas was his best result this season, and he believes victory is near.
“We had good speed all weekend,” Truex said. “We brought a new car here and I felt like we gained on speed.”
He entered the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 second in the points standing and remains there, although Johnson closed the gap with is victory.
This outcome continued his good news/bad news narrative at Kansas.
Truex has run as well here as any. He finished second in both races in 2012 and picked up a fourth in 2013.
In 2014, Truex hooked on with the single-car No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet team, and struggled to a 24th place finish in the Sprint Cup standings with a fourth-place finish at Kansas his only one in the top five.
“It’s been a good track because we’ve run well,” Truex said. “I’ve finished second here when we didn’t have a second-place car.
“Tonight, I probably had one of the three best cars and finished ninth. Anything can happen.”