Martin Truex Jr.’s heartbreak at Kansas Speedway continued on Saturday night in the Go Bowling 400.
Truex, the pole-sitter, dominated the first 200 laps, creating enormous gaps between his No. 78 Toyota and the rest of the field, before he had to extend a pit stop because of an overheating lug nut with 51 laps to go.
That dropped him off the lead lap and continued Truex’s miseries at Kansas, where he led 172 laps on Saturday but had to settle for a 14th-place finish.
“It (stinks),” said Truex, who broke into a laugh because it hurt too much to cry.
“It’s no fun to lead all those laps and finish 14th. It’s hard when you give them away like that. It’s hard to get cars that good in this series. We’ll keep trying. That’s all we can do. It’s a team sport. You win and lose as a team. There was nothing our guys did wrong.”
Truex had come in for the final green-flag pit stop, but when he began to exit his stall, he could feel a vibration and knew he had to re-pit. The lug nuts were tight, but the wheel was on crooked because there something jammed behind it, Truex said.
“As soon as I left the pit box, it was shaking,” Truex said. “I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ I couldn’t believe it. You always know there’s a possibility of those kinds of things happening. You hope they’re earlier in the race so you can overcome them. We certainly had a car that was fast enough that you could overcome it if it was earlier. We ran out of time at the end.”
The disappointment was especially deflating for Truex’s single-car Furniture Row Racing team, which is based in Denver. As the only Sprint Car organization not based in North Carolina, the No. 78 team considers Kansas Speedway its home track.
But the team shouldn’t have been surprised.
Truex’s season began with a numbing 0.01-second loss to Denny Hamlin in the Daytona 500, the closest margin of victory in any Sprint Cup that electronic scoring was implemented in 1993.
And Truex’s run of bad luck at Kansas Speedway dates to 2012 when he finished second in both races. In the April 2012 race, Truex led a race-high 173 laps before losing down the stretch to Hamlin by 0.70 of a second. In the fall race, he couldn’t catch Brad Keselowski and trailed by 0.49 of a second at the checkered flag.
Still, Truex, who made it to the Championship Four of the Chase last season, has faith in his team.
“We’re going to be fine, and we’re going to win some races,” Truex said. “Whether we win four or one before the Chase, it really doesn’t matter. We won one last year and made it to the final four.
“That was just plain old bad luck. That’s all you can say about it. It’s frustrating because it’s happened to me so many times, but that’s the hand I was dealt, and you have to deal with it.”