FORT WORTH, Texas – Martin Truex Jr.’s reign as the master of 1.5-mile race tracks in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series hit its first roadblock in more than a year Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
After carrying a string of 13 consecutive top-10 finishes on 1.5-mile ovals in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, Truex saw his impressive streak come to an end when his right-front tire blew out in turn four, sending his car into the outside wall at full throttle.
Truex was running second to leader Kevin Harvick at the time, sitting just over 11 seconds adrift of the top spot when the tire let go with five laps remaining in the first stage.
Despite the vicious hit, Truex emerged from the wrecked race car under his own power and was checked and released from the infield care center.
“We just blew a right-front tire out of nowhere,” said Truex. “I’m not sure what happened there, whether we ran something over or what. The first set of tires that came off the car looked great. We were just making our way towards the front. I think we were second when we blew the tire there. It would’ve been nice to have at least finished that first stage before it happened, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
Truex added that while he didn’t have an explanation for the tire failure, he felt that Sunday’s race pace seemed greater than usual due to how much grip the track had because of unseasonably cool temperatures.
“The speeds were really fast here with the cool temperatures, and I don’t know if that had something to do with it or not, but we’ll just have to go back and evaluate that,” he noted. “All in all, we were going to be in for a good day. We were making the car better and still had room to go. We were as fast as anybody. At least that’s a positive and we’ll go on to next week and see what we can do (at Bristol).”
Sunday marked Truex’s first DNF since Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last fall and his first DNF on a 1.5-mile track since the 2016 season finale at Florida’s Homestead-Miami Speedway.
A year ago, Truex won a series-high seven races on 1.5-mile tracks.
Kyle Larson suffered a similar right-front tire failure during the second stage, with his car pounding the outside wall in turn two before bursting into flames as it rolled to a stop.
That incident occurred halfway through the second stage of Sunday’s race. Larson was running fourth when the tire blew on lap 127 of 334.
Larson was uninjured in the incident.
“I’m OK, said Larson. “Thanks to NASCAR and their safety (innovations), because that was a huge hit.”
“Just unfortunate that we blew a right-front tire there,” Larson added. “I was pretty tight on that run, but I didn’t really expect to blow a tire like that. We restarted up front right there, and then it was just really tight for a few laps before I finally got going pretty good. I needed to get by Joey (Logano, third at the time), but I felt like I was one of the faster cars out there. I think we could have had a shot, but it wasn’t meant to be today.”