It happened again. Leading up to the postponed NASCAR Sprint Cup Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway Monday, Martin Truex Jr. seemed to be the driver to beat. He led all three of the qualifying sessions Friday and won his first career pole at Pocono Raceway.
The race was delayed, as it was in June, by rain until Monday. The race endured another delay but finally saw the green flag about an hour later than the original, rescheduled 11:00 a.m. ET start time. Truex took the lead early and held it until the race’s first caution, a competition caution called by NASCAR on lap 16. After a two tire pit stop, Truex was forced to start behind Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski who had stayed out and occupied the top two spots.
While racing back to the front on the first green flag lap, disaster struck. The right front tire on the Truex car blew at turn 2 sending the car into the wall. Truex was able to limp back to the pits and only lost one lap, but restarted, after the caution for the crash, in 39th. A lap later, he lost another tire and while he avoided the wall, was forced to the garage for more repairs. After repairs, Truex returned to the race many laps down. Truex came back out but on lap 100 again lost a tire and his day was done. He was scored 38th.
Truex and his team have had their share of bad luck through the years, especially in the pits. Monday was yet another example of that.
“A lug nut bounced off the ground, fell in behind the wheel behind a pit stop,” Truex said. “It’s just bad luck honestly. I knew something wasn’t right in (turn) one and two and I got real tight off of (turn) two on that restart and went down the back and was like, ‘Ah, it feels okay.’ And, as I got closer to the tunnel turn I felt it start to go down and by the time I let off and tried to slow down it was just going straight for the fence.”
When the team is good they can be very good. Truex won the race at Charlotte in May with the same car he crashed on Monday. In the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, he led nearly every lap. Truex also scored an emotional win at Pocono last June. However, Monday’s issue mirrored one that happened at Pocono this past June. In that June race, Truex lost a right rear tire when a flying lug nut got stuck behind the wheel and took off the inner valve stem. The flying lug nut Monday sheared off the inner valve stem on the right front tire.
“I think it’s weird to have a lug nut get stuck behind a wheel, but even more weird that it happened both times at Pocono this season,” Truex said. “I don’t have an explanation. I’m just calling it bad luck.”