Martin Truex Jr. comes up short of title once again

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 07: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 07, 2021 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Second place in a championship race is familiar territory for Martin Truex Jr. the 2017 Cup champion finished second in the title races at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2018 and 2019.

You can now add 2021 to that list.

Truex led 72 laps at Phoenix Sunday, many of those came as the result of a well-timed caution.

Chase Elliott and eventual winner Kyle Larson had dominated much of the day at a track and with a package that loves clean air. On lap 247 Truex was the first championship driver to pit under green.

Moments later Anthony Alfredo crashed on the backstretch; Truex was rolling off pit road as the caution was coming out and he cycled to the lead when the green came out to start lap 254.

He seemed firmly in control with another caution ended his hopes. The yellow flag came out for debris from the car of David Starr on lap 283 erasing the lead for Truex.

The leaders pitted and with their second fastest stop of the season, combined with their pit stall position, Larson was able to come out in the lead and never looked back winning his 10th race of the season and his first Cup title by .398 of a second over Truex.

“In our case it wasn’t a pit stall, we just had a slow stop,” Truex said.

“Track position was tough. Seemed like whoever was out front could drive away for 30, 40 laps and then you’d kind of race from there on until the end of the run. It seemed like we were pretty good.

“We did everything we needed to. We got a lucky break there with the caution when we pitted and got us the lead, and we were driving off into the sunset.”

Truex now has the dubious distinction of finishing second three times in a championship race.

“That’s three times we’ve been second, and that sucks,” he said. “Second hurts I’m not going to lie, especially with the car we had and the job the guys did.

“That’s racing, as they say, and sometimes you’re just not on the right end of things. We were on the right end to things to get the lead there and weren’t able to hold on to it. If we could have had the lead, I think it would have been over, but that’s kind of how the 5 did it, too. So they had a hell of a season and congrats to them.”