Truex regrets losing tire changers to suspension

BRISTOL, TN - APRIL 24: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota, pits along with others during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 24, 2017 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

LONG POND, Pa. – The ramifications of Martin Truex Jr.’s collision with Kyle Busch as the two drivers battled for the lead last Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, produced ramifications that extended well beyond the race.

After the wreck, which Truex triggered when his No. 78 Toyota got loose beneath Busch’s no. 18 Camry, Truex’s tire changers Chris Taylor (front) and Lee Cunningham (rear) were involved in a heated confrontation with Busch’s crew chief, Adam Stevens, who strode into the No. 78 pit area after receiving taunts from the rival crewmen.

Just one problem. The No. 78 crew is actually assembled by Joe Gibbs Racing (Busch’s team) and is outsourced to Furniture Row Racing (Truex’s team) as part of the alliance between the two Toyota organizations.

Team owner Joe Gibbs opted to suspend the two tire changers for three races each because they had initiated the controversy. The complication is that Truex is competing against Busch for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, and the suspensions could have a profound effect, Truex believes.

“It’s a tough situation for us to be in – there’s no doubt about that,” Truex told reporters after a FanFest appearance at Pocono Raceway on Friday night. “I’m obviously not happy about how it all went down. I’m disappointed that I made a mistake, and it got us kind of in this position. I guess it is what it is, and we’ll deal with it the best we can, and we’ll go forward.”

Making the suspensions all the more costly is the excellence of his crew.

“It’s a big impact when they’re two of the best out there,” Truex said. “Our pit crew has been amazing this year, putting us in position to win multiple races, not making mistakes – they’ve got everything. Those two guys are unbelievable, what they do. We’re obviously at a disadvantage without them.”

Truex hopes, however, that the altercation won’t have a negative effect on the strong working relationship between the two organizations.

“I hope not,” Truex said. “I don’t think so. Again, it’s unfortunate that the mistake I made on the race track caused all this stuff to blow up. I’m proud of our pit crew guys and what they’ve done this year and what they continue to do for us. And like I said, we’ll just get through the next couple weeks as best we can.”

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.