Truex sacrifices stage win for chance to win race

Martin Truex Jr. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

LONG POND, Pa. – On Lap 96 of Sunday’s Overton’s 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway, Martin Truex Jr. brought his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota to pit road – giving up the lead just four laps away from what would have been his 15th stage win of the season.

It was a case of long-range thinking by Truex and his crew chief, Cole Pearn. The idea was to set up a race-winning strategy by pitting early and regaining track position when those who stayed out for the stage points pitted under caution at the end of the stage.

But Truex lost the lead to Kevin Harvick in traffic and never regained it. After Kyle Busch stormed through the field on fresher tires to win the race, Truex arrived at the finish line in third place.

“The thought there was, if we didn’t pit there, we probably weren’t going to have a shot at winning the race,” Truex said. “That was the gamble. That was our mind-set before the race. We figured if we felt like we were good enough to possibly win the race, we’d have to pit before the end of that second stage.

“Just stuck to our plan. That’s kind of what we talked about before the race, hoping to get the overall win. It didn’t work out, so obviously now I wish we would have stayed out and won that stage.”

Truex already has 29 playoff points, 15 from his three race victories and 14 from the stages. Jimmie Johnson is second with 16 playoff points.