WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Confident in making the final 12 during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Watkins Glen International – based on a strong showing in Friday’s practice – Martin Truex Jr. waited until late in the first round of knockout qualifying to make his only run.
The plan went awry, however, when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. entered the track at the bottom of the esses when Truex was approaching that series of snaking turns. In avoiding Stenhouse’s No. 17 Ford, Truex lost valuable time and failed to advance to the final round.
“There is nothing wrong with trying to do it in one run if people on the race track were paying attention to what’s going on,” said Truex, who will start 14th in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen. “You’ve got somebody that just pulled out of the pits and sees you coming… literally, I don’t understand what the 17 was thinking. He was just leaving pit road and he wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense why he would’ve done what he did except for the fact that he just wasn’t paying attention. It’s a shame. We still almost made the second round. I don’t know what you can do about it. Our car is fabulous, and the guys have done a great job all weekend. Certainly hard to win from there, but it’s possible, and we won’t give up until the race is over.”
Truex got his revenge. As he was rolling on his cool-down lap, he blocked Stenhouse’s progress, again in the esses, relegating the No. 17 to a 30th-place qualifying effort.
“We got in the way of the 78 there on his lap, thinking that he was done, and then so he in turn returned the favor, which I expected,” Stenhouse said. “It’s nothing on him. We just did a bad job at qualifying there today.”