Dead serious: Martin Truex Jr. lost the NASCAR Cup championship because his pit crew put his tires on backward

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November 18, 2019 05:24 PM

Dead serious: Martin Truex Jr. lost the NASCAR Cup championship because his pit crew put his tires on backward

Tire mistake in the pits put Truex a lap down after a dominant first half of the race.

Matt Weaver

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Martin Truex Jr. finished second in the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings behind champion Kyle Busch.

Martin Truex Jr. looked every bit like the NASCAR Cup Series championship race favorite in the first half of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway before his campaign derailed in the most spectacular fashion imaginable.
During a decisive pit stop during the middle stages of the race, the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing over-the-wall crew got the right front and left front tires mixed-up and bolted them on that way, forcing the 2017 champion to immediately return to his box to rectify the mistake.
This trapped Truex a lap down, with the No. 19 team only returning to the lead lap thanks to a well-timed caution. Truex was able to rally in the second half to finish second to teammate and champion Kyle Busch but was largely left to wonder what could have been.
“When things like that happen all you can do is do your best. Just try to forget about it and make it up,” Truex said. “We got most of the way back there, just not quite all of the way. It’s unfortunate. I thought we were going to be OK, and then the start of the third stage I had to restart third and I wish I would’ve let Denny (Hamlin) beat me off of the pit road restart and restart fourth.

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“I felt like if we could’ve got by him there, we would’ve had a shot at it. I just got blitzed on the outside by a few guys there on the restart with (Erik Jones) and (Joey Logano) and those guys. I had to race them so hard it hurt my right-front tire and then that whole run I just faded and got tight and lost all of my track position.
“At the end, we were way faster but just too much ground to make up. Unfortunate, but that’s the way it goes. We tried hard, we had a hell of a season and congrats to the 18 bunch.”
Truex led 98 of the first 120 laps before that ill-fated pit stop.
The driver was notified as soon as he left pit road, as crew chief Cole Pearn radioed to his driver: “I think we got the tires switched. Bring it back to me.” Pearn said he realized it based on how the car drove on pit exit.

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The driver said he felt it, too.
“Yeah, I’ve never had that happen,” Truex said. “No. No. I don’t even know what to say. It doesn’t drive good with the left-front on the right-front, though, I can tell you that. It’s very tight.”
In an interview with NASCAR.com, No. 19 team tire specialist Tommy DiBlasi said the team hadn’t changed from their race day procedures all year.
“I’m not sure,” DiBlasi told NASCAR.com. “We had them laid out the same way we always have them laid out, and the tire carrier picks up the two tires that he goes over the wall with, and I guess he just accidentally grabbed the wrong one. It’s all that was. We were coming in to pit, turned around, grabbed two, went over the wall and as soon as the jack dropped, we saw that it said right-rear on the left-front, so it is what it is. People make mistakes, I guess.”

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The lack of track position, one subpar restart and the changing track conditions just sank Truex once he got back inside the top five.
“I think we were still really good, I just think everybody got a little bit better,” Pearn said. “They were struggling a bit more in the daytime than what we were, so yeah, we got a little bit tight there that last run. Should’ve maybe adjusted it more for that, but I don’t know. Hindsight’s 20/20.”

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Source:https://autoweek.com/article/monster-energy-nascar-cup/dead-serious-martin-truex-jr-lost-nascar-cup-championship-because

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