Sep 22, 2013, 9:27 PM EDT
It would’ve made for a strange, surreal scene in Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway had Martin Truex Jr.‘s car not gone away from him in the final stages of today’s Sylvania 300.
Truex and his entire No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing squad are staring at an uncertain future beyond the conclusion of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series campaign thanks to the departure of main sponsor NAPA Auto Parts.
For all of them, that blow hurts just as much, if not more so, than Truex getting knocked out of the Chase for the Sprint Cup following NASCAR’s penalties against MWR for manipulating the Sept. 7 event at Richmond International Raceway.
So to see Truex run as strong as he did for much of the race this afternoon must have pleased those that believe he has been the “victim” in one of NASCAR’s most controversial sagas to date.
Truex was especially quick in the first half of the running, leading 98 laps in the early going. He would lose the lead to eventual winner Matt Kenseth at Lap 153, but was able to stay in the Top 5 as the race’s conclusion drew closer.
Unfortunately for Truex, his Toyota’s already tight condition worsened as clouds began to blanket NHMS for the end of what had been a sunny affair. He took the final restart of the day in fifth position, but was unable to hang on and began sliding back.
“It’s unfortunate,” Truex said to ESPN after the race. “The guys did a good job all weekend. We’ve really struggled here the past few times and obviously, we have made some huge gains in the right direction. It’s just that we weren’t good enough at the end when it counted.”
Still, Truex and the No. 56 team certainly let ‘em know they were there and in the mix this afternoon at New Hampshire. It may only be a momentary relief from the controversy that has plagued them in the last two weeks, but it was something good.
And after all the chaos they’ve had to endure, they’ll take it and move on to Dover next weekend.