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Truex Plays Single Stop Strategy in Stage 2, Gets Top 10 at Richmond

Martin Truex Jr. brings home another top-10 at Richmond. (Photo: Mitchell Richtmyre | The Podium Finish)

RICHMOND, Va. – A game of strategy is always a risk in NASCAR. Some struggled to capitalize on an unorthodox game plan while Martin Truex Jr.’s crew succeeded.

During Sunday’s Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway, the three-time track winner salvaged a seventh-place finish on an afternoon that only saw three cautions. Thus, crews had to flesh out unique plans for their drivers, and the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing crew was no exception.

The popular and wise decision was doing a two-stop strategy in the second stage. Others felt a single stop was probable to have any net gain on the leaders.

As drivers like RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher, Brad Keselowski and 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick led the way, Truex struggled early on. It started on the opening lap when he made contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Truex sunk down the running order and battled to stay on the lead lap in Stage 1.

When it came down to it, the No. 19 crew led by crew chief James Small had to make a brash decision if they were going to be in the mix for a top-10 in the second stage. He decided to have his driver stay out as long as possible and have Truex conserve his tires in Stage 2.

However, Truex wasn’t alone as Michael McDowell also tried a similar strategy as both hope to stay on the lead lap. Indeed, it also had its perks of being on top of the leaderboard. Being up front wasn’t going to last, but the tale turned to nothing short of brilliant conservation.

While McDowell fell outside the top 20 and ended a lap behind the leaders, Truex found a way to save his tires and racked up three stage points. That came while he dealt with radio problems, which had him irritated on what was at that point a day of rallying.

“Good job by the guys to do what they did to come up with that strategy. I was flipping out because I didn’t know what was going on,” Truex said. “I couldn’t hear James again on the radio. Just really a hard-fought, battle of a day for our Bass Pro Shops Camry.”

Truex pitted only once in Stage 2 at Richmond. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

The well-orchestrated strategy and superb driving by Truex proved to be the confidence booster the No. 19 team needed going forward. Not only they stayed on the lead lap, but when the checkered flag waved, Truex wound up scoring his 10th Richmond top-10 in the last 11 races.

Additionally, Truex ended up leading 18 of 400 laps in a large part from the pit strategy.

“It was tough – honestly, the whole day was tough,” Truex said. “This place is never easy, but I felt like as loose as we were all day, that was a handful. It was so on edge. It was really, really difficult to drive and make two laps the same. We just really had to battle.”

Finishing seventh wasn’t necessarily what the team had hoped as Truex was running fifth before Noah Gragson turned Daniel Suarez around on Lap 391. That ultimately hurt Truex’s odds of an even better result as the No. 19 Toyota Camry struggled on the short runs as the 400-lap race came down to a three-lap shootout, won by Buescher.

“I thought we were probably going to run fifth there without the caution,” Truex said. “We were just so bad on the short runs today, for whatever reason, just luckily only lost two spots there at the end. All-in-all, a decent day, but man, it was tough.”

To add to the madness, Truex and the other 35 drivers endured scorching conditions that wore out the field. After the race, Truex was spent — hurt shoulders, sunburnt and all. Showcasing that throughout 400 laps in late July is no joke at the 0.75-mile oval.

“It was tough. It was definitely really, really hot. It felt longer than 400 laps. I’ll be honest when we got to the end of Stage 2 – I thought there was no way. I thought that was the checkered flag,” Truex joked. “It just felt really, really long. My face felt hot because of the helmet blower, it sucks cool air from the outside – and it just felt like a hair dryer. My cheek feels like it’s sunburned. It’s very, very hot, but it is what it is. We hung on.

“My shoulder hurts more than anything just from how loose I was all day. I’ll work that out, but the heat wasn’t too bad other than on my face.”

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR and INDYCAR. Content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going. On the side, I also do sports production ranging from Seattle Kraken hockey to the 2023 NCAA Women's March Madness. All for the love of the game. With four National Motorsports Press Association photography awards, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to HAIM. At times, there might be some Paul Thomas Anderson and Southern California references in my social media.

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