Truex stays positive after disappointing Kansas race

Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr.

DOVER — If leading laps were all that mattered, Martin Truex Jr. had a pretty good day last Saturday.

After all, he was out front for 172 laps in the Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Unfortunately for Truex, winning is still the biggest goal.

And despite having as fast a car as anybody on the track, he finished just 14th after having problems with a loose wheel.

But as the NASCAR world arrived at Dover International Speedway on Friday, Truex was going with the glass-is-half-full approach.

“It’s a lot easier than if you weren’t fast and let one slip away,” he said. “It’s definitely easier when you’re running good and you feel like every time you show up at the race track there’s an opportunity — you can get up there and lead some laps and have a shot at winning. It definitely helps.”

Not surprisingly, Truex was in a better mood Friday than he was in as soon as Saturday’s race ended. His 172 laps led came in the first 211 laps of the event.

“It sucks. I don’t know what you want me to say,” Truex told reporters in Kansas. “It’s not fun to lead all those laps and come up 14th. I wish the race was longer. We were hunting them down quick at the end.”

Certainly, just coming to Dover helps put Truex in a better mood.

The Mayetta, N.J. native considers the Monster Mile his home track. So whether the racing gods owe Truex one or or not, he figures to be a top contender again in Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism.

His victory in the 2007 Dover spring race was the first of his Sprint Cup career.

“A lot of friends and family come to this race, so it’s always neat to see them,” said Truex. “Most importantly, I love the race track. Our cars have been fast this year and I’m looking forward to hopefully going back to victory lane, that’s what it’s all about, that’s what we’re here for. I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”

No one would blame Truex if he felt especially snakebitten after what happened at Kansas.

While returning to the track after a mid-race pitstop, Truex felt vibration in one of his wheels and came right back in.

A screw on the wheel had broken in half. Rather than fall to the ground, the head of the screw got wedged in, causing the vibration.

It was such a flukey mishap that Truex was still shaking his head on Friday.

“They really went through it all and figured out exactly what had happened and how it happened,” he said. “It’s funny, they really tried to replicate that screw falling in that position in the shop. Every time they tried it, it would just fall out and fall on the ground.

“It’s part of racing. It is what it is. Unfortunately it was just the perfect storm where we led the most laps and we looked like we had a really good chance to win the race. Just bad timing I guess.”

With rain washing out qualifying on Friday, Truex will start seventh in Sunday’s race based on his practice time. That’s better than his average starting spot of 12.2 so far this season.

Of course, Truex is a little more concerned about where he finishes. He hopes that the Monster Mile can help change his luck.

“Dover is still Dover,” said Truex. “It’s like going to Bristol — it’s one of those places that you always fight the same problems. You really always approach it the same way and it takes kind of a different driving style to get around it than most tracks you go to.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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