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Martin Truex Jr. seeks to put Auto Club frustrations behind him

NASCAR Cup Series FanShield 500 - Qualifying

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 07: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 07, 2020 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin both say they’ve reached an understanding after Truex expressed frustration with how his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate raced him last weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

Truex’s 14th-place day was filled with colorful language on the radio. He expressed frustration with multiple drivers, including Hamlin.

“I was more frustrated about him pinching me into the wall … and all but cut a right front tire down there and barely finished the race,” Truex said Saturday at Phoenix Raceway. “I was frustrated mostly about that, but we had a really good conversation about the package and what we expect of each other. I feel very comfortable racing with Denny. I always have. We talked some things over. I think there are some things we can do to help each other out a little bit more.”

Said Hamlin: “I think we both understand that 550 (horsepower) racing makes it extremely difficult to have teammates. A lot of times because it’s so cut throat in the way that you have to race out there. You’re trying to – you don’t want to give up any runs that you’ve got. It’s a lot like superspeedway racing in my eyes. When you get runs, you have to take them. You have to put yourself in the best line possible. I think we both understand that for sure. I definitely see his point of view and understand his frustrations that he had. I think it was a great conversation and I think we have a better understanding of kind of where each other are mentally in those situations moving forward.”

Truex also complained on the radio about teammate Erik Jones in last week’s race but said his frustration wasn’t as much with Jones.

“It’s just one of those things where I was frustrated about passing him once and coming out of the pits behind (him),” said Truex, who had not talked to Jones about last weekend. “It’s 550 (horsepower) racing. It’s very frustrating at times especially on the big tracks. You run a guy down and you pass him and you’re in the wrong lane on the straightaway and they push somebody by you. It’s just frustrating. I was more venting about the pit crew than anything Erik has ever done. He’s been a great teammate and a great guy to race with over the year.”

Truex also expressed displeasure on the radio with Joey Logano last weekend. Truex said Saturday that the Auto Club race was just one of those days for him.

“I think everybody gets aggravated from time to time and we all lose our cool,” he said. “I’d say I’m probably one of the most low key and even-keeled guys on the racetrack and I guess that’s maybe why when I lose my mind and flip out and get mad and have a bad day — we all have bad days — I get scrutinized for it I would say more than most.

“There are other guys that sound like that every weekend but you never hear about it. It’s one of those things. I feel stupid after a race like that when I lose my marbles and just get mad and aggravated and let the competition get under my skin.”

Looking to Sunday’s race, Truex knows he will face a challenge. He will start at the rear because of an engine change. It’s the second consecutive weekend he’s had to start at the rear. Three inspection failures forced him to start at the back last weekend.

“Hopefully, we can come out of here with a strong day (Sunday),” Truex said. “I wasn’t really happy with the car (Friday in practice)) but we made a lot of changes overnight and it felt much better (in qualifying Saturday).”