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Martin Truex Jr. laments woes on pit road in Southern 500


during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on September 2, 2018 in Darlington, South Carolina.

Sarah Crabill

DARLINGTON, S.C. — With one race until the playoffs begin, Martin Truex Jr. sounded a warning to his team after an up-and-down night in the Southern 500.

“It’s really disappointing to have a car that good to be up front and have that many troubles on pit road,” Truex said after an 11th-place finish Sunday night. “It’s pretty disappointing. We have to clean it up. Playoffs are coming. We do that in the playoffs and we’ll be out in the second round.”

Truex had a strong car — he led 30 laps and ran in the top three most of the first 165 laps — but his fate changed when he was called for an uncontrolled tire penalty.

Replay showed that after the front tire changer placed the tire to his right and completed his work, he ran to the left side of the car. The right tire was out of arm’s reach of any other crew member at that point.

Section of the Cup Rule Book states that “a crew member must remain within arm’s reach and moving in the same direction as the tire/wheel when removing the tire/wheel from the outside half of the pit box.”

After serving the penalty, Truex was two laps down and running 20th.

He was the first car a lap down and in position to get his lap back when the second stage ended on Lap 200, but leader Kyle Larson nipped Austin Dillon at the line to end the stage. That made Dillon the first car a lap down and eligible to get his lap back.

With about 100 laps to go, Truex reported that he thought he had a loose wheel. He was running 15th at the time, the second car a lap down and didn’t want to pit to lose the chance to get his lap back. He eventually pitted about 20 laps later.

Truex didn’t get back on the lead lap until a caution for Jeffrey Earnhardt’s incident on Lap 345. It took Truex 175 laps — nearly half the race — to get back on the lead lap.

Sunday’s result leaves Truex third in the points.