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Tuesday December 12th, 2017 7:11AM
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Truex runs third on a day that could have been better

By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service
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LOUDON, N.H. - For Coors Light Pole winner Martin Truex, Jr., Sunday’s Overton’s 301 had a similar feel to the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team’s dominating run last weekend at Kentucky—at least for a while.

Truex captured the first stage comfortably, increasing his series-best playoff points total to 29 and led the first 78 laps. But there the domination ended.

Divergent pit strategies put Truex deep in the field for the start of the second stage, and a flat right front tire forced him to pit out of sequence in the final stage. A poor restart from the bottom lane after the final caution cost him track position, and Truex couldn’t advance beyond third before the checkered flag.

The good news? Truex increased his lead in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings to 38 points over race runner-up Kyle Larson, who is second in points.

“We had a really good WIX Filters Toyota for most of the race and led a bunch of laps and then got that flat tire, kind of got off sequence,” Truex said. “Whatever happened there after lap 200 or so, I think the VHT (traction compound) was kind of wore off the track, and we started to lose our edge a little bit there. We still had a shot, but on the last restart we got the inside lane there, restarted third. It wasn’t the place to be, obviously.

“I think the 11 (race winner Denny Hamlin) started fourth, and that was really the place I would have liked to have been. And then we just didn’t get a good restart on the bottom and lost a couple spots and had to battle back and then just didn’t quite have the speed at the end of the race that we had the first 200 laps. All in all, it was a tough-fought day. We had to come from 24th at one point (at the start of the second stage), and just a hard-fought day, a good job by everybody and a solid third-place effort. Just didn’t have enough there at the end.”

Joey Logano Now Must Test His ‘Do-Or-Die’ Theory

Joey Logano is firm believer that his No. 22 Team Penske outfit is at its best with backs against the wall.

After Sunday’s Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Logano will have a chance to prove that premise.

A rear suspension failure sent Logano to the garage after 173 of 301 laps. After losing 33 laps during repairs to his Ford, Logano finished 37th and fell 52 points behind fourth-place finisher Matt Kenseth for the final spot in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff.

With seven races left before the playoff grid is set, Logano, whose earlier victory this season at Richmond is encumbered because of a penalty, likely must win a race to qualify.

“It’s not good – at all,” Logano said. “Right now we’re in the position where we have to execute. We have to finish the best as possible, and we didn’t do that today. We have to go back to work and make sure our cars stay together, and we have to get faster. All three of our cars (including the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford of Ryan Blaney) were a little off today. I guess Brad (Keselowski) is probably the best driver at this race track and I try to learn from him and he was struggling out there with me.

“It was a humbling day. This race team knows how to do this. All of Team Penske knows how to win races and make cars fast. They do it in a bunch of different series and have been doing it over here for years. We have to stay together. Stay as a team. Keep pushing. If it happens, it happens. Hopefully we can get some speed enough to squeak a win out before the playoffs and get our 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford into the playoffs.”

The situation is nothing new to Logano who won elimination races at both Talladega and Phoenix in last year’s playoff to keep his championship hopes alive.

“Must win, back against the wall,” Logano said. “We won both times. The team has it in them. We just have to get faster to be able to do that. Our team executes well. We just have to have something to race with a little bit.”

Speeding Penalties Ruin Kyle Busch’s Winning Chances

Kyle Busch can take a lot of positives from the Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire.

He led 95 laps, second only to Martin Truex Jr.’s 137. He won the second stage, earning his fifth playoff point of the season. And he did nothing to hurt his third-place position in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings—good news for a driver who may have to qualify for the playoff on points.

But Busch didn’t get the one major positive he really wanted—a victory.

A pair of pit road speeding penalties, both in Segment 5 on the way to his pit box, cost him dearly in track position and dropped him to 12th at the finish.

“I messed up a couple of times with getting the speeding penalties, and it pretty much cost us a chance for the win today,” Busch said. “It’s disappointing, but we’ll look forward to getting to Indianapolis next week.”

Next Sunday’s race at the Brickyard may be just the remedy Busch needs. He’s the two-time defending winner at the vaunted 2.5-mile track.

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