Carl Edwards and Martin Truex, Jr. combined to lead both practice sessions (Truex) and the top spot in qualifying (Edwards) for Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500, and the pair continued to show their strength, leading a total of 265 of 334 laps Saturday night. But neither driver has the finish to show for their dominance.
Edwards took the early lead when the field made a green/yellow start as NASCAR officials finished up track drying efforts from earlier rains and led all but one of the first 58 laps until Truex was able to run him down. The driver of the No. 19 Toyota would go on to lead four times for 124 laps before an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel dropped him nearly outside the top 20 and off of the lead lap.
Though Edwards was able to secure the free pass under the sixth caution, the dwindling laps allowed him to move up to a respectable seventh-place finish, though it wasn’t indicative of his earlier performance.
Meanwhile, Martin Truex, Jr. capitalized on Edwards’ misfortunes and looked well on his way to his first win of 2016. When the yellow came out on lap 289, crew chief Cole Pearn made a late call to bring his driver down pit road, but Truex, concerned about his ability to pit without receiving a commitment line penalty, opted to stay out while the rest of the field pitted for fresh tires. Truex was able to drive away from the field on that restart but was reeled back in just a few laps later when the seventh and final caution of the night flew.
On the final restart, with older tires than the rest of the field, Truex lacked the grip he needed to maintain the lead, allowing eventual winner Kyle Busch to take the top spot.
“I was hoping more cars would have stayed out, but when you have the dominant car that’s the only chance they have to beat you,” Pearn. “By staying out and leading, we felt that having clean air would be an equalizer. But in that situation it’s easier to make the call when you’re running second and not first. We’ve seen this happen many times in NASCAR when the race leader is sometimes in a no win situation. It was a bummer to finish where we did tonight.”
When all was said and done, the driver of the No. 78 Chevrolet had just a sixth-place finish to show for his dominant night.
“The final caution really hurt us,” said Truex. “The caution before (lap 289) we took the lead on the restart and our Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota was driving away. When the race restarted for the final time we just didn’t have the grip everybody else had. We were just sliding around.
“It’s frustrating, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I am proud of my guys for the race car they brought here to Texas — it was fast all night. It hurts not to have won this race, but we’ll have other opportunities.”
Truex remains 11th in the standings after scoring his third top-10 finish in seven races.