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Blog: Truex Jr. experiences highs and lows in Atlanta

September 06, 2012, Martin Truex Jr., Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com



Blog: Truex Jr. experiences highs and lows in Atlanta

NASCAR racing can be a roller coaster of emotions. If you doubt that, then you didn't follow me at Atlanta. I think at some point during those three days last weekend in Atlanta I felt every emotion possible. We went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. But in the end, keeping the big picture in mind, we had an awesome weekend in Georgia.

*Video: Truex can't outlast the G-W-C | Post-Race Reaction

On Friday, before everything got started we announced that I would continue to drive the No. 56 NAPA Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. I am proud to be an ambassador for NAPA and I want to thank Paul Donahue, president of Genuine Parts Company, Dan Askey, president of NAPA, Gaylord Spencer, vice president-marketing strategy and Mike Rearden, director of events/sponsorships for all coming. I also want to thank Mike Helton for stopping by the news conference to show his support.

"My car [in Atlanta] was not as good on restarts ... But we weren't going to go down without a fight. I smoked the tires like a dragster on the restart and we ran out of laps before I could chase those guys down."

--MARTIN TRUEX JR.

Remember, NAPA is on board for all 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races and the two non-points events for the next few seasons. There aren't many companies that will show that kind of commitment in these modern times. I hope all NASCAR fans remember that. They love this sport as much as you and I do. We even got to unveil the 2013 race car and NAPA paint scheme. It was beautiful.

Continuing with MWR was the plan from the beginning. MWR has given me a great opportunity to be part of a team. I don't go home Sunday night and sit there and wait for them to build my race cars better or bring me better stuff Thursday -- I go to the shop Monday and I'm part of a team and part of building that process. It's been an awesome road -- a lot of fun to be a part of, a lot of work and a lot of ups and downs.

Michael (Waltrip) and I got together at Texas last year. He said, "Look, we're going to get our cars better, but I need you to help me." It meant a lot to me to know that he was investing in me, and I wanted to do the same for him. With Michael and the rest of the crew integrating me into the team, giving me some say and making me feel like I'm part of something has probably been one of the coolest and proudest moments of my life. It's been a lot of fun, and I just wanted to keep it going. To just keep going in NASCAR is not always easy to do. I did not want to see this NAPA deal fall apart and not be able to realize our potential. And I want to thank NAPA for believing in me, believing in Michael Waltrip Racing and believing in the sport of NASCAR.

When we fired the engines Friday, my NAPA Shocks Toyota was awesome. We ran three laps in practice and were the fastest on the board. We quit early to save tires for race trim because we had more time than sets of tires for Saturday's practice. So, I ran my qualifying lap and didn't have any grip at all. It was pretty disappointing to think I had a shot of sitting on the pole and we end up 28th. It's a humbling sport, that's for sure.

We knew our car was good from the Saturday practice, so I wasn't surprised at all about how good we were in Sunday's race. We had a lot on the line. The task at hand was to lock into the Chase along with my teammate Clint Bowyer. NASCAR said we needed to finish 14th or better and, by the halfway mark, we had it covered and turned our sights on the win. I believed we had a top-five car, but not quite as fast as Kevin Harvick or Denny Hamlin. But then my spotter, Keith Barnwell, told me my lap times were as fast, if not faster than theirs. He was right. We passed Hamlin for the lead on lap 282 and checked out by over three seconds. Then, with 10 laps to go, I honestly thought the monkey was finally coming off my back. The win we so desperately wanted was moments away.

Remember what I told you about experiencing every emotion?

That yellow flag came out with five laps to go. I couldn't believe it. Just our luck -- up by three seconds and cruising to a victory. Nobody had really experienced any tire issues all night, and one cuts down seconds before we take the checkered flag.

But that's racing, I guess.

I restarted the green-white-checkered finish in second. My car was not as good on restarts, especially on the outside and Hamlin knew it too. But we weren't going to go down without a fight. I smoked the tires like a dragster on the restart and we ran out of laps before I could chase those guys down. From first to fourth in what seemed like an instant. It just wasn't meant to be ... again. It sure would have been nice to get a win. We've been pretty close here lately. It just stinks when you have one locked up like that and a caution comes out. But that's the way it goes. We just weren't good enough.

Now, the big picture part.

We walked out of Atlanta secure in our future with both NAPA and MWR. We showed the world the 2013 NAPA Toyota and both Clint Bowyer and I clinched MWR's first berths in the Chase. Plus, we ran well enough to win the race. That's a lot to be proud of.

We have 11 more races to get that win and the final 10 will determine the sport's champion. Our year is just beginning.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.