WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Just because you’re the defending series champion and last year’s race winner doesn’t make second place suck any less.
Martin Truex Jr. had leader Chase Elliott in his crosshairs over the final 30-plus laps of Sunday’s Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International. He couldn’t reel him in.
Elliott held off the reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title-holder – a member of NASCAR’s vaunted “Big 3” – and Truex settled for the runner-up finish, his fourth of the season.
For two drivers — one who too often has seen wins slip from his grasp and another who has piled on 16 wins in the last three years alone — it seemed a foregone conclusion the veteran Furniture Row Racing driver would be adding his fifth win of the season with that many laps to work with.
“(My car was) faster than the 9, just not enough to pass him,” a visibly-upset Truex Jr. explained in his post-race press conference. “I could get right to him. I chased him down from a ways back after that restart. … He checked up, got a lead on us, I just tried all I could to chase him down, and I got there with plenty of time. It’s just every time I’d start putting together some good corners and get close enough to him to even think about making a move, I’d get sideways behind him.”
In running so hard to catch the 9, Truex burned up his tires … and his fuel.
“I was too loose all day on exit on all the corners. I couldn’t get the power down good enough, and running behind him there, just burned my rear tires off trying to make something happen,” said Truex, who is third in points. “We ran out of gas anyway coming off of Turn 5 that last lap, so it was really all a moot point. He was going to win regardless.”
Despite the heartbreak, Truex, in true-champion style, gave Elliott his due. The 22-year-old earned it, and he had to beat the best (Kyle Busch finished third, as well) to do it.
“He did a good job of putting his car exactly where it needed to be and not making a mistake,” Truex said. “Congrats to him on his first win. That’s a big deal for those guys, and they’ve been so close. Chase did a great job, and they earned it, so congrats to them.”
Still, Truex knows he missed an opportunity.
“We tried, and we came up short,” he said. “It was my turn (to win), and I didn’t capitalize.”