Truex vows, af­ter bump, Logano won’t get ti­tle

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY STEPHEN HAWKINS

Martin Truex Jr. has promised that Joey Logano won’t win the NASCAR Cup ti­tle.

That is a score that can’t be set­tled at Texas.

For now, de­fend­ing Cup cham­pion Truex is try­ing to stay fo­cused on win­ning at Texas, or next week in Phoenix, or at least get­ting enough points to make sure he’s one of four drivers rac­ing for the ti­tle in two weeks.

“That’s the plan any­ways,” Truex said. “I do pretty good about keep­ing my head straight. I’ve said my piece, told him what I thought, and I’m here at Texas try­ing to win.”

Logano is the only driver locked into the fi­nal four, clinch­ing with his bump-and-run on the fi­nal lap to beat Truex last week at Martinsville.

In the af­ter­math, Truex pro­claimed, “He may have won the bat­tle, but he ain’t win­ning the damn war.” A text to Logano fol­lowed that night.

Truex qual­i­fied 13th for Sun­day’s race but will start at the back of the field af­ter mak­ing an en­gine change.

The only one of the eight cham­pi­onship con­tenders to qual­ify lower than Truex was Chase El­liott at 16th.

“We have two im­por­tant races here where I am in a po­si­tion to run for a cham­pi­onship,” Truex said. “I am not go­ing to let what hap­pened last week take my fo­cus off of that.”

The four Ste­wart-Haas drivers were the top four qual­i­fiers among the eight con­tenders, with Clint Bowyer in the front row af­ter qual­i­fy­ing sec­ond, team­mates Kevin Har­vick and Aric Almirola in the sec­ond row and Kurt Busch start­ing sev­enth. Logano qual­i­fied eighth and Kyle Busch 10th.

Asked at Texas if ev­ery­thing was cool with Truex, or if his head would be on a swivel, Logano said only time would tell.

“I think he was a lit­tle frus­trated and that is part of it. I also think it is short-track rac­ing,” Logano said. “All of that was on the line at that point, and I think we both un­der­stand that there was so much on the line and that is what hap­pens some­times.”

The play­off chase has gone from the half-mile pa­per­clip-shaped track at Martinsville to the high­speed 11⁄ 2- mile Texas lay­out where pole­sit­ter Ryan Blaney qual­i­fied at more than 200 mph, along with Bowyer.

Af­ter Logano knocked him out of his first vic­tory at a short track, Truex will try for his first win at Texas, where he has 14 top-10 fin­ishes and has led 595 laps – but never the last one.

“We just haven’t been very lucky here. We’ve per­formed well and haven’t had much luck,” Truex said. “Hope­fully this week­end, it turns around.”

He had six con­sec­u­tive top 10s at Texas, in­clud­ing a run­ner-up fin­ish last fall, un­til last April. The first 85-lap stage ear­lier this year ended un­der cau­tion af­ter a front right tire blew on Truex’s No. 78 Toy­ota, which shot up the track and slammed hard into the outer wall. Truex, sec­ond at the time, fin­ished last in the 37-car field.

Truex is tied with Har­vick for third in the play­off stand­ings, 25 points above the cut line with three spots up for grabs.

STEVE HELBER AP

Joey Logano (22) and Martin Truex Jr. make con­tact near the fin­ish at Martinsville Speed­way in Martinsville, Va.

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