Truex aims to keep fo­cus on shot at Cup ti­tle

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - MOTOR SPORTS - By Stephen Hawkins

FORT WORTH — 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 that he is one of the 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 peace, told him what I thought and I’m here at Texas try­ing to win.”

Logano is the only driver locked into the fi­nal four spots, clinch­ing that af­ter his bump-an­drun on the fi­nal lap to beat Truex last week at Martinsville.

In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of that race, 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 at Texas, but will start at the back of the field af­ter mak­ing an en­gine change.

The only of the eight cham­pi­onship con­tenders to qual­i­fied 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 on the front row af­ter qual­i­fy­ing sec­ond, with team­mates Kevin Har­vick and Aric Almirola in the sec­ond row and Kurt Busch start­ing sev­enth. Logano qual­i­fied eighth, and Kyle Busch 10th.

When asked at Texas if ev­ery­thing was cool with Truex, or if his head would be on a swivel look­ing around, 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 pa­per­clip­shaped track at Martinsville to the high-speed 1½-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 to get 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 cut­line with three spots still up for grabs.

Truex has 19 top-10 fin­ishes this sea­son — all of those are top-fives.

“We have zero fin­ishes from sixth to 10th,” Truex said. “That’s kind of been our year. It’s been ei­ther, we’re in po­si­tion to win, we’ve run up front all day, or some­thing re­ally stupid hap­pens, or crazy hap­pens, like here in Texas. … It’s like feast or famine.”

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