Truex try­ing to keep fo­cus on ti­tle shot af­ter Logano bump

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Sports - BY STEPHEN HAWKINS

FORT WORTH, TEXAS

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, with Chase El­liott the only one of eight cham­pi­onship con­tenders be­hind him in 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⁄ 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.

While try­ing to earn one of those spots, Truex is go­ing into the fi­nal three races with the Fur­ni­ture Row team since the pri­mary spon­sor is leav­ing the one-car op­er­a­tion based in sub­ur­ban Den­ver.

“Hon­estly, I feel like we’ve been so caught up in ev­ery­thing, and just so fo­cused on try­ing to get back to Homestead and try­ing to re­peat, we haven’t re­ally talked about it,” Truex said. “It’s in­evitable, and it’s not a per­fect sce­nario, it’s not what we all wanted, but I think ev­ery­body on the team has done an amaz­ing job of fo­cus­ing in on the right things and con­tinue to per­form at a high level.”

And con­tend­ing for an­other cham­pi­onship. Truex has 19 top-five fin­ishes this sea­son.

“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.” shal­lows this week was a large king­fish on light tackle for an­gler Rick Uf­falussy. Fish­ing a few miles off the beach, Uf­falussy was catch­ing plenty of big mackerel up to 24 inches on light tackle when a smoker de­cided to pay a visit.

“I was us­ing a 7-foot, 6-inch Red­bone with a Di­awa BG3000 reel with 20-pound braid and 20pound leader,” Uf­falussy said. “We were us­ing small 3/8th-ounce jigs with a small white tail.”

The light tackle was soon put to the test when the next fish that hit made a scream­ing run. With not much line re­main­ing, Uf­falussy got the fish turned and headed back to the boat. Eat­ing the small jig turned out to be a large king­fish, a lucky catch con­sid­er­ing the sharp teeth mak­ing king­fish no­to­ri­ous for breakoffs.

“Forty-four inches,” he said. “A lit­tle heav­ier than 22 pounds.”

Other fish sto­ries this week in­clude large co­bia and plenty of triple tail com­ing from around the bay. Flats fish­ing was ex­cel­lent with snook and red­fish chew­ing heav­ily be­hind the re­cent full moon.

With fish-mov­ing events like per­sis­tent red tide and plenty of cold fronts, there will no doubt be more odd fish sto­ries to come this year. Fish might end up where you least ex­pect them, eat­ing your bait no mat­ter if it’s small or large.

PHO­TOS BY JON CHAP­MAN

Rick Uf­falussy shows off a large king­fish caught in the past week on light tackle.

Martin Truex Jr.

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