CONCORD, N.C. — As the third-place finisher in last Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, Martin Truex Jr. did not have to say a whole lot to top the act that preceded him in the media center after the race.
He took the podium after second-place finisher Kyle Busch uttered one sentence, one more word, dropped the mic and left the building.
Despite the fact that he led a race-high 233 laps and did not win, either, Truex was more accommodating and philosophical about coming out on the wrong end of a fuel-mileage gambit that was won by first-time race winner Austin Dillon.
Dillon led only the last two laps, taking the point when then-leader Jimmie Johnson ran dry on fuel. Dillon then ran out of gas himself in his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet right after taking the checkered flag.
Truex had plenty of gas left in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toytoa. Like Busch, he simply ran out of time to run Dillon down.
“I guess it depends how you look at it. It’s kind of bittersweet,” Truex said. “… We had a shot at it again. That’s the third year in a row we led the most laps (in the 600). Two out of three he we lost it on fuel mileage. That’s tough to swallow.
“But I can’t say enough about my team, what they continue to do. So I’m really proud of them.”
Truex was the defending race winner coming in, having dominated the 2016 Coca-Cola 600 by leading 392 of 400 laps and the most miles of any driver in any race in NASCAR history. The year before that, he led 131 but finished fifth.
That’s 756 laps led – or 1,134 miles – for Truex over the last three Coca-Cola 600s. But he has just one win to show for it.
Again, though, he tried to be philosophical about it. The fact that he already has two wins this season – at Las Vegas and Kansas – helps because he’s already locked into the playoffs and he knows his cars are consistently fast.
“It stinks to come up on the short end of fuel mileage, but we’ve been on this side of it plenty of times,” Truex said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.
“All in all, it was a great night. We have fast cars, we’ll keep coming back with them, and hopefully get some more wins.”
gallery: NASCAR social media reaction to No. 3 being back in Victory Lane