(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Talladega, Ala. (AP) _ Martin Truex Jr. had a catastrophic engine failure shortly after Sunday's critical playoff race began at Talladega Superspeedway.
Truex was the pole-sitter and not exactly in a must-win situation in the elimination race for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He was 13 points on the good side of the standings and probably would have advanced to the third round of the Chase with a decent day.
Instead, he went to the garage when his Toyota erupted with a puff of smoke under the hood and will likely be cut from the Chase field. NASCAR will trim the field from 12 drivers to eight after Talladega, and Truex was trying to make it to the championship race for the second straight year.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 23, 2016
“It’s definitely disappointing, but what else can you say," Truex said. "We had a team capable of competing for the championship and unfortunately we’re not going to be able to show that. I guess there’s still a chance of a miracle, but I don’t see it happening."
He won a pair of races in the first round of the Chase, but wasn't as consistent in the second round. His team had a bolt confiscated from its car before Saturday's qualifying, and the speculation surrounding the issue was an unnecessary distraction for the Furniture Row Racing team.
NASCAR felt the issue would not warrant a penalty, but had no ruling before Sunday's race.
Not long after that started, Truex's weekend soured. His car sarted vibrating and losing power.
"Originally I thought it could have been a tire because it was shaking worse and worse and worse until it was time to pit," Truex said. "I slowed down to hit pit road and felt the vibration still there and knew it was the engine. Definitely not the way we wanted today to go _ it’s a tough way to go out."
Truex had a quick response when asked how hard it was to walk away with his championship hopes likely up in smoke.
“It will be real hard when we win the next four races,” Truex said.