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Martin Truex Jr. knew Martinsville was his last chance to advance to the Championship 4 in Phoenix for an opportunity to collect his second NASCAR Cup Series title. Joe Gibbs Racing also recognized the situation and understood that, in order to have a realistic shot of that happening, it needed to address the pit road issues that have dogged the No. 19 team much of the year.  

JGR made a move that’s become common practice within the organization, swapping out a couple of crew members with other teams before the race. However, that change didn’t help and, unfortunately, produced more pit road issues, along with the driver’s own contribution, which was a big dose of karma. 

Martin Truex Jr. repeatedly experienced pit road issues

Martin Truex Jr. hasn’t been happy with his pit crew throughout the 2023 playoffs. After Texas, the driver admitted as much. 

“It just piles on when you get back there,” Truex said of racing in the middle of the pack. “Then, on top of that, our pit stops are absolutely horrendous. Nothing really good today at all to speak of other than not getting wrecked. Long, terrible day. We need to fix it.”

Those horrendous pit stops have been a theme in the postseason for the JGR car. They reared their ugly head again at Homestead, with back-to-back slow stops, the second of which prompted the angry driver to fire off some unexpected remarks. 

“A f******* joke,” he said over the team radio. “I ain’t doing this s*** no more.” 

Truex gets dose of karma

After his repeated frustration and complaining, the organization did something about it before Sunday’s race at Martinsville. It announced that Truex would receive a pair of new members on his pit crew, including the rear tire changer from Ty Gibbs and the jackman from the JGR crew that had been leased to Front Row Motorsports and Michael McDowell.

Early in the race at The Paperclip, where Truex started from the pole, he stayed incident-free on pit road. That changed in the final stage. Karma struck, and the driver committed a massive blunder and sped out of that first pit box. Truex was sent to the back of the field, and his chances of advancing to the championship effectively vanished. 

What made the mistake even worse was the fact that the same thing happened earlier in the spring to Ryan Preece, who had also started from the pole. Somehow, the No. 19 team failed to learn from that error and repeated it.  

Pit crew change backfires

Truex’s miscalculation was undoubtedly the worst mistake for the JGR team on pit road. However, in a season where the No. 19 seems to have been on the receiving end of a disproportionate amount of misfortune, it wasn’t the only one.

That happened a short time later on a pit stop when the new jackman lifted the car for left-side tires, only for it to fall off the jack. He lifted it again, but it still didn’t go high enough, requiring a second jack to elevate the car to a point where he could change the tires.

It was a disastrous stop but something all too familiar to Truex and his crew. To his credit, he rebounded and finished 13th, appropriately enough, because it’s been a year full of bad luck. Sunday at Martinsville was just the latest miserable chapter. 

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