Beleaguered Truex notches Top-10 at New Hampshire

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It would’ve made for a strange, surreal scene in Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway had Martin Truex Jr.’s car not gone away from him in the final stages of today’s Sylvania 300.

Truex and his entire No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing squad are staring at an uncertain future beyond the conclusion of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series campaign thanks to the departure of main sponsor NAPA Auto Parts.

For all of them, that blow hurts just as much, if not more so, than Truex getting knocked out of the Chase for the Sprint Cup following NASCAR’s penalties against MWR for manipulating the Sept. 7 event at Richmond International Raceway.

So to see Truex run as strong as he did for much of the race this afternoon must have pleased those that believe he has been the “victim” in one of NASCAR’s most controversial sagas to date.

Truex was especially quick in the first half of the running, leading 98 laps in the early going. He would lose the lead to eventual winner Matt Kenseth at Lap 153, but was able to stay in the Top 5 as the race’s conclusion drew closer.

Unfortunately for Truex, his Toyota’s already tight condition worsened as clouds began to blanket NHMS for the end of what had been a sunny affair. He took the final restart of the day in fifth position, but was unable to hang on and began sliding back.

“It’s unfortunate,” Truex said to ESPN after the race. “The guys did a good job all weekend. We’ve really struggled here the past few times and obviously, we have made some huge gains in the right direction. It’s just that we weren’t good enough at the end when it counted.”

Still, Truex and the No. 56 team certainly let ’em know they were there and in the mix this afternoon at New Hampshire. It may only be a momentary relief from the controversy that has plagued them in the last two weeks, but it was something good.

And after all the chaos they’ve had to endure, they’ll take it and move on to Dover next weekend.

Toro Rosso at crossroads after Kvyat’s point, Hartley’s strong debut

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In a weekend with something to prove at Circuit of The Americas, Daniil Kvyat rose to the occasion with what he called “his best race of the season for sure” at the United States Grand Prix.

But it may not be enough for the Russian to have saved his seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso for the three final races this year.

Meanwhile, New Zealander Brendon Hartley capped off his roller-coaster debut weekend in Formula 1 with a solid 13th place finish after starting from the rear of the grid, learning as the race went on and bringing home his Toro Rosso chassis to the flag.

Toro Rosso faces a dilemma of three drivers available but only two seats to fill for the final three Grands Prix, with the Mexican Grand Prix coming up just next week.

Frenchman Pierre Gasly will be back after missing Austin due to his Super Formula commitments at Suzuka in Japan, but ultimately that went for naught as the races were canceled due to a typhoon.

Kvyat qualified 12th, was promoted to 11th by way of grid penalties and ended 10th, scoring a point for only the third race this year and first time since coming ninth in the Spanish Grand Prix back in May.

It was a weekend where he would have been expected to outdo Hartley, and did so, but not by a massive margin. And he was already coming in with a track time disadvantage, losing out in FP1 as Indonesian Formula 2 driver Sean Gelael ran in his chassis.

As it was, he rated his weekend performance highly and didn’t do his chances of staying in the car any harm.

Speaking to NBCSN after the race, Kvyat said, “Yeah, it was a perfect race. I did everything well. Brought the points home. It was close with (Felipe) Massa.

“We had some energy release issues on the engine. But it was a massive weekend. It was great. I really enjoyed myself. It was a good job by the team to keep it together with very limited running.

Hartley built up confidence throughout the weekend as he learned the car, the Pirelli tires and how an F1 race races versus an endurance race that he’d been used to doing for several years.

Having coming into the weekend with no expectations and just taking the race session-by-session, he felt good at the end of it.

“There’s so many little things to reflect on,” he told NBCSN. “I’ll put the eyes at rest and process it all. I did the standing start and it wasn’t the best… it’s been a long time.

“But yeah, (you’re learning) in terms of following in traffic, what 20 laps on these tires means, how much you can push it. I’m pretty satisfied. The pace was pretty strong. I made the mistake of getting passed by (Lance) Stroll. I couldn’t pass him back. Lots of challenges. I hope I can get another shot at it.

“Up until this moment… I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to do the job. I’m really relaxed. Now there might be some conversations.”

Toro Rosso figures to reveal its Mexican Grand Prix driver lineup early this week.