After Daytona trouble, Truex wants better headlines from Phoenix

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Prior to Sunday’s Daytona 500, Furniture Row Racing newcomer Martin Truex Jr. had thought that he was to have his best opportunity to win The Great American Race.

And then, on Lap 30, everything went south for him when his motor did. Considering that he’d qualified on the front row for Daytona, you figure that was particularly galling for him.

But what’s done can’t be undone. And so, Truex is looking ahead to this weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway, where he hopes to make headlines for the right reasons.

“My thoughts are toward the future,” he said in a team release. “I don’t like to think about what happened on Sunday in Daytona, but a post-race Phoenix headline that reads ‘From Last to First’ would be just fine with me.”

Truex has never won at PIR but comes off a Top-10 finish there last fall in one of his final performances with Michael Waltrip Racing. Like everybody else, he’ll have to find his way around NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying format.

Depending on the track length, the format consists of either two or three rounds. In Phoenix’s case, it’ll be two, with the fastest 12 drivers from the 30-minute opening round moving on to compete for the pole position in Round 2.

Truex figures once people get used to it, the format will “evolve rather quickly” as the assorted minds of the garage come up with ways to make it work for their drivers and teams.

“Regarding the new qualifying system, I am excited about it because [crew chief] Todd [Berrier] is really innovative and he comes up with what seems to be crazy ideas,” he said.

“I think the biggest challenge with this new format is making all the qualifying runs on one set of tires. You are going to need to run hard enough to advance and not too hard to wear out the tires so you can be fast at the end.”

Simon Pagenaud has words with Gabby Chaves after Honda Indy GP of Alabama

Photos: IndyCar
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The rain didn’t stop following the conclusion of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, and neither did the jousting between drivers.

An angry Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud confronted Harding Racing’s Gabby Chaves after the race, complaining that Chaves would not let Pagenaud get past him in the closing laps.

Instead of ending up with a hoped-for Top 5, Pagenaud wound up with a ninth-place finish. Chaves, meanwhile, finished 17th, two laps down.

The confrontation turned into a battle of words and profanity between the two drivers, as captured on Twitter by AutoWeek’s Matt Weaver.

Afterward – and after their tempers cooled down somewhat – both Pagenaud and Chaves gave their sides of the confrontation to NBCSN.

Gabby Chaves

First, here’s Pagenaud’s take on things:

“We had a really good race going,” Pagenaud said. “I think we potentially could have been top 5. I was really frustrated with Gabby. He was two laps down and I was stuck behind him, which gave an opportunity to (Scott) Dixon as I was trying to do everything I could to make it happen.

“It’s a real shame because when it’s not your day, it’s not your day. You’ll have better days later, but you want to have everybody on your side when you have a good day. At the moment, he doesn’t have me on his side, let me tell you. It’s a real shame.”

When asked what exactly he said to Chaves, Pagenaud demurred.

“Driver’s stuff,” he said with a slight smile. “We’ve all been there. I’ve been in his position. My side, I played it smart. It is what it is.

“I can’t comment for him. You can ask him the question. I’m not going to make a deal about it, it’s just a shame it ruined my race. We’ll come back stronger. It’s Indy soon, so that’ll put a smile on my face.”

NBCSN then caught up with Chaves for his side of the story.

 

“It’s a tough situation, we had to restart (the rain-delayed race) a lap down,” Chaves said. “Our whole strategy depends on trying to get a yellow and holding our position. Some guys think that the track belongs only to them, they’re the only guys on-track.

“Everyone else who was faster at that point – we were only one lap down to the leader, so we’re still on our strategy and don’t know what’s going to happen – as soon as they got right up next to me on the lead lap, I let them go.

“Simon was the only one who couldn’t drive up to me. I understand his frustration, but he’s the one who has to save fuel to make his strategy work, that’s not our fault, right?”

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