- Angelique S. Chengelis, NASCAR
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JOLIET, Ill. -- Martin Truex Jr. is a week removed from seeing his primary car confiscated at Daytona before receiving multiple penalties from NASCAR, and he is still searching for answers.
Truex appears to have lost his bid to make the Chase after NASCAR penalized his team 150 points for taking an illegal car to Daytona. The penalty, which Dale Earnhardt Inc. is appealing, drops Truex four spots to 18th in the standings, and he sits 238 points behind Tony Stewart in the 12th and final qualifying position.
"It still hurts just as bad," Truex said Friday after the final practice session in which he was 19th. "You look at the points, and it makes you sick. We were just right there, right there on the edge of getting in.
"After the year we've had to be where we were then, it felt really good. We've had a lot of tough luck, a lot of bad things happen to us and that was just icing on the cake. It's frustrating. I still don't quite understand how or why it all went down, but we're trying to get through all that. The guys are still upbeat, they're still working hard doing the best they can. This is the best car I've had in a while, and I'm looking forward to this weekend."
Truex admitted he will race differently these final eight races until the Chase cutoff.
"Well, yeah," he said. "[This] put us in a huge deficit to make the Chase just kind of disappointing. There's a shot we can get back in the deal. Guys are going to have to have trouble, and we're going to have to have eight good races, eight really great races. We'll just see. Guys are working hard. We had a good test this week and so far it's been paying off this week."
Also part of the penalty are the six-race suspensions of crew chief Kevin Manion and car chief Gary Putnam.
"It's going to impact us a lot," Truex said of losing the two. "It's going to be really tough on me. It's going to be tough on all of, but in the end we'll become a stronger race team."
As far as his contract status with DEI, which intends to pick up his option, Truex said those talks took a backseat after the Daytona infraction.
"Certainly, last week . . . I said to myself, this isn't the first thing on my list," Truex said of his contract. "Through this week, we've had great meetings about what happened, how we want to fix it, the direction we're headed as a race team, and so hopefully this week we'll get back to talking about the rest of that stuff. It's been going well. There's just been a lot of other things on the plate as a race team to figure out."
He did not rule out he could be a candidate for the second team at the newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing.
"I guess if you look around the garage, anybody who doesn't have a contract signed for next year you have to look at as a candidate . . . for that deal right now," Truex said.
Angelique S. Chengelis covers NASCAR for ESPN.
16dTom McKean, ESPN Stats & Information