Race Weekend Central

Ryan Truex Battles To Second In Phoenix, Still Hungry For More

AVONDALE, Ariz. – It’s been a long eight months since July 2022. Champions have been crowned; seasons have changed. And Ryan Truex didn’t climb into a NASCAR Xfinity Series car to take a green flag.

Truex last raced in July 2022 in the Alsco Uniforms 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Making the most of a rare opportunity, he finished third in his sixth and final race of the year for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Saturday at Phoenix Raceway, Truex picked up right where he left off.

Starting 12th, Truex wasn’t sure if he could race with teammate and race winner Sammy Smith for 200 laps, and early on, he couldn’t.

While Smith posted top-four finishes in the first two stages, Truex didn’t even make the board.

But the race wasn’t smooth sailing. The race featured 11 caution periods, including nine for on-track incidents. No. 19 crew chief Jason Ratcliff used every single one as an opportunity to make Truex’s Toyota faster.

“I don’t know if I misread the track or what,” Truex said after the race. “Midway through, I was pretty terrible. I was feeling pretty bad about it; we were running like 15th and I just couldn’t get out of my own way…It was tough for me (to get into a rhythm) because my car changed so much during the race. 

“I was pretty happy at the beginning. Then the stages, the way they work, jumbled everything up and I kept struggling on restarts to make my track position up, and then after the stage cautions, I’d be way back in traffic and just struggling.

“On that long run—for whatever reason that set of tires that we ran 80 laps or whatever it was, I was just terrible, no rear grip and chattering the front tires.”

Truex didn’t give up, and neither did his team. 

“Jason made really good adjustments on it and gave me what I needed at the end there.

Luckily, I had a good restart; I was struggling on restarts a little bit all day. I kept working on them and working on them and I got it figured out at the end there…On that last adjustment, Jason made the right call and gave me a good set of tires, and the rest was up to me.”

Truex persevered in the race just as he has in his career. He hasn’t run a full Xfinity Series season since 2018, but he’s made the most of the opportunities he has had, claiming eight top 10s in just 13 races since then. Some drivers would lose their edge and their hunger.

But not Truex, not on this day.

“I just worked on my restarts all day long, being aggressive, just getting to the bottom, cutting the dogleg and basically being all four on the apron in three and four every lap. That’s what got me to second place. I did everything I could to catch Sammy, but his car was just a little too good there. 

“I probably pushed a little too hard trying to get him and started getting tight.

“I mean, I haven’t raced a car since Atlanta last year, which was in July. I haven’t driven anything at all; this is my first time in a racecar since then.”

The rust showed a little in qualifying.

“I made a big mistake in qualifying, Truex admits, “[then, to start the race] I was back in traffic and that kind of messed up our flow today, but I feel like I redeemed myself on that last restart and hopefully, hopefully we can build some momentum from this.”

His second-place run was, if a bumpy ride, also a textbook example of how to be patient and capitalize on every opportunity in a race, something Truex did like a veteran, even without much seat time recently. 

And his hunger to race still showed through loud and clear.

“If you told me halfway through the race I’d finish second, I would have been very happy. But sitting here knowing how close I was…But like I said, for not being in a car since July of last year, it feels good to come out here and prove that I can do it.

“Second again. Sucks, but at least I’m here.”

And Saturday, Truex made sure everybody knew it.

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via