“That Is the Issue”

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LOUDON, NH – JULY 17: Martin Truex, Jr 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Reser s Fine Foods Toyota talks to the media after the Crayon 301 on July 17, 2023, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire AUTO: JUL 17 NASCAR, Motorsport, USA Cup Series Crayon 301 EDITORIAL USE ONLY Icon482230717332201 | Image Credits: Imago
The NASCAR Cup Series playoff plot just took a terrible turn for Joe Gibbs Racing and its fans. While a fellow Toyota picked up the win at the Kansas Speedway, the JGR squadron fell short again despite showing consistent pace and performance.
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Despite being a massive favorite in Kansas, Martin Truex Jr got into trouble early on when he suffered a rear right tire puncture and was forced into the outer wall. As the first round of playoffs makes a final stop in Bristol, the 2023 regular season champion desperately needs a win to keep alive his championship hopes.
Reflecting on the 42-year-old’s bleak playoff performances, former Hendrick Motorsports crew chief and NBC race analyst Steve Letarte uncovered the “truth” about the #19 driver’s back-to-back slips and his self-blame.
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Steve Letarte discloses Martin Truex Jr & #19 team’s vulnerability
While the #19 driver picked off 3 wins and won the regular season, as his #19 Toyota hit the wall on turn 3, lap 4, so did his playoff aspirations. The #19 car had struggled with issues during practice and qualifying, and the brief encounter with the outer wall ultimately ended Truex Jr‘s Kansas hopes, prompting him to take the blame on himself.
Consequently, a disheartened and dejected driver was seen after the race, sharing his thoughts as he took the blame off his team, putting himself on the line. However, on the NASCAR on NBC podcast, veteran crew chief Steve Letarte got straight to the point when he explained the reasoning behind Truex Jr’s claims.
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Talking about Truex Jr’s Darlington outing, Letarte said, “Practice was not good, issues in qualifying, starting in the back. He made up decent ground in stage 1 but was just not okay. Listen I know Martin wants to put it on himself but the car was never that good, but he had to pit twice for a loose wheel. He pitted an extra time in the middle of stage 2 and I am sorry, but that is the issue you know. Martin is trying to take a bullet for the team and I appreciate it. But you know that’s 8 or 10 spot swing you know.”
Letarte clears the air as he uncovers the “truth”
Not many would have expected such an unfortunate twist, especially from a seasoned veteran like Martin Truex Jr. The veteran seemed unstoppable until the schedule changed gears to the playoff action. Darlington also wasn’t his best, the #19 had issues in practice and looked a little off as he finished 19th.
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Similarly, Kansas too got the best of him. The #19 Toyota after kissing the wall in the opening laps, received major front-end and suspension damages, that eventually got him off the race in a flash. Reflecting on the veteran’s struggle, Letarte just couldn’t keep himself from disclosing the obvious truth about the JGR camp.
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“It’s easy to say it was his wheel which is what I just said, but what I heard from Martin was, ‘Yes, but the truth is if we wouldn’t have made these mistakes in practice if I would’ve been more vocal about something being wrong with the car. We as a group would’ve done a better job of diagnosing those issues and maybe repairing the car,” said the legendary former crew chief.
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Letarte concluded his take, saying, “The car was never up to the #19 level expectation.”

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