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Truex takes over from Busch as bad-luck leader at Kansas

By DAVE SKRETTA
Created: 05/12/2016 12:54 PM

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. needs to look no further than Kyle Busch when he needs to vent about Kansas.

The Furniture Row Racing driver has dominated at the speedway for years, finishing second twice and in the top five on two more occasions. He's led laps seven times and twice led the most. Yet he has never been to victory lane, fate and fuel mileage and all manner of bad luck conspiring against him.

The most recent slap in the face came Saturday night.

Truex had led 172 of the first 211 laps when he headed to pit road for a green-flag stop. Everything seemed to go flawlessly and he was back on the track in a blink. But then he started to feel a rattling and knew right away that a wheel was loose, forcing him to come back into the pits.

He lost a lap and didn't have enough time to run down the leaders. He finished 14th.

"I swear, you watch guys win races that don't have the fastest car or on fuel mileage and all this stuff and it's like, 'Damn,'" Truex said. "Someday I'm going to get on one of those."

Busch understands that feeling all too well.

He was the disciple of doom at Kansas for years, wrecking out of the Chase race twice and failing to finish twice more. But the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has finally figured things out, finishing in the top five his last three starts and winning his first Sprint Cup race there Saturday night.

"The 78 was probably the fastest car," he said of Truex, "but we kept ourselves in the game."

The culprit behind the loose wheel? The head of a bolt holding the brake rotor on was sheared off and got hung up in the wheel when it went on, leaving the wheel off balance when Truex hit the track.

"I thought we did everything right. It's just bad luck, I guess," said his crew chief, Cole Pearn. "It had gone so smooth all night. Guess not. That's the way it goes."

Now, Truex heads to Dover, where he's finished in the top 10 in three of the past four races.

"There's not much you can do about it," Pearn said. "That's just kind of how it goes."

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BLANEY RECUPERATING: Ryan Blaney knew something was wrong when he qualified for Saturday night's race at Kansas, got back to his hauler and saw dozens of text messages on his cellphone.

"They said, 'Heard the news. Is everything all right?'" Blaney recalled.

It took a couple of phones calls before Blaney learned that his dad, NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, had flipped his Sprint Car in a violent wreck while qualifying for a race at Eldora Speedway in Ohio. The elder Blaney was taken to a hospital and went through a battery of tests before he was released.

"He got his bell rung pretty good, but he's going to be OK," Ryan Blaney said. "He's probably mad that he's going to be out of Sprint Cars for a little bit, but that's the only thing he's made about."

Especially after the performance his son put on Saturday night. Blaney spent the entire night near the front, and hoped to make a run for the lead with fresh tires on the final restart. He wound up finishing fifth, one spot off his career-best finish.

As for his dad's wreck, it never crossed his mind.

"I'm grateful he's OK, but that's part of the sport. That's the risk we take," he said. "It didn't affect me too much. He was doing what he loves. Things happen."

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DOVER GETS DONE: Officials at Dover International Speedway say track enhancements that include 479 feet of additional SAFER barriers along the backstretch have been completed.

The mile-long track also lengthened pit stalls and laid new asphalt in the Sprint Cup garage area. The speedway wanted to get the project done ahead of a busy weekend. The Truck series competes Friday night, the Xfinity Series has a race Saturday and the Sprint Cup race Sunday wraps a triple-header.

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SPEAKING OF ASPHALT: The 3.4-mile road course at Watkins Glen was repaved during the offseason, and five drivers got a chance to try it out during a Goodyear tire test Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahn, Trevor Bayne, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano were scheduled to take part on the first complete repave at the track since 1989.

The Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen is scheduled for Aug. 7.

(Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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