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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, November 04, 2018 1:00 am

Truex turns focus to Texas race

STEPHEN HAWKINS | Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – Martin Truex Jr. has promised that Joey Logano won't win the NASCAR Cup title.

That is a score that can't be settled at Texas.

For now, defending Cup champion Truex is trying to stay focused on winning at Texas, or next week in Phoenix, or at least getting enough points to make sure that he is one of the four drivers racing for the title in two weeks.

“That's the plan anyways,” Truex said. “I do pretty good about keeping my head straight. I've said my peace, told him what I thought and I'm here at Texas trying to win.”

Logano is the only driver locked into the final four spots, clinching that after his bump-and-run on the final lap to beat Truex last week at Martinsville.

In the immediate aftermath of that race, Truex proclaimed, “He may have won the battle, but he ain't winning the damn war.”

Truex qualified 13th for today's race, with Chase Elliott the only of the eight championship contenders behind him in 16th.

“We have two important races here where I am in a position to run for a championship,” Truex said. “I am not going to let what happened last week take my focus off of that.”

The four Stewart-Haas drivers were the top four qualifiers among the eight contenders, with Clint Bowyer on the front row after qualifying second, with teammates Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola in the second row and Kurt Busch starting seventh. Logano qualified eighth, and Kyle Busch 10th.

When asked at Texas if everything was cool with Truex, or if his head would be on a swivel looking around, Logano said only time would tell.

“I think he was a little frustrated and that is part of it. I also think it is short track racing,” Logano said. “All of that was on the line at that point and I think we both understand that there was so much on the line and that is what happens sometimes.”

The playoff chase has gone from the half-mile paperclip-shaped track at Martinsville to the high-speed 11/2-mile Texas layout where polesitter Ryan Blaney qualified at more than 200 mph, along with Bowyer.

After Logano knocked him out of his first victory at a short track, Truex will try to get his first win at Texas, where he has 14 top-10 finishes and has led 595 laps – but never the last one.

“We just haven't been very lucky here. We've performed well and haven't had much luck,” Truex said. “Hopefully this weekend it turns around.”

He had six consecutive top 10s at Texas, including a runner-up finish last fall, until April. The first 85-lap stage this year ended under caution after a front right tire blew on Truex's No. 78 Toyota, which shot up the track and slammed hard into the outer wall. Truex, second at the time, finished last in the 37-car field.

Truex is tied with Harvick for third in the playoff standings, 25 points above the cutline with three spots still up for grabs.