Skip to main content

Martin Truex Jr. started the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season on a positive note winning the exhibition Clash at the Coliseum. On Sunday at Richmond, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was in position late to win his first points-paying race, but a caution and strategy call earlier in the day led to the No. 19 car fading outside of the top 10 at the checkered flag. 

Moments after the race, the 2017 champion, unclear about what had led to the noticeable late drop-off, expressed his frustration, which only increased when crew chief James Small revealed that he had withheld information from the driver that would have explained his decline in performance. 

Martin Truex Jr. in position late to win at Richmond

After running outside of the top 10 in the first stage, Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 19 team made their presence felt in Stage 2, steadily moving forward. The JGR car finished fourth in the segment and appeared to be a contender for the race win.

The 42-year-old proved that in the final stage, leading 50 of the race’s final 100 laps. However, that all changed with 28 laps to go when a caution came out after Tyler Reddick went for a spin. 

While the rest of the field had a set of sticker tires waiting, an earlier pit strategy call left the No. 19 team with seven-lap scuffs. In the final laps, which included a second restart, Truex was helpless against the rest of the cars on fresher tires and steadily dropped back in the field. 

He crossed the finish line in 11th.

Truex understandably unhappy after crew chief James Small reveals he intentionally withheld information from him

With just two laps to go and fading quickly, Truex expressed his frustration from losing positions over the team radio. 

“What a f****** nightmare,” he pointedly stated. 

“I know it. Let’s survive here,” his spotter replied.

“My tires are flat,” the driver suggested. 

Moments after crossing the finish line, crew chief James Small apologized to his driver for the situation. 

“Sorry. We f****** hosed ourselves,” Small told his driver. “We’re f****** out of tires. We had seven-lap scuffs there. So we were f*****.”

“I don’t understand what you just said,” Truex responded, unable to hear his crew chief. “But that was pitiful.”

“Had f****** scuff tires on there because we hosed ourselves taking our set in Stage 1,” Small frustratingly repeated. “So we were f***** regardless. Sorry. We f***** up.” 

“You didn’t tell me you put scuffs on,” Truex surprisingly revealed. “So I didn’t know what the f*** was wrong, OK? Jesus.”

“There’s no point in telling you. We were f***** either way,” Small dejectedly answered in the last radio communication between the pair. 

Frustrations mount as winless streak continues

Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief James Small stand beside each other.
Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief James Small look on before the running of the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 on May 08, 2022, at Darlington Raceway. | Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Truex would have naturally been frustrated with the Richmond result just because he had a race-winning car and didn’t get the job done. But the fact that Small: a) made the call earlier in the race that ultimately backfired, and then b) didn’t inform his driver about the issue late while other teams were openly discussing the No. 19’s situation on the radio is problematic.

Small was promoted to crew chief Truex in the 2020 season. After winning four times and finishing second in 2021, the team has since struggled, missing the playoffs and posting a 17th-place finish in 2022. They are now on a 51-race winless streak. 

Sunday’s race at Richmond was undoubtedly a disappointing finish but what happened at the end and the poor communication between the crew chief and driver raises questions. Whether the pair are able to find the answers and put it all together and win a race remains to be seen.

For the latest breaking news and information about NASCAR’s three national series, check out @kdsportswriter on Twitter.


Kyle Busch Pulled Off Surprising Move Before Clash Awards Ceremony That Clearly Grabbed Martin Truex Jr.’s Attention and Brought a Smile to Anyone Who Saw It