FORT WORTH, Texas - Martin Truex Jr. finally had something go his way Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Truex, driver of the No. 1 Chevrolets, won his first career Nextel Cup with a lap at 193.106 mph, giving him a slot in next year's Budwesier Shootout at Daytona as well as a needed boost for a team beleaguered by misfortune after making this year's Chase for the Nextel Cup.
"If you look at it on paper, it has been terrible," Truex said of the Chase. He stands 12th in the standings after seven of the 10 races in the playoff after finishing outside of the top 30 three times in the past five. "We feel fortunate just to be part of it, and we've been doing all we can do."
Last week's race at Atlanta was an example of how things have been going. Truex led a race-high 135 laps, but finished 31st after crashing on a late restart when Denny Hamlin's car sputtered and stopped in front of him because it somehow got water in its fuel cell.
"You weren't allowed to flush your toilet in Atlanta because of the drought, and he had water in his fuel tank?"Truex said. "What are you going to do? Nothing is surprising any more."
Truex said he grilled dinner for his team after Sunday's race but had to wait more than an hour for them to show up because they went to work stripping the damaged sheet metal away. That was so the team could start repairing that same car - replacing everything from the windshield forward - the first thing Monday to get it ready for Truex to use here this week.
"It has been my favorite car all year," Truex said. "It just feels right, down to how the seat sits in it. They put a lot of hours into it and not only got it done on time, but did a great job on it."
Good enough, in fact, for Truex to finally get the top starting spot his team had been actively chasing all season. He'd been the second-best qualifier three times this year, most recently two races ago at Martinsville.
Second best this week was Jeff Gordon, who ran 192.424 mph to earn the outside spot on Row 1.
"We knew we had a shot at it, but we just needed to be a little bit freer," Gordon said.
Jimmie Johnson, who trails Gordon by nine points with three to go in the battle for this year's championship, was eighth fastest at 192.068 mph. Clint Bowyer, third in the standings 111 point behind Gordon, starts 29th.
Juan Pablo Montoya starts third on Sunday, alongside Chase driver Kevin Harvick on the second row. AJ Allmendinger turned in his best qualifying lap of the season to earn the No. 5 spot in his Toyota.
Jeff Burton, who won here this spring, will start 27th. Tony Stewart, who won this race a year ago, starts 15th.
David Reutimann, who missed last week's race at Atlanta, got the final spot available this week and will start 43rd. But his car owner and teammate, Michael Waltrip, didn't make the show in his Toyota to snap a six-race streak in which he had raced his way in.
Ward Burton, John Andretti, Burney Lamar and Kevin Lepage also failed to qualify.