NASCAR Cup points leader Martin Truex Jr says he did not consider moving over for team-mate Erik Jones to help the rookie qualify for the playoffs in Sunday’s Michigan race.
Furniture Row Racing pair Truex and Jones held first and second in the latter stages of the race, but the Toyota drivers were trumped on an overtime restart by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson.
Third place, behind Truex, was Jones’s best finish of the season, but the 21-year-old is sixth in a line of drivers without a win and as it stands will not qualify for the end-of-season playoffs.
Truex was asked after the race if he had considered letting Jones past to try and win the race – which would have guaranteed him a playoff spot – to which Truex responded “no”.
NASCAR introduced a rule in 2013 that requires drivers to race at “100% of their ability” in order to prevent attempts to “artificially alter” events – including “directing a driver to give up a position to the benefit of another”.
“That’s not how we race,” said Truex.
“Nobody out there races that way. Nobody is going to give a Cup win up. They’re too hard to get.
“We don’t have team orders. Nobody lets each other win. He’s going to win some races. His turn will come.”
Toyota playoff representatives down on expectations
Truex is one of three Toyota drivers guaranteed to qualify for the first round of the playoffs, alongside Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
Toyota Racing boss David Wilson told Autosport the manufacturer had hoped to have five of its six drivers in the playoffs this year, but conceded it was unlikely to achieve that aim.
“Our goal in February was to take five Toyota drivers into the playoffs,” said Wilson before the Michigan race.
“We’ve got two year-one rookies [Jones and Daniel Suarez] and four veterans.
“The thought is you have to assume the four veterans and one of our rookies will point their way in — or hopefully, even win a race. That was my thought process.
“But the reality is, today, we have three unique winners and Matt [Kenseth] on the bubble. So we’re short of our five, and right now I’m praying for four.
“I think we can get Matt a little more secure, and if we can go into the playoffs with four studs, I’d be pretty happy about that.”