When Martin Truex Jr. was leading lap after lap at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, can you guess what he was thinking?
The answer: "I'm back."
During Sunday's STP 400, Truex showed the form which earned him a Chase berth and Dover race win in 2007, as the Michael Waltrip Racing driver led 173 laps and was a strong contender for his second career victory.
He ultimately came up short with a second-place finish he labeled as "disappointing," but Truex's stellar run announced to the NASCAR world his No. 56 team is capable of winning several races this season.
"You know, as disappointed as I am with this second place, this is a big day for us as a team," Truex said after the race. "It's kind of a statement for us that we're here for the long haul, we're here for the rest of the season. We're not just a flash in the pan. We've been solid each week, and I know our wins are going to come. We just need to keep running like we are."
Truex had a great car throughout the race, but everything seemed to go away when he took on a bad set of tires on the final pit stop.
The car's handling suddenly went to what he called "wrecking loose" for the first 20 laps of the final run, which allowed eventual race winner Denny Hamlin to get by.
The New Jersey native began to chase Hamlin down, however, and eventually made a banzai move that reminded observers of the one Carl Edwards tried on Jimmie Johnson several years ago.
It didn't work, though Truex didn't realistically expect it to; the driver said the last-ditch effort was his "desperation" showing, and he just had to try something.
"There was no chance of me even coming back to making it work," he said.
After the race, Truex radioed to his team and said he let the group down. But looking back, he realized there was little he could have done to change the outcome.
"I don't know," he said when asked if there was another move he could have made. "But I'd like to try it again."
By the time he arrived back home in North Carolina, Truex said he expected to be able to look at the positives from Sunday's race.
The driver is second in the Sprint Cup Series point standings following several years in which he was an afterthought at times, and though Kansas was undoubtedly a disappointment, Truex knows there are good days ahead.
"I can't even tell you how much fun we're having, to be honest," he said. "... We're not near as good as we can be yet, and we're going to keep pushing forward and try to keep getting better. I know our wins are going to come soon."