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Martin Truex Jr.’s championship hopes go up in smoke at Talladega

The title contender suffered a terminal engine failure during Sunday’s race, likely knocking him out of NASCAR’s Chase playoffs.

Martin Truex Jr.'s dominating season won't end with a career-first championship, as an engine failure Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway led his elimination from the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs.

The Furniture Row Racing driver had been running in the top five when suddenly, his No. 78 car began vibrating "like a son of a (expletive)," an issue Truex thought was related to a tire problem. A few moments later, the exact problem became unmistakable when smoke emanated from underneath the hood.

"It's disappointing. I mean, what else can you say?" Truex said. "I feel like we had a team capable of competing for the championship. It's unfortunate we're not going to be able to show that."

During the regular season Truex won twice, and took two of three races in Round 1 of NASCAR's playoffs. But repeated parts failures have hindered the No. 78 team in the quarterfinal round, negating strong runs in the two races preceding Talladega, at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.

Although Truex entered Sunday's race 13 points ahead of the cutline that will see the 12-driver field reduced to eight after Talladega, that points cushion could have been greater had the team performed to expectation at Charlotte and Kansas.

"This sport is tough," Truex said. "We didn't perform at Kansas and Charlotte the way we were capable -- we had some issues that put us in a hole. If we could have done better or gotten a win, we wouldn't be talking about this right now."