Although Truex was the first auto off of pit road, NASCAR sent him to the tail end of the field. Drivers were also competing with the lower downforce rules used in the June 12 race at Michigan International Speedway and with a tire package that changed since several drivers tested at Kentucky last month.
The race to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup took another interesting twist Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, where Brad Keselowski nursed his fuel mileage in the final laps to win the Quaker State 400 over Carl Edwards.
"We ran out with about two (laps) to go", he said. "This is a night I'm not going to forget".
"I think the low, low downforce package, if that's what we're calling it now, helped at this race on the repave". Keselowski - who said he didn't have enough fuel with two laps to go - still had enough in the tank to beat a charging Edwards by 0.175 seconds.
Edwards held for second with Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart rounding out the top 5.
The series will resume racing with the first of two New England whistelstops this season in next Sunday's New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.
Although NASCAR's top rookie candidates have held their own throughout the season, on the Lap 88 restart, Ryan Blaney became loose in Turn 3 and collected Chase Elliott in the process.
All of his Kentucky wins have come in even-numbered years - the others came in 2012 and 2014 - and his latest triumph on the 1.5 mile tri-oval might have been his most impressive in terms of strategy.
Keselowski had slowed dramatically over the race's final five laps to make it to the end without pitting again.
"Yeah, I thought he was out of fuel coming off of (Turn) 4, but he actually did it very well", said Keselowski, who indicated on his radio with more than a lap left that he was out of fuel. That's just the way the race was, and I think that's what we saw. "I was just trying to gather it back up and lose the spots we were gonna lose but go on, and then, some cars barreled in pretty fast from behind and caused a pile-up". He let me get to him and then stood on it. But we had an opportunity to win the race, and I really appreciate my crew chief putting us in that position and TRD and the power and the fuel mileage that we get.
Keselowski clearly got a lot from his tires and setup, both of which were important on the resurfaced and reconfigured track featuring higher banking in turns 1 and 2.
His improved season hit a major speed bump in Kentucky as did Stenhouse Jr.'s Chase aspirations. He had been counting on a late caution flag that never came, confident that a race that had been interrupted 11 times in the first 199 laps would surely encounter another delay.
The penalty did not deter Truex as he worked his way back up to the top three under green-flag conditions before pit stops in the closing stages of the race.
Accidents were the story early on. On Lap 53, Joey slammed the Turn 3 wall after scraping it 10 laps earlier. The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford blew a right front tire on Lap 53 and crashed into the wall.
"It doesn't feel like much carries over at all anymore because things evolve so quickly", said Edwards, who will start fifth.
It all added up to a race in which pretty much everyone said they had no idea what to expect. "It's just the way it goes I guess".
PARTING GIFT: Stewart received a Kentucky basketball jersey from former Wildcats coach Joe B. Hall and ex-players Jack "Goose" Givens and Kyle Macy from the 1978 NCAA championship team.