- Truex Jr. Looking To Advance As Playoffs Head To Kansas Speedway For Round Of 12 Elimination Race
This is the fifth feature/video vignette of a weekly series that will appear each Thursday that focuses on contenders in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. The series will run up to the AAA Texas 500, the middle race of the Round of 8, set for Sunday, Nov. 4, at Texas Motor Speedway.
FORT WORTH, Texas (October 18, 2018) – Martin Truex Jr.’s move to Furniture Row Racing in 2014 looked like a major step backward. A year after picking up the second victory of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career with Michael Waltrip Racing, Truex Jr. scored just five top-10 finishes and led one, yes one, lap in 36 races.
Fast forward four years to today. Truex Jr. has won 17 times, led 5,600 laps and is the defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion. And while he will be looking for a new home once again in 2019 with Furniture Row Racing ceasing operations at the close of this season, Truex Jr. knows what a second consecutive championship would mean for his legacy as well as the organization.
“Last year was a dream season, a dream come true to win the championship. Something I worked my whole life for,” Truex Jr. said. “As awesome as it was, to go back-to-back – it’s hard to even think about. I can’t even imagine. It would put us up there with some of the biggest names to ever come through the sport and (one) of the biggest accomplishments that’s ever been done.”
Truex Jr.’s journey to stardom appeared as if it may never happen. While he had the pedigree and tools to be a perennial contender in NASCAR’s premier racing series, the statistics never backed that up.
“I appreciate the position (I’m in now) since I’ve been on the other side of it before,” said Truex Jr., a two-time Xfinity Series champion (2004-05) who won just twice in his first 297 Cup starts. “I’ve had seasons where we couldn’t contend or were way off; a lot of years before I was on a championship-contending team. To watch those other guys have success, you want it so bad and it drives you so hard to get better and try and figure out how to put yourself in that position.
“So to be in that spot the last couple years has been a ton of fun. I’ve really enjoyed it and I’m just working hard to stay in that position, and hopefully be in that position to win championships for years to come.”
Considered one of this season’s “Big Three” – along with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch – the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team has struggled since team owner Barney Visser announced Sept. 4 that the team would be disbanding following the 2018 season. Winner of four of the first 19 races, Truex Jr. has finished inside the top 10 only twice in his last eight starts.
He isn’t about to throw in the towel yet, though.
“I think we want it more just because it is (the last season). We want to bring (the championship) back to Denver; bring it back to Barney and give him the best going-out present we can give him,” Truex Jr. said. “He’s done a lot for our careers and our focus right now is to do all we can and do the best job we can to try and repeat.”
Truex Jr. enters Sunday’s Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway (1 p.m. CT, TV: NBC; Radio: SiriusXM, MRN) 18 points clear of the cutline of the eighth and final transfer spot. While that’s a somewhat safe position, advancing to the Round of 8 is far from a certainty. He can find solace in the fact that Kansas Speedway lately has been one of his best tracks, having won two of the last three races there including a 2017 season sweep.
“There’s so many different aspects to this that have to be perfect,” Truex Jr. said. “It takes a million things to go right every race, every weekend, preparing for every week. One of those things goes wrong, you find yourself on the outside looking in. For us, we have a good team, we play to our strengths and hopefully we can put it all together.”
If Truex Jr. and the team can put it together and move on to the Round of 8, the three tracks in the Round of 8 should give them a lot of confidence – Martinsville on Sunday, Oct. 28, the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 4, and Phoenix’s ISM Raceway on Sunday, Nov. 11.
Truex Jr. has consecutive top-five finishes at Martinsville, 363 laps led and two top-three efforts in his last five starts at Texas Motor Speedway and back-to-back top-five finishes at Phoenix.
A victory in a Round of 8 race for a playoff contender provide an automatic berth in the Championship 4 set for the Nov. 18 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.