Closing the deal in the last three Sprint Cup Series races has been a thorn for Martin Truex Jr. and the single-car Furniture Row Racing team.
Truex, who had a 10.2 finishing average in the first five races of the Chase, has hit a final-result impasse even though the performance level has picked up with his No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet.
“We had good runs going the past three weeks, but saw our fortunes take a major turn during the late stages in each of the races,” said Truex prior to Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, the penultimate race of the 2014 season.
At Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (Oct. 19), Truex ran in the top-five and top-10 for the majority of the race. But in the closing laps he got stuck in traffic and shuffled to the rear of the field with a 27th-place finish. One week later at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Truex was in or near the top-10 until being collected in a multicar wreck with 64 laps remaining at the half-mile oval. He was credited with a 38th-place finish.
And on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Truex again was running in or near the top-10, but the two green-white-checkered restarts did him in as he was trapped in traffic. He finished 19th.
“Those were obviously good news, bad news races for us,” said Truex. “We were pleased with the performance, but very disappointed with our finishing position.”
Due to a performance surge, Truex is upbeat about the future.
“Things are quite a bit different now and I look forward to going back to Phoenix,” stated Truex. “We’re getting better and the guys are bringing good race cars to the track. We were behind on some things during the summer but through hard work we're getting better. The guys have stuck with it and worked hard and continue to not get down. The cars are faster and that translates into having more fun at the racetrack."
Truex will be looking for a reversal at the 1-mile Phoenix track, where he finished 22nd back in March, the second race of the season.
“Phoenix has been a good track for me over the years,” said the 34-year-old Truex. “Since they repaved the track it has changed quite a bit with the backstretch being completely different than what it used to be. That's the biggest change. The track is wearing in well and starting to lose a little bit of its grip, which is good for the racing.
“It's also a difficult track to get around just because both ends of the racetrack are different. Turns 1 and 2 are like Richmond and Turns 3 and 4 are like New Hampshire. We've learned so much since our last trip to Phoenix.”
In 17 starts at Phoenix, Truex has one top-five, 6 top-10s, one pole and 101 laps led.