The one performance highlight that carries more immediate meaning for Martin Truex Jr. is how he has fared this season at the eight tracks that will be part of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
At those eight venues Truex had an average finish of 7.4. The only race of the eight that he didn’t claim a top-10 was a 12th-place result at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July. (Note: Chicagoland Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway are the only two Chase venues that did not already host a Cup race this season)
“The tracks in the Chase have been good to us,” said Truex, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet. “We like the 1.5-mile tracks and the Chase has five of those. Then there’s Dover - it’s my home track and I’ve always felt comfortable racing there. We did lead the most laps in Dover as we did in Kansas and Charlotte.”
But when it comes to the competitiveness of the Chase, which starts Sunday in the Myafibrisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Truex is well aware of what it’s going to take to win the championship.
“The real season starts now and to be a challenger we have to turn up the wick and have 10 great races,” stated the 35-year-old Truex. “You know that everybody else is going to step up their game. For us, we need to get a little better with consistency and get rid of the strange things that have happened the past month, like hitting a patch of oil and crashing into the wall at Richmond.
“When things go the way that we can control I feel we are capable of producing top 10s, top fives and contend for wins. The forced and unforced problems need to be minimal, very minimal.”
By making the Chase for the third time in his career, Truex has now checked off two of his three main goals for 2015. The other check mark was winning a race, which he accomplished June 6 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
Truex’s third goal is to be a contender in the Chase and qualify as one of the final-four drivers vying for the championship in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Truex, who finished seventh in the 26-race regular season driver standings, will start the Chase as the 10th seed.
“After the season we had last year (24th in points) it has been a great turnaround for this single-car team based out of Denver, Colorado,” said Truex, who has notched one win, seven top-fives and 17 top-10s in the first 26 races.
“I am proud of the entire team – the guys on the road and guys back at the shop. We have a great team chemistry and an incredible work ethic. We all thank Barney (team owner Barney Visser) for giving us everything that we need to be a contender in a very competitive and expensive sport.”