Despite major offseason changes of having a new manufacturer in Toyota and a new technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, Martin Truex Jr. and his Furniture Row Racing team have managed to shorten the learning curve.
After the first three races, Truex has a 6.66 finishing average. At the season opener he came within inches of winning the Daytona 500, losing by 0.010 seconds in the closest 1-2 finish in the 58-year history of NASCAR’s biggest race.
Truex, who will drive the colorful No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota in this weekend’s Good Sam 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, was quick to praise his team for the successful start.
“We have an awesome team, we just click and have some really good chemistry,” said Truex. “Certainly this offseason was a busy one for everybody at Furniture Row Racing. The switch to Toyota involved a lot of work and many overtime hours. The guys back at the Denver shop have done an incredible job.”
Truex added, "Cole (Pearn, crew chief) has done an awesome job. We have that trust and belief in each other. When I ask my guys about something, I know they’re going to figure out how to get it to me. It’s just really fun to go to the race track and work together like that as a team and have that confidence in each other.
“Honestly, I’ve never had a team where I felt more confident in them. I think most importantly, I’ve never had a team where I felt that in return, where they felt like I was the best guy for them and they wouldn’t want anyone else in their car. Just that relationship makes it so much easier to go to work and figure out how to make our cars go fast.”
Tackling Phoenix’s 1-mile oval is never an easy task, but it’s been a place that has given Truex one of his career highlights since joining the Cup series full time in 2006. The 35-year-old New Jersey native clinched a berth in the Championship 4 at the November race in Phoenix.
“No questions, that was a pretty special evening at Phoenix last fall,” recalled Truex. “We had a narrow lead in points to reach the final four at Homestead when the race was red flagged for rain. I was in the team hauler when I received word that the race was called and was then summoned to the media center with the other three drivers who would be vying for the championship. That was a pretty exciting time.”
Truex’s finishes last year at Phoenix were seventh in the spring and 14th in the fall. His Sprint Cup career record at Phoenix is 20 starts, one top five, seven top 10s, 101 laps led and one pole. His starting average is 12.2 and finishing average 17.0.
“I am looking forward to driving the Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota in Phoenix,” stated Truex. “The last time I drove the Bass Pro Shops car was finishing runner-up at the Daytona 500 season opener. Bass Pro Shops and its founder Johnny Morris have played a big role in my career and I would love to get them a win this weekend.”