Though he is not in the Championship 4 as he was last year, the 2016 season still had historical significance for Martin Truex Jr.
Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Denver Mattress Toyota in Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, started the season with a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500, losing to Denny Hamlin by one hundredth of second or fewer than six inches. It was the closest finish in the 58-year history of NASCAR’s biggest race.
Since the Daytona 500 opener Truex has amassed the following in 2016.
· He has claimed four victories, the first time he won more than one race in a season. Entering the Homestead finale, he is tied for most wins in 2016.
· His victory at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte set an event record for laps led (392 out of 400) and also set a NASCAR record for most miles led in a race at 588.
· He has captured five poles, snapping his previous season high of three set in 2009.
· He has clinched the season mark for most laps led. Entering the final race he has led 1809 laps, 431 more than the second place lap leader Kyle Busch.
· The 1809 laps he has led in first 35 races is more than triple of his previous season best of 581 set in 2007. (note: Truex led one lap in 2014, his first season with Furniture Row Racing)
· He has led laps in 22 of the 35 races completed.
· His average starting position entering Homestead is 9.2, nearly three positions better than his previous season best of 12.2 set last year.
· For the second season in a row he will finish in the top 10. He currently sits eighth in points.
“I do admit there is some feeling of emptiness this weekend,” said Truex. “We felt all year that we had a championship caliber team and the goal was to be one of the four teams in Homestead vying for the title. We’re not one of those teams and that’s disappointing.
“However, looking back at the season we have made big gains and feel very proud of what we accomplished by winning races, winning poles and leading laps. Thanks to our owner Barney Visser, TRD (Toyota Racing Development), Joe Gibbs Racing alliance and to our talented team members, the Furniture Row Racing foundation is obviously stronger. A special thank you also goes out to our sponsors – Bass Pro Shops, TRACKER Boats, Auto-Owners Insurance, Toyota, Furniture Row, Denver Mattress and Visser Precision.
But before the final chapter is written for the 2016 season, Truex feels his Bass Pro Shops/Denver Mattress Toyota will have a shot at winning Sunday’s race.
One reason for Truex’s optimism is that Homestead-Miami Speedway has been one of his best tracks on the circuit. His average finish of 10.2 at the 1.5-mile oval is his personal best among all NASCAR Cup venues. His overall Homestead record includes three top fives and seven top 10s in 11 starts.
“No doubt, Homestead has been one of my better tracks,” noted Truex. “Hopefully we’ll put it all together by having a successful race and head into the offseason with a positive performance.”