The good news for Martin Truex Jr. after a roller-coaster Daytona Speedweeks is that the next stop in the NASCAR Cup Series will be at one of his favorite tracks on the circuit.
“I just enjoy racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway,” said Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota for Furniture Row Racing. “It’s not the easiest track to maneuver but it’s sure a lot of fun trying to get around that place. Right now I think it ranks in the top five for my favorite tracks.”
Truex, who has four top-10 finishes in his last five starts at Atlanta, is well aware of the pitfalls of racing at the high-speed, aero-sensitive 1.54-mile oval.
“Atlanta is a real handful, no doubt about that,” noted Truex, who finished seventh there last year. “With tires wearing out so quickly we’re going to have a hard time making a full fuel run on a set of tires without having issues. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I am looking forward to it.”
According to Truex everything needs to click on the coarse Atlanta surface which is ready for repaving after the upcoming 325-lap Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
“The key to being successful at Atlanta is to have a balance with the short and long-run speeds,” explained the 37-year-old Truex. “You definitely need a mixture of both. If it comes down to a late-race restart you must have the ability to go fast for a short run. If it goes long green-flag runs, you can find yourself in trouble if you’re having issues with long-run speed. It will be interesting to see how short the fuel runs will be with the tire wear. Stage racing throws a new wrinkle into the strategy for pitting, fuel runs and tire wear.”
Speaking of the new stage racing format, the first stage will end on Lap 85, the second stage ends on Lap 170 and the final stage, which will determine the race winner, ends on Lap 325.
“We missed out on points in the first two stage races in Daytona,” said Truex. “We’re looking to turn that around in our Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER BOATS Camry. After Daytona, I think we’re all ready to get to a downforce track.”
Truex’s Daytona 500 performance went from looking bleak early, to good to contender and when it ended his strong finish nose-dived after his car ran out of fuel on the last lap to finish 13th. Driving a damaged race car, Truex came back strong in the 500, taking the lead with two laps remaining. However, he was shuffled out of line and shortly after radioed his crew to say that he was out of gas.
“I guess Daytona could have been better and could have been worse,” noted Truex. “But when you’re so close as we were last year with a runner-up finish there’s a stinging feeling. Hopefully Atlanta will get us back to where we should be.”