Las Vegas may not be the best place if you’re looking to change bad luck. But there could be an exception for Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr., who will be among the 16 drivers competing in NASCAR’s opening playoff race Sunday at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS).
Truex is coming off a last-place finish at Indianapolis due to a brake failure. The week before in Darlington a pit road penalty for an uncontrolled tire was costly; the race before Darlington Truex was a contender at Bristol before getting clipped late in the race and crashing into the wall.
That’s a lot of bad luck to make up, but based on his Las Vegas history, Truex should be in friendly confines.
Truex has a 4.5 finishing average in his last four races at LVMS, including a victory last year and a fourth-place result earlier this year. And in the last 1.5-mile race, which was at Kentucky Speedway in July, Truex was perfect, winning all three stages.
Truex, who will drive the No. 78 5-hour ENERGY Toyota at Las Vegas, would like nothing better than to make it three wins in a row in the playoff opener. He won the first race of the playoffs the past two years when the post-season started at Chicagoland Speedway.
“We’re sure going to try and do it again,” said Truex, who will be making his fourth straight and sixth overall playoff appearance. “Winning the opening playoff race really sets a tone for us and is also a big confidence builder. Hopefully we can put all the recent bad luck aside and go to Vegas and get the job done. Winning that first race is a great feeling, it takes the pressure off for a few weeks.”
Being the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn know what it takes to advance to Homestead-Miami Speedway as a final four participant.
Last year in the 10-race playoff Truex scored four wins and finished with nine top fives. His finishing average for the 10 races was 4.3. If you deduct his 23rd-place finish at Talladega due to being involved in a multicar wreck, his playoff average finish for nine races would have been 2.2.
“No secret you need to be a consistent front runner and not have any glaring errors, wrecks or mechanical issues,” said Truex, who enters this year’s playoffs ranked third in points (2000 plus 35 bonus pts for 2035). “We have a great bunch of guys here. A great bunch of hard core racers. Nobody is going to put their heads down and give up, I can promise you that. We’re going to come out swinging in Vegas.”
The one big difference that Truex and the other drivers will face Sunday is the desert heat at this time of the year compared to temperatures in the March race. The forecast has Sunday’s temperature in the low 100s.
“It’s going to be challenging with the heat this weekend,” Truex said. “The track will be different, but it will be the same for everybody. You just have to figure it out and play to your strengths. Las Vegas is a tricky track – a lot of bumps, high speed and a little lower banking than other mile-and-a-half tracks. We’ll be in an attacking mode and be ready for whatever is thrown at us.”
Truex’s career record at Las Vegas Motor Speedway includes 13 starts, one win, three top fives, five top 10s and 164 laps led. His average starting/finishing position is 15.2/12.5.