If there is one racetrack that Martin Truex Jr. should have a W in the win column it would be Richmond Raceway, site of Saturday night’s second NASCAR Cup Series playoff race.
The Furniture Row Racing driver enters Richmond atop the point standings after finishing third in Sunday’s playoff opener in Las Vegas. Truex was the top point-getter in Las Vegas, thanks to finishes of first and third in the first two stages.
Truex will not only be looking to snap his bad luck at Richmond in his No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, but also capture his first career short track win.
He led 198 laps in last year’s fall race at the .75-mile oval and was cruising to victory until a controversial caution came out with three laps remaining. He lost the lead on the restart, and soon after was slammed into the wall. He left Richmond with a damaged car and a heartbreaking 20th-place finish.
In this year’s spring race, Truex led 121 laps and was a serious contender until a late-race pit stop issue halted his momentum.
Truex also led 193 laps in the 2016 Richmond fall race, bringing his total of 512 laps led in three of the last four races at the Virginia track.
“We could have four wins in the last five or six Richmond races and we have zero,” Truex noted. “We led a ton of laps in the spring race this year and were in position to win and finished 14th. Last fall, led the most laps and again in position to win. But a questionable caution with three to go ruined what was turning out to be a great race for us.”
Though he ranks No. 1 in the point standings Truex is not by any means taking anything for granted because he knows very well the potential problems that can happen at Richmond, which is hosting a playoff race for the first time.
“We’re at a point where that short track mentality at Richmond could make for a crazy night, especially with late-race restarts,” Truex said. “You know some of the guys are going to do whatever it takes to try and get locked in to the next round and that could cause some havoc. You never know, but definitely need to be prepared for all possibilities.
“I agree it would be nice to not worry or depend on the Roval (new road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway) the following week to make sure you advance to the next round.”
For Truex, getting off to a good start is like winning the first game of a best-of-seven series, which is a long way to winning four times.
“It’s tough – 10 races, three elimination rounds and I’ve been racing most of my life and I know a lot can happen,” Truex explained. “This year alone, it’s been a lot of ups and downs. For us, it’s been feast or famine. I feel like we’re either in the top-five or we’re 15th or crash. It’s really been no in between and if you look at it, we had zero finishes between sixth and 10th. Zero. So we’re either in the top-five or we’re outside the top-10. That’s something that worries me a little bit.”
Truex’s record after 27 races this season includes four wins, 16 top fives, 16 top 10s, four poles and 802 laps led. He has a 9.4 starting average and a 11.0 finishing average.
His record at Richmond Raceway includes 25 starts, two top fives, eight top 10s, one pole and 560 laps led. His starting average is 14.2 and finishing average 19.8.