The menacing adjectives were flowing last weekend at Richmond Raceway when playoff drivers were asked about this Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at the Roval – the new road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Terrified, crazy and scared were the most often used descriptions about the high-stress 17-turn, 2.28- mile road circuit, which will host the final playoff race in the Round of 16 and determine the four drivers who will not make the cut for the Round of 12.
Martin Truex Jr. was one of those drivers with a daunting outlook about the Bank of America ROVAL 400 before the Richmond race. But after posting a third-place finish at the Virginia short track and securing enough points to clinch a berth in the next round of the playoffs, his trepidation level about the Roval sunk to a point where he even became a little giddy.
“Yippee!” Truex shouted with a beaming smile after learning he was set for the next playoff round. “Not having to worry about the Roval to advance is a giant relief. We’re going to go there and have some fun and see if we can get some more (playoff) points. I feel really bad for the guys who are going to go in there and have to do something (to advance).”
With his recent success at road courses, Truex has earned the moniker as the road race guru. He has two victories and a runner-up in the last three NASCAR Cup Series road races. He won the 2017 road race at Watkins Glen, followed by another win in June at Sonoma Raceway and came in second in the August race at Watkins Glen. He also won the 2013 road race at Sonoma.
“I’ve always said I really enjoy the road courses,” said Truex, who will drive the blue No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota in Charlotte. “But what we’ve accomplished recently at the road races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen really can’t relate to the Roval. It’s just different and I wish we had more practice time on the Roval. I am not sure how the race will shake out, just too many unknowns at this time.”
So far, Truex is once again displaying playoff consistency as he did last year when he won the NASCAR Cup Series championship with a 10-race finishing average of 4.3, which included a 23rd-place finish at Talladega due to a race-ending accident. He had four victories during the 10-race playoff run – at Chicagoland, Charlotte, Kansas and Homestead.
In the first two playoff races of the current season – at Las Vegas and Richmond -- he has scored a pair of third-place finishes, led the most laps in each race and won three stages.
“I felt we had a strong enough car to win at both Las Vegas and Richmond,” said Truex, who enters the Charlotte race as the playoff points leader. “Your first goal is to win, but being consistent with solid finishes goes a long way too. Hopefully we’ll get the playoff wins when we really need them. Outside of the wildcard race at Talladega I feel really good about the other two races in the next round at Dover and Kansas.”