As Martin Truex Jr. continues his quest to be one of the drivers to qualify for the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Furniture Row Racing driver is hoping he can avoid late-race incidents which have plagued him in four of the last five playoff races.
Truex’s recent final-lap occurrences:
· Started at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course where Truex was leading the race but got turned around near the finish line. The incident sent him from first to 14th in the finishing order.
· The following week in Dover he was in position for a top-five result before being collected in an accident with four laps remaining at the Monster Mile. His crippled race car managed to cross the finish line in 15th place.
· Same story in Talladega as Truex got clipped in an overtime multicar wreck. He finished 23rd.
· After cleanly taking the lead with one lap remaining in Sunday’s race at the Martinsville short track, Truex was intentionally knocked out of the way just before the finish line. Though he finished a respectable third, Truex was not happy with the ending since a victory would have meant an automatic Championship 4 berth.
“We have faced plenty of adversity in the playoffs so far but we’re still in it,” Truex said with two races remaining (at Texas and Phoenix) before the season finale at Homestead. “We should have been in Victory Lane at both Charlotte and Martinsville and have a secured transfer spot for the championship round at Homestead.
“Our guys at the track and at the shop are giving everything they have. They all want that championship as bad as I do. None of us are quitting because the team is shutting down at the end of the season. We all have one mission and that’s to successfully defend our championship.”
The next stop for Truex and his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota will be Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Truex has had strong runs at Texas, but is still looking for his first Cup win at the 1.5-mile oval.
Last year at the fall race he had the lead but got passed in the closing laps and ended with a runner-up finish. And in this year’s spring race at Texas Truex was running second with five laps remaining in the first stage when his car suffered a flat tire. The incident sent Truex’s Camry into the wall with race-ending damage and a last-place finish (37th).
Take away the flat tire incident in the April Texas race, Truex’s average finish this season in the other eight 1.5-mile races is 3.25, including a win at Kentucky.
“We sure have had our opportunities to cash it in at Texas, but have not been able to close the deal there,” Truex said. “If we can stay away from mistakes, accidents and continue to have fast pit stops we should be right there battling it out as one of the contenders.
“I think strategy at Texas all depends on how the cautions fall, what’s going on in the race and what kind of day the playoff drivers are having. I try not to worry about all the things on the outside, what people are talking about. All the noise. Just try to block it all out. I feel like that’s one of my strong suits as a driver and, hopefully, that will work in my favor again.”
With two races remaining in the Round of 8 Truex is 25 points above the cutline. He and Kevin Harvick are tied for third in the playoff standings.
Truex’s career Cup record at Texas includes: 26 starts, four top fives, 14 top 10s, two poles and 595 laps led. His average start at Texas is 14.5 and average finish is 14.0.