Though the first eight races of the playoffs have not been smooth sailing for Martin Truex Jr. he still remains in strong contention to be one of the four drivers battling for the season championship in the Nov. 18th finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
With two spots still open for the Championship 4, Truex will know his fate following Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway near Phoenix. He enters NASCAR’s penultimate race fourth in the playoff transfer standings with a 25-point cushion above the cutline. He is also only three points behind third-place driver Kyle Busch.
To say that Truex’s playoff run has been a roller coaster of sorts would be an understatement. Twice he saw victory snatched away by being taken out near the finish line. He has also been involved in late-race accidents, and the past two weeks he had to start at the rear of the field due to an inspection issue at Martinsville and engine change at Texas. And there have been pit road hiccups, including a penalty for speeding, driving through pit boxes and an uncontrolled tire.
“No doubt, we’ve had too many unforced errors,” said Truex the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion. “That needs to stop and hopefully it will be this weekend when it does. I feel good about where we’re at going into Phoenix. I am also well aware there are a number of different scenarios that could help us or hurt us. Heck, you could have a good day in Phoenix and not make the final four, and on the other hand, you could have a bad day and still make the final four.
“It’s confusing and complicated and what we need to do is just worry about ourselves, not make any stupid mistakes, be prepared for different situations and try to get every possible point in our No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota.”
Truex posted top-five finishes in his last two visits to Phoenix – third in last year’s fall race and fifth in this year’s spring race. He also captured the pole in the spring race.
But Sunday’s race at the 1-mile oval will have a different look with a new configuration.
“It will be interesting to see how it plays out, it’s a lot different,” Truex said about the new ISM Raceway configuration. “Particularly on restarts if it gets three, four or five-wide on that dogleg. “It will be different, we will just have to see how different and see how it plays out. The other thing that will be different is qualifying and the way the dogleg comes into play. The way you get your momentum on the opposite side of the track.”
Truex’s career record at Phoenix includes 25 starts, three top fives, nine top 10s, two poles and 104 laps led. His average starting position is 12.5 and average finish is 16.5.