Notes of Interest
● 75 Greatest: On the heels of his May 1 victory at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway, Truex got a surprise phone call from NASCAR CEO Jim France to let him know that he was chosen by NASCAR as one of the 75 Greatest Drivers in NASCAR history. NASCAR will be honoring the 75 greatest drivers this weekend Darlington (S.C.) Raceway as part of its annual throwback weekend at the track.
● 32 and Counting: Truex’s win at Dover was his 32nd career Cup Series victory, putting him 29th on the series’ all-time wins list.
● Party like it’s 2017: With Auto-Owners Insurance as primary sponsor at Darlington this weekend, Truex’s throwback paint scheme will take him back to years past with Auto-Owners Insurance scheme, which includes his Cup Series championship season in 2017. The matte black Auto-Owners Insurance scheme also has a pop of blue to pay tribute to a similar scheme he ran with Auto-Owners Insurance years ago.
● For a Great Cause: Auto-Owners Insurance will continue its ongoing support of the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation through a special diecast featuring the Darlington scheme this weekend. Fans can purchase the diecast starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday (May 9) at www.shopmtjf.org. There are a limited number of diecasts available and all cars will be signed by the 2017 Cup Series Champion. All proceeds from the diecast sales will benefit the MTJ Foundation.
● Truex and the No. 19 team for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) set the tone for the season right out of the gate by winning the 150-lap feature in the non-points Clash at the Coliseum on Feb. 5 in Los Angeles. Truex won his heat race, then went on to lead the final 25 laps of the feature en route to a victory that gave him and the team much-needed momentum heading into the 2023 season. While the team had been knocking on the door over the next 10 races, the breakthrough points-paying win finally came at Dover.
● Truex has two wins, four top-five finishes and 10 top-10s and has led a total of 769 laps in 21 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Darlington. Truex’s average Darlington finish is 15.7.
● Truex notched his most recent Darlington win in May 2021, when he dominated the race and led 248 laps en route to his second victory at the 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval.
● While he doesn’t like to play favorites, Truex certainly excels at tracks with worn-out surfaces, where driver skill is key to managing the tires and the racecar over the course of a long race. At four such tracks, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Darlington, and Homestead-Miami Speedway, Truex has six career wins, 23 top-five finishes and 45 top-10s, and has led 2,209 laps. So no surprise that Truex is looking forward to this weekend’s race at Darlington.
● With his eighth-place finish at Kansas last weekend, Truex heads to Darlington third in the standings with 368 points, 36 out of the lead.
Martin Truex Jr., Driver of the No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry TRD
What kind of an afternoon is 400 miles at Darlington?
“It’s quite the challenge. I love going there. I’m still mad about the Southern 500 last year, leading late and having the engine issues, so a little bit of redemption, hopefully, this weekend. It’s been so good to us and we’ve only been able to win there twice. I feel like we should have won there seven or eight times over the years. You’ve got to race the racetrack, but somehow with these cars you’ve got to find a way to get track position, as well. It’s very difficult to do but I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I can’t thank our friends at Auto-Owners Insurance enough for being along with us this weekend and helping us sell diecasts of our paint scheme to benefit the MTJ Foundation. It’s going to be a fun weekend, for sure.”
Does it take a driver a long time to get used to how to drive Darlington and get used to its nuances?
“I think it just suits some guys, and others it doesn’t. For me, I feel like it’s about how I like to drive my car and the feel I need for the long run. It’s always going back to for as long as I remember, because I don’t really know what I do differently than everyone else, and I don’t know if my team does, either, it’s just the way that it happens. Even with all the technology today, sometimes you just can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that makes us good there. You can see the SMT and see exactly what a driver is doing, but there’s more to connecting that feel and those inputs than you can imagine. It just suits me, and I really enjoy it. Looking forward to this weekend with our Auto-Owners Insurance Camry.”
Some drivers say they love Darlington and others say they just can’t get a grasp on it. Is it just tires, or much more to be good at Darlington?
“It’s very unique, I love it. It’s really hard on tires and hard to get your car working good. For me, I’ve had a lot of really good runs there and have won a bunch of races and have been really strong in the last four years, so I really enjoy it. I’ve had bad cars there years ago and I can see how that could be just miserable if you don’t have a good car. Fun track and a place I really like.”
How technical of a track is Darlington?
“It’s definitely really technical. It’s a track that is really fast but the two ends of the track are completely different, which makes the crew chiefs scratch their heads. It’s hard to get your car working right on both ends, so you have to compromise. It’s never going to be perfect. It’s never going to be comfortable, but you’ve got to figure out a way to be comfortable with it and that’s what I love about Darlington. You are on the ragged edge so much and the tires wear off the car so bad on the long run that you are just on ice. You are sliding and trying to keep the right rear from dragging against the wall and you are just sliding everywhere. I just think it’s so much fun. It’s been a great track for me, I think just because I like it so much. Hoping we can have a great run there this weekend with our Auto-Owners Insurance Camry and pick up where we left off in the fall there with having such a strong car.”
How important is qualifying these days with track position at a premium?
“I think these days qualifying is important everywhere we go. The whole field is closer together than they’ve ever been. It makes passing more difficult and you definitely want to get a good pit stall, which is also important at a lot of the places we go. Track position is a big deal and, with this car so far, that seems to be magnified a bit more, as well. It’s all part of it, though, and you take what you have and make the best of it each week.”