Monday, Sep 25

Auto-Owners Insurance Racing: Martin Truex Jr. Atlanta Advance

Auto-Owners Insurance Racing: Martin Truex Jr. Atlanta Advance NK Photography Photo

Notes of Interest


● Atlanta Motor Speedway is a much different track than when Truex had grown accustomed to during his career. The 1.54-mile oval was reconfigured after the final race of the 2021 season. The banking was increased from 24 degrees to 28 degrees and the track was narrowed from 55 feet wide to 40 feet wide, and it was all covered with fresh asphalt. The goal of the reconstruction was to recreate the kind of pack-style racing seen at the behemoth, 2.5-mile Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the even bigger 2.66-mile Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.


● 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 was knocking on the door over the next 10 points-paying races, the breakthrough win finally came at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway on May 1, and Truex added a second points-paying victory and third overall this season last month at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.


33 and Counting: Truex’s win at Sonoma was the 33rd of his Cup Series career, putting him in a tie with NASCAR Hall of Famer Fireball Roberts for 26th on the series’ all-time wins list.


● After last weekend’s Chicago Street Race, Truex continues to lead the Cup Series driver standings as the series heads to Atlanta. He has 591 points, nine ahead of William Byron. The top five in the Cup Series standings are separated by just 31 points as things start to heat up in the chase for the regular-season championship. The regular-season champion will receive 15 important playoff points when the playoffs start on Labor Day weekend in September. Eight races remain in the regular season.


● When he took over the lead in the driver standings following his win at Sonoma, it was first time for Truex since 2018, when he led heading to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, five races into that season. That was a 191-race stretch. While this is his first points lead in more than five years, Truex had won 17 races and led 5,069 laps in those 191 outings.


Ahead at this Stage: Truex leads the NASCAR Cup Series with 57 stage wins since the beginning of the stage racing era in 2017. He is the only driver with 10 or more stage sweeps, as well. Truex added to his haul of stage wins by taking the opening stage last month at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.



Martin Truex Jr., Driver of the No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry TRD


With the repaving and reconfiguration of the Atlanta oval before last season, would you qualify it as a speedway race, and what are the new challenges there because of those changes?


“It’s definitely a speedway race, no question about it. Last spring, we led some laps and we were leading there and had a late caution and restarted on the front row. We got a good shove down into (turn) one and (turn) two, and (Corey) Lajoie was leading the inside lane and got up inside of me, and Chase Elliott was stuck up in the middle of us and got us three wide and got into me and shoved me up the hill and got me out of line, and that was it. Sort of what happens at those types of places – you can be in the best spot possible, but you have to count on other guys to help you and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. We saw that this spring, too, got some damage and we just weren’t able to be up there at the end of the race. All I can do is hope we are in the same position this weekend with our Auto-Owners Insurance Camry TRD and maybe things will work out a little bit better in our favor and we can bring home the win.”


How much has superspeedway-style racing changed with the NextGen cars?


“Certainly, I count Atlanta among the speedways now, but I would say that the superspeedways haven’t changed as much as the other tracks with this car. Just the way you can bump draft with this car and the way it drafts is completely different than the previous-generation car. I think right now there are a lot more options as far as how lanes work. Used to be that you would never want anyone on your outside, and now you can pass guys on the bottom a bit easier. So it creates opportunities on the speedways, but you also have to be really aggressive.”


Is there one thing you can point to that shows why you are more successful this season?


“I think just better cars, in general. Better cars, better understanding of what we need on the racetracks. Last year was a big learning curve. We were trying to figure out what direction we needed to go at races with this car and, having 15-minute practices where you opt in on what you show up with, there is no real time to recover if you show up with some bad ideas or things that didn’t work. You have to wait till you go back to that track again. Just all of that learning process and figuring things out has been a big factor for us. I think our cars are better this year, as well. Toyota did some work in the offseason and everybody at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) worked hard to try to put the pieces together, so I think, overall, we just have a better platform to work with and a better understanding of what we need.”




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