Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (15369)

Reigning NASCAR Cup Series Champion Martin Truex Jr. was honored in his home state of New Jersey Thursday with a proclamation by Gov. Phil Murphy designating May 31, 2018 as Martin Truex Jr. Day.

Truex, who was raised in Mayetta, N.J., took part in the festivities at the governor’s offices in Trenton, where he presented Gov. Murphy with an autographed race-worn Furniture Row Racing firesuit.

Truex’s 2017 championship season included eight victories, 19 top fives, 26 top 10s and 2,253 laps led.  He received a number of post-season awards including New Jersey Sportsperson of the Year.

“Being from New Jersey and thinking about having my own day is pretty crazy so it was a big day for me,” said Truex. “It was a huge honor to be recognized by Gov. Murphy for Furniture Row Racing’s achievements as a team. I’m very proud to be from New Jersey and to be the first NASCAR Cup Series Champion from the state is pretty awesome, as well. All that made today very special.”

Truex began his racing career in New Jersey, starting with go-karts in 1991, moving up to modifieds in 1998 and winning the 1999 Turkey Derby Classic at Wall (N.J.) Township Speedway. He competed in the NASCAR K&N East Series from 2000-2003, winning five races and racking up 32 top-10 finishes.

A move to North Carolina to compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series resulted in back-to-back championships (2004, 2005) for Truex, who then moved full time to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2006.

The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota is currently fifth in the 2018 point standings, with one victory (Fontana, Calif.), eight top-five finishes and three poles in the first 13 races.

The next NASCAR Cup Series race is Sunday at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Live coverage begins 2 p.m. ET on FS1, SiriusXM Radio NASCAR Ch. 90 and MRN Radio.


Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) announced today, Weis Markets will be the primary sponsor of Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. and the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team during this weekend's events at the Pocono Raceway. Eckrich, the makers of naturally hardwood smoked sausage and deli meats, will also be a partner of Wallace Jr. and the team this weekend at Pocono, Pennsylvania.
Weis Markets, based in Sunbury, Pennsylvania., operates more than 200 grocery stores in the Mid-Atlantic States. The company also offers a growing online ordering program, Weis 2 Go, which provides curbside pick-up. The service is currently offered in 79 locations.
Recognized for its great taste and quality, the Eckrich brand has a rich heritage starting from a small meat market in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Weis Markets and Eckrich partner for the return of Wallace Jr. to Pocono Raceway, the track where he made his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut one year ago. Wallace Jr. is looking forward to this weekend.
"This partnership between Eckrich and Weis Markets is perfect for race fans," said Wallace Jr. "If you live in Pennsylvania, you know all about Weis Markets and all their great food and service and how Eckrich makes great sausage for tailgating. Fans can go to Weis Markets, get some Eckrich for the grill, and come root for us at the track or during their homegating parties."
The Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway is scheduled for this Sunday, June 3. The race will be televised live on Fox Sports 1 at 2:00 p.m. ET and broadcast on Motor Racing Network and SIRIUS/XM NASCAR Channel 90.

When Indianapolis 500 legend Rodger Ward designed Pocono Raceway, he patterned Turn One after the old Trenton Speedway in New Jersey, Turn Two after Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Turn Three after the Milwaukee Mile.

On the surface it would seem like Paul Menard, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion would have an advantage at Pocono since he’s won two major NASCAR races on tracks the late Ward used in his planning for Pocono. Menard won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis in 2011 and an Xfinity Series race at the Milwaukee Mile in 2015. 

But he said that Pocono’s turns, while similar to the legendary tracks they were based on, are themselves unique.

 “It’s a cool concept,” Menard said of Ward’s use of legendary ovals in designing the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle at Pocono. “But you don’t look at notes from Indy and Milwaukee.
“Turn Two at Pocono and Turn One at Indianapolis are visually similar, but the speeds, grip level, the banking and the curbing are quite different. And Turn Three at Pocono has less radius than Milwaukee.”
But one aspect of Pocono that does play to one of Menard’s strengths is the fact that races at Pocono share a lot of characteristics with road course races. He won an Xfinity Series race at Road America in 2015. 
“You’re shifting every lap,” he said. “And a lot of times races there turn into fuel-mileage contests.
“Pocono is a fun place to drive, it’s a fun race and I really like the area around the track.”
Menard figures Pocono will be more fun than usual this year because for the first time in quite a while, he’ll get to race there with Ford power under the hood.

 “I’m looking forward to feeling that Roush-Yates horsepower,” he said. “Our engines have been strong all year, but horsepower really shows up at Pocono.”
Qualifying for the Pocono 400 is set for Friday at 4:15 p.m., and the race is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1.


When Alan Kulwicki was named to the 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class last Wednesday afternoon, it was reason to celebrate for his many fans and supporters who have been pulling for his inclusion since he was first nominated back in 2015.

That was certainly the case for everyone associated with the Kulwicki Driver Development Program. Last Wednesday was nearly four years ago to the day that Tom Roberts, Paul Andrews and Tony Gibson were among the group gathered at a press conference to announce the formation of the KDDP. That media event at The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway took place the very same day that the Hall of Fame announced its 2015 class.

"I distinctly remember (PRN Radio's) Doug Rice and others feverishly checking their phones to see who had made the Hall," recalled KDDP Executive Director Tom Roberts. "I was so excited to announce the formation of the KDDP and that Paul and Tony were our first board members. But at the same time, I remember thinking 'Man, wouldn't it be great if this program could also help Alan's cause for getting into the Hall of Fame, too?'”

Well, four years of waiting and four years of KDDP classes later, Roberts' dream has come true.

"I was so honored to be at the ceremony last Wednesday,” Roberts said. “For Alan's name to be called in the presence of his peers like Mark Martin, legends like Bobby Allison and close friends like Paul and Evelyn Andrews and Peter Jellen, it was a moment I’ll never forget. Having Jan Beatty, Mark Horn, Tom Grady, Carter Thompson and so many who have been active with our organization there for the big announcement was so special. I know how proud that Gerry and Thelma Kulwicki would have been. Tony Gibson wanted to be there, but he had to finish getting the SHR cars ready for the Coca-Cola 600. Sam and Jewel Roberts, Alan’s closest remaining relatives, were unable to make it up from Florida, but we all realize just how special and important it was to them.

“So many people deserve to be thanked for their persistent push to get Alan voted into the Hall over the last few years,” Roberts noted. “Several members of the voting panel, especially guys like Mike Joy and Eddie Gossage, seemed to have taken it on as a personal mission. We will always be grateful to all the voters for supporting Alan and finally getting him in.

“It should also be noted how important the massive and impressive media support was for Alan this time around,” added Roberts. “There were so many features done commemorating the 25th anniversary of losing him back on April 1 that it inspired countless individuals to learn all they could about Alan.

“Alan has always had such a supportive group of media representatives from his home state of Wisconsin and they were extremely active in getting the word out this time around. Guys like Dave Kallmann, Jim Tretow, Todd Behling and Nicholas Dettmann contributed so much and deserve ample appreciation. Alan’s family friends from up there, such as Doug Mayr, Father Dale Grubba, Jim Rauth and the late Dennis Czarnyszka and Terry Jeffords were responsible for keeping Alan’s flame burning through all the years and that certainly needs to be pointed out.

“Our affiliation with Bob Dillner and his fantastic staff at has been nothing short of a true blessing for our organization ever since day one,” Roberts said. “Bob and his extremely talented personnel have been huge proponents for getting Alan voted in and their continuous support for every aspect of the KDDP is priceless.

“The timing of the incredible ‘Dinner with Racers’ project could not have been better,” said Roberts. “We’ve been fortunate through the years to have educational tools like Father Grubba’s book (“Alan Kulwicki: NASCAR Champion: Against All Odds”) and Bradley Weber’s movie (“Dare to Dream: The Alan Kulwicki Story”) out there. But I’ll always feel like the effort by Sean Heckman, Ryan Eversley and the ‘Dinner with Racers” crew to educate a whole new generation about Alan was of paramount importance and we’ll always be thankful to them.

“Last Wednesday was a monumental day for all the aspiring young short-track racers out there,” Roberts said. “It was the ultimate example of the importance of chasing your dreams and never giving up. Alan was a winner and a champion for the last 25 years. Appropriately, now he will now also always be remembered as a Hall-of-Famer.”

For KDDP drivers past and present, a sense of pride, fulfillment, joy and relief is omnipresent among their ranks.

Alex Prunty, the 2016 KDDP champion, noted, "It almost feels like a relief knowing that Alan has finally made it into the Hall of Fame. We all have been so patiently waiting for it to happen, knowing all the while that he deserves to have been there. I'm so happy to celebrate this with all of his fans. Alan's legacy has touched all of us in a profound and inspirational way and it's a beautiful thing to see it live on." (On May 20 at the Slinger Super Speedway, Prunty scored a victory in the prestigious Alan Kulwicki Memorial and celebrated with the now traditional "Polish Victory Lap" to honor Kulwicki.)

“It was awesome to see Alan make it into the Hall of Fame this year,” said Ty Majeski, the organization’s inaugural champion in 2015 and now a NASCAR XFINITY Series driver with Roush Fenway Racing. “He has had a huge impact on my career as well as so many others. He couldn’t be more deserving.”

Kulwicki's story still proves inspirational for 2015 KDDP fourth-place finisher, Cole Williams. Echoing some of the comments heard from NASCAR Hall of Fame voters, the Sellersburg, Indiana native noted, "Alan Kulwicki was a man who had his own plan when it came to being successful in NASCAR. Doing it his way, as a small team, he never quit."

Being from Wisconsin and a mechanical engineering student, 2017 and 2018 KDDP participant Justin Mondeik has a lot in common with Kulwicki and sees the five-time NASCAR Winston Cup race winner as "the ultimate role model." Mondeik, who picked up his first Super Late Model feature win at State Park Speedway last Thursday night, said "I will never forget the emotions I felt during the announcement and I am very proud to carry his name on my race cars."

Dave Farrington Jr., a two-time KDDP class member and runner-up to Prunty in 2016, noted, “It’s such an overwhelming feeling to see Alan (get voted) into the NASCAR Hall. He was such an inspiring racer who did it his way and built the little team that could. I have been very honored to be able to race under his name, number and colors and to have been part of the best driver development program around.”

Molly Helmuth, a 2018 KDDP finalist, hopes that Kulwicki's nomination will continue to inspire a new generation of racers, much like it has for her. The CARS Super Late Model Tour regular from Seattle, Washington, noted, "Alan Kulwicki is the perfect individual for my generation to emulate as he presented true dedication and a never-give-up attitude. Through his motto, ‘Work to become, not to acquire,’ he has undoubtedly earned his spot into the NASCAR Hall of Fame."

The excitement of Kulwicki’s inclusion into the 2019 Hall of Fame Class continued with the successful performances turned in by members of this year’s KDDP group of drivers. In addition to Mondeik’s big win in Wausau, Wisconsin, last Thursday night, 2018 KDDP driver Cole Butcher claimed the victory in the Cummins 150 Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour battle at Scotia Speedworld in Nova Scotia on Saturday, while Brett Yackey came home the winner in Late Model Division competition at Colorado National Speedway, just north of Denver, on Saturday night.

The induction ceremony for the 2019 NASCR Hall of Fame class will take place on February 1, 2019, and Roberts hopes that between now and then, more and more NASCAR fans will learn about Kulwicki's phenomenal story.

"This year has been just so remarkable thus far,” said Roberts. “Our drivers are competing for victories week in and week out and are doing such an incredible job in sharing Alan's story. News like this can only help our program grow to even greater heights and provide more exposure for our young drivers. Alan might have enjoyed this moment for a little while, but he would get right back to work on the race car. We're certainly not finished growing as an organization and our drivers are certainly not done winning and making a huge difference off the track.

“We are all looking forward to the induction ceremony in Charlotte next year,” Roberts added. “Our plans are to make the occasion a huge reunion for the 1992 championship team, as well as for so many of his friends, associates and former team members through all the years. It promises to be a fun and memorable event, that’s for sure.”


NY Racing heads home to Pocono Raceway this weekend for Sunday’s Pocono 400. On board the No. 7 Chevrolet will be Steakhouse Elite, 

Steakhouse Elite is a New York based company, offers a full line of both fresh and frozen burgers that are "tailored to your taste”. They produce a top of the line full burger program for our retail partners that includes Angus, grass-fed and our flagship Kobe-crafted blends. The key to making a better burger starts with making the burger better. Steakhouse Elite offers a wide variety of savory burgers that can be found at Publix, Shop Rite, Stop & Shop, ACME and most major retailers on the East Coast. 
"We’ve had a great first weekend in NASCAR at Charlotte Motor Speedway last weekend," commented Evan Wexler, COO of Steakhouse Elite. “We’ve seen a lot of support from the NASCAR fan base, and it’s been awesome. We are looking forward to being back on board the No. 7 NY Racing Chevrolet with JJ Yeley again this weekend at Pocono Raceway. I hope everyone stops by their local grocery store to pick up one of our tasty burgers before heading to the track!” 

"I am excited to be headed to Pocono Raceway," JJ Yeley said. "We had some bad luck this past weekend in Charlotte, but the crew has been working hard to get my No. 7 Steakhouse Elite Chevrolet ready for Sunday.”
Be sure to tune into Fox Sports 1 on Sunday at 2pm to catch the action from the Tricky Triangle!

NY Racing PR

Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway for the first of two races at the 2.5-mile track. After a long and grueling 600-mile race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway last weekend, Almirola soldiers on to the trickiest track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit – the three-turn layout located in the Pocono Mountains.  


The Tampa native will make his 12th career Cup Series start at the “Tricky Triangle.” With his career reinvigorated in this, his first season driving for SHR, Almirola hopes to improve on his previous finishes at the track. He has a best Cup Series finish of 18th at the track, with his last two starts both resulting in accidents. However, so far this season, Almirola hasn’t finished lower than 17th just once. the exception being a 32nd-place result at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth after an accident in the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion. This season, Almirola has accumulated an average finishing position of 12.5 and an average starting position of 19.8 behind the wheel of the No. 10 machine.


In addition to his Cup Series starts, Almirola has one Xfinity Series start at Pocono in June 2016, when he piloted the No. 98 DenBeste Water Solutions Ford to an 11th-place result. He also has one Camping World Truck Series start at Pocono, starting fifth and finishing fourth in July 2010.


While Almirola is still looking for his first win at Pocono, crew chief Johnny Klausmeier already has one win in at Pocono on his Cup Series resume in June 2016. “Johnny has a good track record at Pocono,” said Almirola. “He was the interim crew chief for a weekend there with Kurt (Busch) and got his first win as a Cup crew chief, so we have that going for us.”


Two weekends ago at Charlotte, Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion had a different look for the non-points-paying NASCAR All-Star Race. Waffle House appeared on the car to help kick off its first-ever “Who’s Your All-Star?” sweepstakes in conjunction with Smithfield Foods. Fans can enter the sweepstakes by snapping a photo with their favorite Waffle House associate and sharing via Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #WhosYourAllStar. The top-10 associates and the customers who nominated them will receive special recognition and a Waffle House gift card. One grand-prize customer and associate winner will each receive a VIP experience to the NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

In addition to the Waffle House sweepstakes, fans can enter for their chance to win Smithfield’s Smoke Machine Mustang designed by team co-owner Tony Stewart with the help of drifting champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. They helped create a one-of-a-kind Ford Mustang RTR Spec 3 that will be given away to one lucky fan. Fans can register for their chance to win the suped-up Mustang and a trip to November’s Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead by visiting, or by texting SMOKE to 82257.


Fans also continue to have the opportunity to celebrate the summer grilling season by entering Smithfield’s “Hero of the Grill” contest that Almirola and five-time world-champion barbecue pitmaster Tuffy Stone helped launch earlier this month. Fans are encouraged to nominate their favorite grill hero by visiting One “Hero of the Grill” nominee will win $5,000. Plus, the first 10,000 nominees will have the chance to see their name featured on Almirola’s No. 10 Smithfield Ford at Richmond (Va.) Raceway in September.  


The Pocono 400 marks the 13th points-paying event during which the Smithfield livery has adorned Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion. Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, which is based approximately five hours northeast of SHR headquarters in Smithfield, Virginia, is in its seventh season with Almirola and its first with SHR. Founded in 1936, Smithfield is a leading provider of high-quality pork products, with a vast product portfolio including smoked meats, hams, bacon, sausage, ribs, and a wide variety of fresh pork cuts.


Ford has earned seven wins so far this season with Almirola’s SHR teammates earning a majority of the victories for the blue oval – Kevin Harvick with five and Clint Bowyer with one. Harvick also captured the All-Star Race win at Charlotte. The manufacturer has 23 all-time series wins at Pocono, and Ford has swept both Pocono races five times.   



McDowell on Pocono

"You’ve got three distinctly different corners. You’ve got upshifts and downshifts, which we don’t experience on any of the other ovals we go to. And still very high speeds into very daunting corners. You carry a lot of entry speed. We’ve seen a lot of brake failures there of late and tire failures. The straightaways are so long. You get big drafts and big runs. Restarts are hectic. You can get four-wide, but everything kind of narrows up as you get down into Turn 1. You don’t have as much space, so guys get loose and get into each other. So, it’s a very tough racetrack but probably one of my best. I qualified really well there last year, made it to the third round. I qualified in the teens both races and raced really strong.

"Any time you have upshifts and downshifts, I think those are good races for me. There’s a lot of timing in it. To be able to modulate the brake pressure and make a downshift is hard to do. And the timing of how you do it and matching the revs without slowing down the corner – the guys that are efficient at that have speed there. I think just, in general, having three corners that are different makes it more like a road course. Turn 1 and the ‘Tunnel Turn’ are 180 degrees different. And then Turn 3 as well. I feel like just having an extra element of change from one straightaway to the next allows for guys with road course backgrounds to adapt quicker. Because every corner on a road course is different. And I think that’s why Pocono lends itself to those guys."

McDowell Pocono Stats
11 starts, 1 top-20
Best finish: 18th 


Ragan on Pocono

"Pocono is tricky. All three corners are really different, you’re shifting and you’re using a lot of brakes. It’s really a test of everything on the race car. You’ve got to have good downforce and good splitter control from an aero perspective. But you’ve got those flat corners where lower center-of-gravity race cars are going to run faster. Engines are important. Brakes and transmissions are important. It’s where you see a lot of guys have mechanical problems because you’re pushing a lot of those parts and pieces to the extreme limits. It’s tricky, but it’s fun when you have a good handling car. It can be fun from a strategy perspective and how you’re racing other cars. But, if your car’s tough to drive, it can be a hard race, too.

"Restarts can be wild. Sometimes it’s a game of chicken. You get a good run and you want to put the car in front of you three-wide or four-wide, but you know that’s really not going to work and someone’s going to have to give or you’re going to tear some race cars up. There are some guys that are really aggressive and you’re going to watch out for that, and there are some guys that are a little more calculated and they’re going to make their pass at the right time. But you’ve got to be ready to go because those restarts are a good opportunity to pass. So, anytime you have restarts at Pocono, you better stand up and watch because it’s going to be exciting."

Ragan Pocono Stats
22 starts, 1 top-5, 1 top-10, 2 top-15s
Best finish: 5th


Every crew chief in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage wants to win Sunday’s Pocono 400 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, but No. 14 crew chief Mike (Buga) Bugarewicz has a little extra incentive.


He grew up in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, just 20 minutes from the track.


“I used to go to qualifying all the time there – Pocono means a lot to me,” he said. “It would really mean a lot to me to have a win there at some point in my career. I haven’t been successful with that, yet, but I hope to change that shortly.”


Shortly could come Sunday when Bugarewicz’s driver Clint Bowyer takes to the 2.5-mile layout known as the “Tricky Triangle.” He should be one of the favorites.


Bowyer arrives at Pocono eighth in points after posting three top-five finishes and seven top 10s in the season’s first 13 races. Last week in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Bowyer raced inside the top-five for some of the race before earning a 12th-place finish.


The Bowyer-Bugarewicz combination has already visited victory lane once in 2018 when it won the rain-delayed race March 26 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The victory gave Bowyer his first win at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) and gave Bugarewicz his second career victory as a crew chief. His first came at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in 2016 in what turned out to be Tony Stewart’s final Cup Series victory as a driver.


It’s been a long journey for Bugarewicz, who spent a lot of time watching his father race at Mahoning Valley (Pa.) Speedway and working on cars at his father’s business long before he even owned a driver’s license. He studied mechanical engineering and performed research for the U.S. Navy through Applied Research Laboratories in graduate school at Penn State University before heading to North Carolina to embark on a NASCAR career that peaked at SHR. He won a championship serving as the lead engineer on SHR’s No. 4 car with Kevin Harvick in 2014. He took over the No. 14 crew chief duties in 2016 for Stewart’s final year of NASCAR competition.

Bugarewicz said he never doubted the No. 14 would return to victory lane with Bowyer.


“I can’t say I wondered when, but I wanted us to break through,” Bugarewicz said. “I wanted it for the team, for the company. This team has been through a lot over three years. Getting Tony his last win was great, was a big step, was great for Tony, was great for the team. But then you always want at least one every year, right? And last year, we didn’t have one and struggled for a little bit and had moments of greatness and moments of struggles. At times it was hard to put a race together. In 2018, we have been more consistent. The team is gelling well. Me and Clint are gelling well. And we’re very fortunate that we’ve already got a win.”


Some of the No. 14 team’s biggest competition will come from SHR teammate Kevin Harvick, who has won five races in 2018 plus the NASCAR All-Star Race two weekends ago. SHR drivers Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola are sixth and 10th in the standings.


Bowyer and Harvick have been friends since 2006, when he arrived at Richard Childress Racing. This weekend at Pocono, they are waging a friendly battle. Bowyer is driving the Busch Light Ford while Harvick is campaigning the Busch Ford.


They plan to compete against each other in social media events this weekend and will appear on stage together at 7:15 p.m. EDT Friday at Pocono’s Block Party in the infield.


Bowyer would love to best his buddy Harvick and bring home the trophy in Pennsylvania, giving Bugarewicz a career highlight he’ll likely never forget.


“Pocono is a really tough track with three different turns,” he said. “I want to make sure we qualify well so we can get a good starting position and pit stall. Winning in Pennsylvania with Buga would be cool. He’d be thrilled. Heck, so would all of us.”



Martin Truex Jr.’s performance has been mostly steady and stable with 50 percent of the regular season completed (13 of 26 races).

The good points for Truex as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway this weekend include one victory, eight top fives, eight top 10s and three poles. He has scored runner-up finishes in the last two races – at Kansas and Charlotte – and sits fifth in the driver point standings.

Another season highlight for Truex was his margin of victory of 11.685 seconds at California Speedway. It was by far the largest lead at the checkered flag. The next closest winning margin was 7.45 seconds by Kevin Harvick at Dover.

But along with the good came a bad stretch of four consecutive races for the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion.

While running second in Texas, Truex’s race ended early due to heavy contact with the wall after a flat tire on Lap 80 (finished 37th). At Bristol, he was collected in a Lap 3 accident and continued to race with a damaged car (finished 30th).

At Richmond he led a race high of 121 laps and was running a close second with 10 to go. But following a caution, a pit stop miscue dropped him out of contention and he finished 14th. Truex was collected in a Lap 71 accident at Talladega, finishing 26th with a crippled car.

Truex picked up only 54 driver points in that four-race stretch for a 13.5 point per race average. In the other nine races he earned 376 points for a 41.8 average.

Though he finished second at Kansas, he lost the lead with a little over one lap remaining in the race.

“Yeah, I feel okay with where we're at, obviously,” said Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota in Pocono. “We had a tough few weeks, like four straight bad races, which was tough, so it was hard to see exactly where we stacked up, and now we've had three top fives in a row.

“But we haven’t had that winning speed, so we're still off a little bit. I feel like we're in decent shape but still learning a little about the rules this year -- the new splitter deal. We're not too far off, we just need to keep digging.”

The Mayetta, N.J., native will officially accept at Pocono Raceway the 2017 Eastern Motorsport Press Association Driver of the Year Award for the second straight season and third overall.

Truex knows very well the difficulties of the 2.5-mile triangular trackl. He did conquer the massive track in 2015 when he scored his first of 14 victories with the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing team. He has 16 career wins overall.

“We have had some success at Pocono but on the other hand we’ve had some strange things happen to us there,” Truex noted. “It’s a unique track with the long straightaway and three totally different turns. You need to hit all the turns to be competitive.

“I look forward to Pocono. It’s one of my home tracks and the area has some pretty good fishing holes too.”

Truex had finishes of sixth and third last year at Pocono and qualified second for both races.  His overall record at Pocono is 24 starts, one win, four top fives, nine top fives, 166 laps led and three poles. His average start is 15.6 and average finish is 15.5.