Martin Truex Jr. was the talk of NASCAR following his June win at Pocono Raceway.
On that day, The No. 78 driver - from the underdog Furniture Row Racing team based far from NASCAR’s North Carolina hotbed in Denver, Colorado - evolved from a nice story to a bona fide championship contender. Truex and co. proved they could not only run with the Kevin Harvicks and Jimmie Johnsons of the world – they proved they could beat them.
Since his Pocono breakthrough, Truex has failed to lead a lap and claims just two top 10s in his last six races compared to his Richard Petty record-tying 14 top 10s in the first 15 races. He has also dropped from second to fifth in the points standings.
Although he’s had a downtick in performance lately, Truex returned to his early season form with a fourth-place showing at Indy last week. On Sunday, he will attempt to log the first track sweep of the season when he travels back to Pocono for the Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
“After winning there last month how can you not feel good and upbeat about returning to Pocono?” Truex said. “We’re going to have a big target on our back but that’s ok. We’ll use everything we learned last time and more to hopefully achieve a Pocono sweep.”
Last season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. swept the 2.5-mile track known as the “Tricky Triangle.” Six other drivers – Denny Hamlin (2006), Jimmie Johnson (2004), Bobby Labonte (1999), Tim Richmond (1986), Bill Elliott (1985) and Bobby Allison (1982) have also won both Pocono races.
“The toughest thing about Pocono is to find the right balance for all three corners,” Truex said. “The three unique corners at Pocono are all different and the challenge is to figure out a way to make your car work in each of them. Conditions for this Pocono race will most likely be different, especially with the weather being hotter than in early June.”
In order to break out the brooms on Sunday, Truex will have to figure out a way to stop red-hot Kyle Busch, who has won the last three races and four of the last five.
Busch says his team will run a similar setup to what it used in Indy last week and called Pocono “a good opportunity for us to excel.”
“If we could bring home four in a row, that would be something special,” Busch said. “Especially at a place I have yet to win at, so I would love to cross that one off the list.”