Martin Truex Jr., who will make his 400th career Sprint Cup Series start in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, is keenly aware of the stakes at hand as the high-pressure Chase continues to unfold.
After winning two of the three races in the first round of the Chase, the Furniture Row Racing driver slipped to a 13th-place finish in the opening race of Round 2 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was running in the top three when the clutch malfunctioned while leaving his pit stall with fewer than 30 laps remaining.
The good news for Truex is that he returns to Kansas where he has come close to winning a number of times, including at this year’s spring race. As was the case at Kansas in May, Truex will drive the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota Camry.
Truex captured the pole, led a race high of 172 laps and enjoyed a commanding lead on Kansas’ 1.5-mile oval. But after pitting for fresh tires on Lap 210 of 267 he reported that he had a loose wheel and the car was shaking. The culprit was a broken head bolt off the brake that got lodged behind the right-front wheel. Truex had no choice but to make an unscheduled pit stop. He finished 14th.
“That was just one more race at Kansas where we were dominant but didn’t close the deal,” said Truex, who also scored a pair of runners-up at Kansas in 2012. “But right now I am happy we’re headed to Kansas, this is a race we feel we can run up front and possibly win. When we left Kansas in May I said, ‘If we keep on bringing cars like we had tonight we’re going to win.' Since Kansas we have done that, winning four times.
“I am hoping that my 400th Cup start will be much better than my first one (Oct. 31, 2004 at Atlanta, finished 37th). Can’t believe it’s gone by this fast but I am sure enjoying every race, especially this season. It’s been awesome to be part of a great race team.”
Truex ranks seventh in Chase points among the 12 playoff drivers, 19 points to the good of being in the top eight, the number of drivers who will advance to the next round. However, he feels it is important to increase his lead above the cut line at Kansas since the final race of Round 2 will be at the wildcard Talladega Superspeedway.
“The ideal scenario would be to win Kansas and not worry about Talladega,” said Truex. “But if you don’t win Kansas you want to finish high and have somewhat of a cushion (in points) for Talladega where the odds of getting collected in a wreck are higher than we would all prefer.”
Truex enters Kansas as the Sprint Cup Series lap leader (1594) and is tied for season wins at four.
“We have a great team,” stated Truex. “I’m just honestly thankful that I am getting to show my talent, my capabilities behind the wheel and focus on continuing this roll that we’re on, and what it’s going to take to do that, so I don’t take it for granted. I know that in two weeks it could be gone. You just never know in this sport, that’s why I’m living in the moment and enjoying myself. I love working with my race team.”
In 16 Sprint Cup career starts at Kansas, Truex has garnered four top fives, five top 10s and 518 laps led. His average starting position is 12.1 and average finishing position is 17.1.