Heading into Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway with the hope of being one of the eight drivers advancing to the next round of the Chase is not the most enviable position for any driver, including Martin Truex Jr.
Truex, who dominated the first round of the Chase with two victories in the three races has had his share of issues in Round 2, finishing 13th in Charlotte and 11th in Kansas. A faulty clutch in Charlotte and a refueling problem in Kansas cost the Furniture Row Racing driver potential top-five finishes.
“It’s all about what have you done for me lately,” said Truex.
With Jimmie Johnson (winner at Charlotte) and Kevin Harvick (winner at Kansas) assured of a berth in the next round of the Chase, there are six spots remaining among 10 drivers who are also seeking to advance to the Round of 8. Truex is 13 points above the cut line.
“There’s no such thing as a safety cushion when you’re at Talladega,” noted Truex. “You could be 13 points, 20 points or more and still be on the outside looking in after Talladega. It’s the wildcard race of the Chase and you need to stay out of trouble and take the checkered on the lead lap.
“We didn’t perform as we had hoped to in the past two races. We had a few mechanical glitches. But at the same time the races weren’t a disaster either. We fought hard to get the most out of what we had, which kept us in the hunt.”
Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota in Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega, is more than familiar with the position he is currently in. Last year, he entered Talladega six points above the cut line and was successful in advancing to the Round of 8 after posting a seventh-place finish.
“We’ve been there before and got the job done,” said Truex. “I feel if we don’t get collected in any wrecks our Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota will have the power to run up front. But staying away from the mess is the key.”
Truex added, “The toughest challenge about Talladega is how do you control the unknown. It’s a stressful day for everybody at Talladega, probably the most stressful day of the year.”
Not only did Truex handle the stress level last year at the fall race in Talladega, he has also proven in the past that he knows how to manipulate the 2.66-mile superspeedway. He won three consecutive races at Talladega while competing in the Xfinity Series.
“I’ve had a range of emotions over the years after a Talladega race,” said Truex. “It’s a wildcard race and everyone competing to make the next round of the Chase shares the same feelings as I do.”
In 23 Sprint Cup starts at NASCAR’s longest track, Truex has garnered two top fives, eight top-10s and 50 laps led. His average start is 20.8 and average finish is 19.6.