Will it be “Truex Time” in Texas?
Martin Truex Jr. has had powerful race cars in recent years at Texas Motor Speedway, but victory has eluded the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion at the 1.5-mile oval located in Fort Worth.
Truex’s next opportunity to settle a personal score with the Texas track will be Sunday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
Before the season started Texas was one of the tracks that Truex’s Furniture Row Racing team circled. Another was Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where Truex won for the first time a few weeks ago.
“We’ve settled one score in California and it’s time to settle another in Texas,” Truex said. “We’ve definitely had the cars to win at Texas, but haven’t been able to close the deal. We’ve led a bunch of laps there and came close last fall. Hopefully we’ll have the same result in Texas this weekend as we did in California.”
Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota in Texas, enters the race with five straight top-five finishes. His finishing average of 6.2 in the first six races of the season leads the NASCAR Cup Series. He is second in driver points, eight markers behind leader Kyle Busch.
Since Cole Pearn took over the Furniture Row Racing crew chief duties in 2015, Truex has claimed two top fives and six top 10s in six starts at Texas. Truex twice led the most laps during this period – the 2016 spring race (141) and the 2017 fall race (107).
“It sure would be nice to get that Texas monkey off our back,” Pearn said. “The competition is fierce, and in order to have a chance to win, you have to have maximum performance in all aspects of the race team.”
In the most recent race at Texas (November), Truex finished runner-up after losing the lead with 10 laps remaining to Kevin Harvick.
“It seems that something has always come up to bite us late in the race at Texas,” Truex noted. “There’s not much you can do but just keep plugging away and hope that the chips will fall in our favor this weekend.”
Nine of Truex’s 16 career victories have come at 1.5-mile ovals. Last year, seven of his eight wins were at a mile-and-a-half track. Of the eight 1.5-mile tracks on the NASCAR Cups Series circuit, Texas and Atlanta are the only two where Truex has not scored a victory.
“The mile-and-a-half tracks have been good to us and that’s why we go into a race like Texas with plenty of confidence,” Truex said. “But at the same time, you can’t depend on what you had or did in the past at these tracks. Rules and track conditions continue to change and you have to be ready to make the right adjustments to offset the changes.”
Truex’s career Cup record at Texas includes: 25 starts, four top fives, 14 top 10s, two poles and 595 laps led. His average start at Texas is 14.8 and average finish is 13.1.