Notes of Interest
● Truex and the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry team for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) set the tone for the season right out of the gate by winning the 150-lap feature in the non-points Clash at the Coliseum on Feb. 5. Truex won his heat race, then went on to lead the final 25 laps of the feature en route to the victory.
● Truex has two wins, seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10s and has led a total of 301 laps in 22 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Las Vegas. Truex’s average Las Vegas finish is a strong 10.1. Truex’s average finish is third best among active drivers with Joey Logano posting an 8.5 average and Kyle Busch a 9.5 average.
● Truex notched his most recent Las Vegas victory in September 2019, when he led 32 laps. It was his second win on the 1.5-mile oval and first at Las Vegas since joining JGR.
● With his 11th-place finish at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, last weekend, Truex heads to Las Vegas 11th in the standings, 32 points out of the lead, as the Cup Series continues its three-race swing out in the western United States.
Martin Truex Jr., Driver of the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD
What are you expecting out at Las Vegas this weekend?
"Vegas is a great track that’s wide and you can run all over. We saw a lot of guys run high there last year just with the bumps. I feel like the car has evolved and we’ve gotten better at being able to get through the bumps and move around. I expect it to be a great race out in Vegas, I love going out there and it’s a great racetrack. That’s one race where we were in contention right to the very end with our Bass Pro Shops Camry and were fighting for the lead and eventually the caution came out and the strategy didn’t work out.”
What were the closing laps like last spring at Las Vegas when you and Kyle Busch were battling for the win?
“I tracked down Kyle and I was working really hard to get by him. I was working the bottom and he was working up high. I cleared him once off of (turn) four and he crossed me back over since I didn’t have the momentum. We were playing that cat and mouse game and trying to get a little bit of that advantage. Then the caution came out and a few guys came down and took two tires and there was a buffer between us who took four and those who took two tires. I got back there and then got blocked on the restart and ran out of time.”
What is it about Las Vegas and tire strategy, since that wasn’t the first time a late-race caution changed things drastically there?
“It’s an interesting place, it’s fast and high-speed and has tire falloff but, for whatever reason, it’s a place that has unique asphalt, and when the tires cool off you can fire off and run one or two fast laps. These days, with these cars, if you can get that clean air and get those two to three car lengths out front of guys that are on better tires behind you and guys in between you and the four-tire guys, you have a huge advantage for a few laps. It’s all about what the other guy does. You can be the only guy on two tires and you are a sitting duck, but if you have four to five guys behind you on two tires, you have a bit of a buffer and so it just depends on what goes on around you.”
What is it like in the middle of the West Coast swing this year as opposed to this time last year as far as the NextGen car goes?
“We know a lot more this year than we did this time last year. It was pretty eye opening to see how different the car was around this time last year, as far as how you set it up and how you work on it. We’ve learned a ton and feel pretty confident about how it’s different than last year and, in a lot of cases last year, we learned what not to do. Really fired up about going to Vegas and then on to Phoenix to finish the West Coast swing and see where we stack up. I think we were pretty fast at Fontana but had some issues there and didn’t get the track position back to get all the way back up front and fight for the win. These are three completely different racetracks and we should get a good gauge after the next couple of weeks of where we are at.”
Now that you have a full year of the NextGen car under your belt, how different is it, and what else can you learn?
“You know, it’s still a racecar. It has four tires, gas pedal, brake pedal, steering wheel, shifter. You get to learn how to drive it and learn what it wants. I feel like we’ve done that. I know what I need in it now. I think from the Toyota side of things that we were lacking in some areas last year. NASCAR changed some rules and I feel like we are all closer together now. I think that’s going to be plus for us because we were lacking a lot at the short tracks and road courses, to be specific. A lot of good things for us on paper, but you’ve got to see what happens on the track. Last year, I felt comfortable in the car in just a few weeks, and then it was all about how we apply it, and we have a great team that works hard on figuring all of that out.”