Auto-Owners Insurance Racing: Martin Truex Jr. Michigan Advance

Notes of Interest

 

● Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 19 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 in Los Angeles. Truex won his heat race, then went on to lead the final 25 laps of the feature en route to a victory that gave him and the team much-needed momentum heading into the 2023 season. While the team was knocking on the door over the first 10 points-paying races, the breakthrough win finally came at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway on May 1, and Truex has added two more points-paying victories and four overall this season on June 11 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

 

Home Game: Truex heads to Michigan hoping to get his first win at the 2-mile oval in the backyard of his primary sponsor this weekend – Auto-Owners Insurance, which is headquartered north of the track in Lansing, Michigan.

 

34 and Counting: Truex’s win at New Hampshire was the 34th of his Cup Series career, putting him in a tie with 2004 Cup Series champion Kurt Busch for 25th on the all-time win list in NASCAR’s top series.

 

● Truex has 10 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s and has led a total of 275 laps in 32 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Michigan. Truex’s average Michigan finish is 13.5. The Auto-Owners Insurance driver hasn’t finished outside the top-10 at the 2-mile oval since August 2018 and has not finished outside the top-10 at Michigan in a JGR-prepared car.

 

● So far this season, Truex has amassed three points wins, seven top-five finishes and 11 top-10s and has led an impressive 781 laps through 22 points-paying races. To put the laps-led number in perspective, Truex led just 572 laps during the entire 36-race season in 2022.

 

Ahead at this Stage: With his two stage wins at New Hampshire, Truex extended his lead in the NASCAR Cup Series with 59 stage wins since the beginning of the stage era in 2017. He is the only driver with 10 or more stage sweeps, and his sweep of the opening two stages at New Hampshire added more valuable playoff points to bring into and through the postseason. Truex also happens to lead the series all-time in stage points with 1,943.

 

● After last weekend’s seventh-place finish at Richmond, in which he led 18 laps, Truex retained his lead in the Cup Series driver standings. He has 744 points, 39 ahead of second-place JGR teammate Denny Hamlin. The regular-season champion will receive 15 playoff points when the postseason begins Labor Day weekend in September. Between his stage points and the playoff points earned with his three victories, Truex now has accumulated 18 playoff points this season. Four races remain in the regular season. 

 

Martin Truex Jr., Driver of the No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry TRD

 

Michigan has been a place where you’ve been very consistent but haven’t quite been able to break through with a win. What are your thoughts heading into the weekend?

 

“Michigan is the fastest track we go to. It’s really hard to hold your foot down going into turn one. Your brain is telling you that you need to start lifting, but usually the car can take a bit more. It’s super, super fast and the commitment level is very high. And the groove is not really wide, which is different than, say, Fontana, where you can go really fast but the groove is very wide. You miss it by a few inches there you will be OK. At Michigan, not so much, especially when the traction compound is live, it’s very sketchy and on edge. We’ve been very consistent there in my time with JGR, but James (Small, crew chief) and the guys have been bringing fast cars. Hoping Michigan is another place we add to the win list this weekend with our Auto-Owners Insurance Camry. Really would love to get Auto-Owners a win at their home track. They’ll have a lot of people at the track cheering us on Sunday and hope we can make them proud.”

 

Is there one thing you can point to explaining why you are more successful this season?

 

“I think just better cars, in general. Better cars, better understanding of what we need on the racetracks. Last year was a big learning curve. We were trying to figure out what direction we needed to go at races with this car and, with having 15-minute practices where you opt in on what you show up with, there is no real time to recover if you show up with some bad ideas, or things that didn’t work. You have to wait till you go back to that track again. Just all of that learning process and figuring things out has been a big factor for us. I think our cars are better this year, as well. Toyota did some work in the offseason and everybody at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) worked hard to try to put the pieces together, so I think overall we just have a better platform to work with and a better understanding of what we need.”

 

You have brought home six top-five finishes in the last 10 races. How difficult is that with how close the competition is these days?

 

“It’s so important to execute in the race these days with how close the field is and how hard it is to pass at certain tracks. You have to do everything right. You have to do all of the little things right. We’ve been able to do that pretty well the last couple of months, for the most part, but really feel good about what we’ve done all year as far as the speed of our cars, and how we’ve able to race. I feel like we’ve had winning cars three or four races this year, already, and we’ve been leading a lot of laps and running up front each week. It was nice to get three of them, but we would like to have more, so we will keep working on it.”

 

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