Don’t confuse Martin Truex Jr.’s laid-back approach with a lack of passion when it comes to racing.
For NASCAR’s most successful competitors, overcoming adversity is key in this profession. The driver’s cool demeanor has served him well when it comes to dealing with the variety of challenges that unfold during a race, throughout the course of a season and especially in these high-pressure Playoffs.
And, no doubt, patience will come in handy once Truex takes the green at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday.
“I think it has definitely benefitted me over the years to kind of stay out of trouble and just focus on my own deal and focus with our team together,” Truex said. “There’s a lot of things to think about and worry about that you don’t need to really get caught up in everybody’s business, so I guess, yeah, I think we’ve done a pretty good job at that. Just doing our own deal, and not paying attention to others.
“At the end of the day, the Playoffs are tough, and we have a strong team, so hopefully, we can continue to get strong finishes, and so far, we have been really consistent in the Playoffs, and hopefully we can continue that. Talladega is certainly a big question mark, but I think if we can come out of there with a solid day, we will be in pretty good shape heading to the Roval.”
Truex’s potential to advance in the postseason will be predicated on the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team’s ability to minimize mistakes. At Las Vegas, his car failed inspection twice and he was forced to start from the rear. While the team recovered nicely, and Truex collected stage points in the second segment and finished the South Point 400 in fourth, the team has been busted multiple times in the pre-race inspections—including Talladega earlier this year.
With the caliber of the team and equipment—and the talent of the driver—the No. 19 crew has been strong enough to overcome adversity and achieve solid finishes. And while Truex feels the inspection failures are due to the “luck of the draw,” at some point his luck will run out.
“We definitely don’t ever plan on those things happening,” Truex said. “It’s just one of those things that happens. The other day I talked to (crew chief) James (Small), and he said they were all clear through the first time and they were letting the car down and something popped through on the scan about the spoiler, so they went around to fix that and then the right rear tow was off by just the slightest margin.
“Just kind of luck of the draw, sometimes it just works out that way. It seems like if you have an issue the first time through, you have a second issue the second time through. We definitely don’t plan on that happening. Your number just pops up sometimes.”
The new superspeedway package has been a work in progress for some drivers including Truex. When Cup ran the configuration at Daytona in August, Truex found the runs drivers would have on competitors had slowed.
“Really the only difference was the runs weren’t quite as dramatic,” said Truex said. “The closing rate wasn’t quite as dramatic as it has been in the past. Speeds are down just slightly, and I think that all your moves are just a little more critical. It’s a little bit more difficult to get runs, and a little more difficult to finish runs. We will see what we have. I felt pretty good about our car at Daytona speed-wise. I thought we had good speed. We were in pretty good shape until we got caught up. It’s not really that drastically different than we were before.”
With less than 20 laps remaining in the race, Truex was swept up in an eight-car wreck and finished 29th. His Talladega experience in the spring ended in a 31st-place result. In 33 starts, Truex has mustered just two top-five finishes at the 2.66-mile track. He has never won a superspeedway race in NASCAR's top division.
“I wouldn’t say I’m 100% confident that we will go there and finish the race,” Truex said. “I think if you say that, you're guessing, but I’m confident in our team and what we can do. Been able to win there in Xfinity, not in Cup obviously, so hopefully, we can get our first win.
“We go to the race track to win. It doesn’t matter what the track is. I think that is just the way it is. I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully, we can have a good run.”