CONCORD, N.C. — Despite a crew chief change entering the NASCAR Cup Series season, Martin Truex Jr.’s confidence was high, considering he’d made the Championship 4 three consecutive years.
Truex admits he’s surprised that he’s won only once in the first 31 races, but the Mayetta, N.J., veteran remains firmly in the hunt for a second championship.
Truex, who won the title in 2017, carries a 32-point buffer over the playoff cut line entering Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the final race in the second round of the Cup Series postseason. Following the event at the 17-turn, 2.28-mile road course, four drivers will be eliminated from title contention.
It’s not a margin that’s completely safe, but one that is considered comfortable, considering Truex’s prowess on road courses.
Since 2017, he’s earned three road course wins in NASCAR Cup Series action and posted an average finish of 7.6 while turning left and right, a mark that is second-best among full-time Cup Series drivers.
“I really enjoy the road courses and I feel like they have been good for me,” Truex noted during a Thursday teleconference with reporters. “I feel like we are always near the front, always have a chance. So, from that point it’s fun and exciting to go to those races. I’m really looking forward to the new road courses next year on the schedule, as well. Going to new places is always fun, but to me road courses are enjoyable. It’s fun to learn new ones and try to figure them out quickly.
“This season, for instance, going to the Daytona road course with very limited experience on that one, and not having practice was a unique challenge, but it was a lot of fun,” Truex noted. “I felt like we had a chance to win that one, so I’m looking forward to all of the new road courses to come. It’s going to be fun to figure them out, just like it will be fun to try and win another race on Sunday afternoon.”
While he hasn’t had the success he’d like to have had so far this season with new crew chief James Small, Truex said he feels the next five races set up well for his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry team.
“We’ve had a really strong year; obviously, not the amount of wins we would like to have, but I feel like we are right there on the cusp of winning a couple in a row,” Truex said. “I think we are ready to roll. We will get through the ROVAL this weekend and then we’ve got some great tracks coming up and places I know we can go and win at. It’s that time of the year that we need to win.
“We need to make something big happen, and I think that we are ready to make it happen.”
While Truex wants to win one — or more — of the next five events in pursuit of a second Cup Series title, he said he won’t be changing his approach to the closing stretch of the year.
He also doesn’t believe a win will be required to make the Championship 4.
“The strategy is every weekend you show up to the track to go out and win, and if you can’t win, you get the best finish that you can get. I don’t think strategy ever really changes in racing,” said Truex. “Certainly, there is times that you may have to pull some strategy during a race to try to do something, but looking to the next few races, I’m looking forward to trying to win a couple of them.
“Really, if we can just make it through this weekend and win Kansas we will be in fine shape.”
Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 rolls off at 2:30 p.m. on NBC, the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.