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Out Of Chase, He’s Now Truex The Trophy Hunter

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 30 2016
Martin Truex Jr. fell out of contention for the Sprint Cup championship last week but that doesn't mean he's giving up on the season. Witness his pole victory this weekend at Martinsville. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Martin Truex Jr. fell out of contention for the Sprint Cup championship last week but that doesn’t mean he’s giving up on the season. Witness his pole victory this weekend at Martinsville. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Martin Truex Jr. readily admits the week after his elimination from NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Chase at Talladega has been a tough one.

After all, Truex’s strong Toyota was one of the favorites in the title run. He lost the season opening sprint-logo-08Daytona 500 by inches, produced a dominating run at Charlotte for a Coca-Cola 600 victory and claimed the Southern 500 at cantankerous old Darlington. He’s led 1,596 laps this year, produced seven top-five and 15-top 10 finishes in 32 races and walked off with four victories. During preparations for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Truex claimed his fifth pole this season with a 98.206-mph lap. Yet, he’s no longer in contention for the championship and that stings.

“As bad as last week was and as bad as it hurt to get that ripped out from under us feeling, there’s nothing we could do about it,” Truex said about the Chase eliminating blown engine that relegated him to a last-place finish at Talladega. “You have to move on and you have to look forward and try to be better the next week.”

For Truex and his Furniture Row Racing team the primary focus now is winning the season’s final four races, starting with Martinsville.

“I thought about it every day and every night and I just kept telling myself to just go win Martinsville and I would feel a little bit better. This is the first step in that direction,” Truex said after earning the pole Friday during qualifying.

“You can’t turn back time, you can’t change the past; I wish we could. I think that had we done a better job at Charlotte and Kansas, maybe we could have kind of secured our own fate, but we didn’t. We’ll just do the best job we can do and that’s all we can do.

“We won two races in the Chase, but we’re not in it anymore and we have to face that reality. All we can do now is do the best we can in the next four and if we win Homestead it will be a big ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda,’ but you can’t change it.”

Only two Chase contenders qualified in the top five for Sunday’s race at the paper-clip shaped, half-mile Martinsville track. Joey Logano snared the second starting position, while Jimmie Johnson took third. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch claimed the seventh through ninth starting positions. The remaining three – Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch failed to crack the top 15 in qualifying. Truex believes it’s possible for drivers not in the Chase to play a large role in the next four races, especially at Martinsville due to short track racing’s nuances.

“(There’s) beating and banging, fenders cut a guy’s tire or exhaust cut a guy’s tire or something like that,” Truex said. “Of course you never want to see that happen, but that’s short-track racing and it happens here. This place can be volatile no matter what the situation is with points and the Chase. I think for the most part guys in the Chase get a little more respect than maybe a guy that’s not.

“I’m not going to race harder than I did last week or I did three weeks ago when I was in the Chase. I’m going to race as hard as I can and as clean as I normally do and see what happens. There’s always that chance that somebody gets in trouble here. It’s not Talladega by any means, but it can be pretty volatile.”

Truex believes his team members have a “little chip on their shoulder” entering Sunday’s race.

“I think everybody wants to make sure that they show the other teams in the garage that we were for real and we just want to show them that we think we should still be going,” Truex said. “I think that’s the most disappointing part for us is that we’ve probably been the strongest team all year long. The flip side from that is that we haven’t been as consistent as we needed to be and I think we understand that as well. Going forward, that will be something we focus on.

“As bad as it hurts that we’re not in the Chase anymore and we aren’t going to win our first championship, we want to go out on a high note, we want to go out with momentum and we want to go out with a lot of confidence for next year.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 30 2016
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