The Magic Keeps Building For Martin Truex Jr.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 9 2017

Martin Truex Jr. has become a frequent visitor to Victory Lanes at NASCAR tracks. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Ashley R Dickerson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Four years ago Martin Truex Jr. didn’t know if he would ever have the opportunity to race competitively in NASCAR’s premier series again.

In 2013 Truex found himself without a sponsor and without a ride due to fallout from a team orders scandal at Michael Waltrip Racing. Following the season’s final regular season race at Richmond, NASCAR ruled MWR had manipulated the event’s finish by ordering MWR driver Brian Vickers to slow his pace.

A late pit stop by Vickers and a suspicious spin by MWR driver Clint Bowyer caused a late caution that helped Truex make the playoffs as a wild card. After reviewing everything, NASCAR removed Truex from the playoffs.

Shortly thereafter, Truex joined Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing. Today, he is enjoying a magical season. He captured his second victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway, his fifth on a 1.5-mile track this year and sixth overall in Sunday’s Bank of America 500.

Now, Truex appears to be on track to capture his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. That wasn’t the case, though, when he joined Furniture Row.

“I felt like (it) was a good opportunity at the time,” Truex said. “I didn’t feel like I was taking a step backwards. It was a good kind of fresh start, but … it was a struggle for a while for sure.”

Truex points to team owner Barney Visser, his vision and his determination to become one of the sports top teams as the key to the organization’s current success.

“Barney has made some smart decisions along the way,” Truex said. “Obviously, teaming up with Toyota two years ago, the relationship we have with them, with TRD, sharing chassis with (Joe) Gibbs, developing parts and pieces together, those type of things. We’re in a really great position right now and a lot of that’s because of Barney. It would have been easy for him to give up on me and give up on all the guys that were working there.”

But Visser never gave up and the only change that was made was in the crew chief position. Todd Berrier wanted to return to North Carolina and Cole Pearn filled the vacancy.

“We went from a team that could barely run 15th to 20th until the next year making the final four,” Truex said. “It’s amazing to be a part of it. I’m thankful for it every single day. But I damn sure didn’t see it coming the way it is right now.”

In obtaining his 13th career victory, Truex led twice for 91 laps, but at the race’s beginning he didn’t believe he had a chance at winning. His poor qualifying run left him in the 17th starting position and Pearn noted losing practice on Saturday due to rain adversely affected them.

“We’re a team that really uses our practice to validate our tools and then come up with a new plan for the race,” Pearn said. “We didn’t have that opportunity this weekend.”

Truex surprisingly finished Stage 1outside the top 10. He started Stage 2 in 14th. However, when pit stops occurred during the fourth caution period, Truex’s crew returned him to the track in seventh. His crew gained him three more positions during the fifth caution flag.

Truex finished Stage 2 in fourth. His pit crew then gained him another two positions during the ensuing stop. They performed flawlessly, again, during the eighth yellow flag and returned him to the track in the lead. Truex maintained the No. 1 position for the final 57 laps, which included two more caution periods.

“The pit crew just put us on their backs and got us up front,” Pearn said.
Truex agreed.

“The pit crew was unbelievable,” Truex said. “We didn’t pass the leader on the race track; we passed him on pit road. Really, across the board, the whole team was phenomenal. Making the right adjustments on a car that wasn’t very good at the beginning of the race is something that’s not easy to do, and they continued to give me the changes I needed and getting the car driving better the way I wanted it to, and then to add to that, gaining spots on pit road every time. That’s what it takes to win races and win championships. It felt great just to put a whole race together and be consistent.”

Truex’s victory guaranteed him a position in the playoffs round of eight as the series heads to Talladega Superspeedway, the playoffs’ wildcard due to restrictor-plate racing’s unpredictability. It’s a position that has left Truex and Pearn breathing a sigh of relief.

“It’ll definitely be a little bit of a different feeling to go there and not have that pressure, not have to worry about if we go out early for something crazy,” Truex said. “Talladega has just been a tough track for us just to finish. It’s going to be pretty awesome going to Talladega and say, oh, what the hell, let’s go race; doesn’t matter if we crash.”

Pearn described possessing the Charlotte victory heading to Talladega as “massive, absolutely massive.”

“I think Martin is like 0 for 100 in speedway races,” Pearn said. “I know we’ve had a couple ones we’ve got close, but man, average finish wise we’re pretty terrible.”

Truex’s Charlotte victory came on an extremely humid day that left several drivers needing medical attention after the event, including Kyle Busch and Ty Dillon. Busch exited his race car, which incurred damage in three incidents, and collapsed on the frontstretch’s apron. He later walked to the ambulance after receiving attention from medical personnel. Busch was then treated and released at the infield care center.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 9 2017
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