Truex A Big Fan Of Big Horsepower Package

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 10 2021

Martin Truex, Jr. emerged victorious at Darlington on Sunday. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Martin Truex Jr. doesn’t attempt to hide his affection for NASCAR’s 750 horsepower/low downforce package; in fact, he admits with a smile and laugh that he loves it.

And why shouldn’t he? He’s driven it to three victories this year, giving him the distinction of being the only NASCAR Cup driver possessing multiple wins this season.

“I really, really enjoy this package,” said Truex, who has led a total of 332 laps en route to his three victories. “I feel like I can make more of a difference when we’re in the low downforce package, especially on these bigger tracks. 

“I think that I’ve always been a guy that’s done a lot of my driving with my right foot and the brake pedal, and the 550 (horsepower, high downforce) tracks you’re pretty much wide open, not all the time, but if you have to lift, usually you’re dead in the water. It’s really hard to make your car do different things when you can’t let off the throttle. It’s a lot easier to make a car do certain things when you can let off the throttle.” 

 Not only has Truex’s victories occurred at tracks using the 750 package, they’ve also come at speedways that play an instrumental role in the playoffs. 

Truex’s first victory came in the season’s fifth race at Phoenix. It’s the site of the championship race where last November crew chief James Small said “we kind of got our asses whooped by Penske and Hendrick.”

At Martinsville in April, the 40-year-old Truex became the season’s first two-time winner at the short track that determines the final four drivers who will race for the title in the season finale. 

Then on Sunday, Truex dominated the Goodyear 400 at the tough 1.366-mile Darlington track where the Cup Series kicks off its playoffs Labor Day weekend. 

 In a dozen races this year, Truex has led 608 laps. That’s 342 shy of all the laps he led in 36 events last season. Truex points to the confidence Small has gained after a year as his crew chief as making the difference. 

“He’s more comfortable in the position,” Truex said about the Australian who served as his team engineer when Canadian Cole Pearn was his crew chief. “He’s getting to go back and look at his own notes and think about the decisions he made last year at a certain track and not so much going off of somebody else’s notes.”  

Sunday at Darlington, Truex produced a nearly flawless performance. He slipped once in the closing laps, but managed to keep a tenacious Kyle Larson at bay.

“Today (Sunday) was a heck of a challenge,” Truex said after recording his 30th career victory. “I did come on the radio one time and say I’m really surprised how slow it feels and how slick it is. I was leading and driving away from the field, and I’m like, this thing is sliding everywhere. It’s pretty amazing just how much this track changes year-to-year. It gets more difficult with the wear of the pavement.”

  After the final pit stop, Larson stalked Truex, staying within a few car lengths for 15 laps, hoping to force him nto a mistake. At one point with less than 10 laps remaining, Larson shot between Ryan Newman and Tyler Reddick, briefly making it thee wide at the narrow track, in his effort to catch Truex.

“They’re both really aggressive drivers, so I didn’t want to get stuck behind them because I knew if I didn’t clear them then, I would definitely not have an opportunity to get by or get close to Martin,” Larson said in explaining his daring move. 

“I saw a door open up a little bit, and I stuck my nose in there and came out the other side. It was pretty intense, but that’s what I felt like I needed to do at that point to give myself a shot to win.”

  However, Larson’s effort was to no avail as he eventually had to settle for a runner-up finish, 2.571seconds behind Truex.

“In a way, I maybe was too patient at one point,” Larson said. “I got to his back bumper in (turns) one and two and I could see he was struggling in front of me. I thought, ‘Well, if I am just patient here and stay behind him and put some pressure on him, maybe he’ll just use his stuff up or get into the wall in (turns) three and four because he was running so close to it. I was just hoping that he would make a mistake. 

“Looking back, if there was something I could do different I would have taken advantage of that opportunity and tried to get to his inside and maybe tried to clear him off of (turn) two and maybe block him in my dirty air the rest of the race.”

  Dover this weekend marks the halfway point in the Cup Series regular season. Truex’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin still leads the regular season standings. Even though Hamlin is winless this season, he possesses a 75-point advantage over Truex. The regular season champion automatically receives a berth in the playoffs.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 10 2021
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