Can Truex go back-to-back at Pocono? He likes his chances...

Everything is trending upward for Martin Truex Jr.

Can Truex go back-to-back at Pocono? He likes his chances...
Race winner Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota race winner
Winner: Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
Winner: Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
Winner: Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
Winner: Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Polesitter Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota leads a restart
Race winner Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota

Defending winner of the Pocono 400? Check. Performed the Goodyear tire test at Pocono in April? Check. Coming off the biggest win of his career in the Coca-Cola 600? Check. 

Clearly, the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota can’t wait to get back on the 2.5-mile track. 

“Obviously looking forward to the weekend,” Truex said. “I think typically past experience at a track is definitely a good thing. I think we found some things last year that we could really key in on to find speed and I think both races last year we were capable of winning speed-wise, so look forward to the rest of the weekend and trying to pick up where we left off last week. 

“It’s always fun to come to any race track after a great weekend, so looking forward to it and hopefully it’ll dry off and we’ll get to do some practicing today.”

Although NASCAR cancelled the 85-minute practice earlier in the day, Truex led 97 of 160 laps in this race last year. He was also one of four drivers at a two-day Goodyear test on April 19 and  20 to choose the control tire for this year’s Pocono events. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman also participated in the exercise, but Truex would be willing to “line up and race right now.” 

Getting a head start on the competition at Pocono

After turning his luck around at Charlotte Motor Speedway last week, not only is Truex optimistic, he feels the time testing has provided him with a leg up on the competition. 

“I think we got a lot of good information,” Truex. “We ran through a lot of tires – felt like we found some that I think will race really well. There was only four cars here, so we didn’t get a chance to put a lot of rubber down, the temps were cool, so you know you never really quite know. 

“You’re trying to lay down as much rubber as you can and make as many laps as you can and hope when you’re tire testing that the sun would come out and it would just get warm, you know? It typically doesn’t happen. I don’t know why that is, but I think the low downforce package, the new tires – they had quite a bit more fall off than what we’ve seen last year – hopefully that’s going to make it to where we have to pit for tires when the caution comes out. 

“Hopefully, the cars will slow down on longer runs, make passing opportunities better. That’s kind of been our goal each and every week and I feel like the best races we’ve had this year have been the ones where the tires have fallen off the most. At certain tracks, it’s hard to make that happen. It felt like we made good progress on that here at Pocono in the tire test, so we’ll see if what they brought back does what we want it to do.”

Prior to Truex’s win last June at Pocono, he had posted just two top-five finishes in 18 starts with a career-high of third, twice. 

But this is also the first time the 35-year-old Mayetta, N.J. racer has been aligned with an organization where he’s been able to win in consecutive seasons since he expanded to a full-time Cup schedule in 2006. It’s also the first time since 2009 that Truex has posted multiple poles in one season. So it’s not surprising that his average qualifying effort is a career-best 10.9.  His career-high average finish of 11.5 has followed suit. 

Truex credits team for recent success

Quite selflessly, Truex attributes his recent success to crew chief Cole Pearn and the rest of the No. 78 team.

“I’m different.,” Truex said. “I’m doing things different. I feel different. I feel like I’m a better driver than I’ve ever been, but unless you have a great team and all the things around you it takes to be competitive at this level against these drivers against these teams – you’ve got to have it all. 

“You’ve got to have a great team and 2014 we struggled. I went through a lot. We went through a lot and just we just kind of hit the reset button and approached things differently and now we’ve come off a great year last year – my best ever – and on the way to having an even better one this year, so we just have to stay focused and I think we know what it takes now. 

“My guys are really, really smart about focusing on the right things, the right areas, giving me the information I need to be a better driver, so just got to keep focused and make sure we’re ready when the last 10 races start this year.”

Truex’s fourth-place finish in the 2015 standings was the highest of his 11 full-time seasons in Cup. With his Charlotte win, Truex’s team has the opportunity to experiment and perfect race packages for the Chase. 

“It was just nice to finally close the deal and get that victory, put that behind us,” Truex said. “Last year, the fourth race we led the most laps – we won – and then this year we’re the fourth race of the year where we led the most laps and we won too, so it was kind of strange. I don’t really understand why we have to lead so many races to finally win one, but that’s the way it is. Just good time to get it behind us obviously and looking forward to moving on and hopefully getting some more.

“From here ‘til the Chase starts it’s really all about wins and it’s not about points. If we can gamble and have a better opportunity to win, I’m sure we’ll probably take it.”

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