Why Truex raced 'old car' at Phoenix with 'half a team'
While his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates spent Sunday’s race at Phoenix working to join the championship fight at Homestead, part of Martin Truex Jr.’s team was already preparing for the battle ahead.
Martin Truex Jr. became the first driver locked into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with his victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway two weeks ago and his No. 19 Toyota team wasted no time in getting to work.
Truex has had solid finishes in the two races since his Martinsville win – both sixth-place finishes – but he didn’t lead a single lap at either Texas or Sunday at ISM Raceway.
Asked following Sunday’s race how beneficial the last two weeks have been to prepare for next Sunday’s title race, Truex said: “You know, for having half a team and an old car and not really working on it, I thought we had a second- or third-place car today, so that’s pretty good.”
So, what exactly did Truex mean by his comments?
As it turned out, a team spokesman confirmed to Motorsport.com that team sent car chief Blake Harris back to North Carolina on Saturday to continue work on its Homestead car. Also, another one of the team’s regular road crew members skipped the entire Phoenix race weekend altogether to remain in the shop and work on the Homestead car.
The older car comment alluded to his Phoenix car not being the most up-to-date car in the JGR fleet as more priority was put on his teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch needing to qualify for the Championship 4 in the Phoenix race.
Still, Truex was a contender for the win Sunday, getting an opportunity to challenge for the lead on a late-race restart.
“I know we’re ready for Homestead, and feeling really confident about that. We had a really strong car on the long runs (at Phoenix), we just would get killed on restarts there,” he said. “I was in a good spot on that last one to make a run at (Hamlin), and went down into (Turn) 1 and it just went straight. We fought that all day long, just took us too long to get going.
“Excited for Homestead, and can’t say enough about everybody back at JGR. To put three cars in the Championship 4 is pretty incredible.”
With Truex, Hamlin and Busch making up three of the four drivers competing for the series title this season, Truex said he wasn’t sure what it would be like racing his teammates for the championship.
“It’s going to be interesting for sure,” he said. “I feel like we’re here for a reason, and that’s because we all work together so well.
“Hopefully, we’ll do that the same this week and throughout the weekend next weekend and then Sunday let the best team win.”
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