Consistency has carried Martin Truex Jr. this far in NASCAR’s Chase. He hopes that’s what continues to sustain him.
“Each week, when you only have three races in each of these rounds, there’s no room for error,” Truex said. “There’s no room for things to go wrong. We’ve seen it in each one of them so far – that some of the guys who were expected to go all the way are gone. One of them was in the first round. A couple of them were in the second round. I don’t think anyone is safe.”
Truex is one of eight drivers remaining as the third round of the Chase begins Sunday with the Goody’s 500 at Martinsville Speedway where he will start on the front row with pole-winner Joey Logano. Truex clinched his spot in the postseason with a victory at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in June. That capped a stretch during which Truex had led the most laps in four consecutive races.
And although Truex hasn’t been able to put together that kind of streak since, he has managed stayed inside the Chase cut line through six races with an average postseason finish of 9.5.
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I feel like part of the reason I’ve been able to be successful (is to) not let the pressure get to me.
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex certainly hasn’t dominated the Chase like Logano, who has won three consecutive races. Nor has he brought near-constant drama to the postseason like Kevin Harvick, who has made it through by either winning a must-win race (Dover), or taking drastic measures with a failing car (Talladega) to advance (not to mention getting into a post-race scuffle with Jimmie Johnson at Chicagoland).
Truex has been able to stay in the background and – in the words of the late N.C. State basketball coach Jim Valvano during the 1983 NCAA tournament – survive and advance.
“That’s what got us here,” Truex said. “That’s obviously what it takes to stay here.”
Truex hasn’t been mistake free in the Chase. He started from the rear of the field last week at Talladega after he was penalized for driving below the yellow line during qualifying. He was able to finish seventh.
Truex, 35, is in his 10th full season in the Cup series. He knew he wanted to be a race car driver after working for a few years after high school on his family’s clamming boat off the coast of New Jersey.
Truex clinched his spot in the postseason with a victory at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in June. That capped a stretch during which Truex had led the most laps in four consecutive races.
“I think about it every time I have a bad day at the racetrack,” Truex said. “I could be working on a boat, could be going out at 3 in the morning, banging ice off the thing when it’s freezing up. (It was) rough, dirty, stinky, cold, sweaty work.”
Truex’s spot in the Chase – the second time he’s made it to the postseason – came after a few more stressful years for him. In 2014, Sherry Pollex, his longtime girlfriend, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a disease for which the couple continues to raise awareness.
In 2013, Truex left Michael Waltrip Racing after the team tried to manipulate a race at Richmond (Va.) International Speedway. Truex was docked 50 points, knocking him out of that year’s Chase.
“Certainly, I’m a different person today because of all those things,” he said. “I feel like part of the reason I’ve been able to be successful (is to) not let the pressure get to me. I’ve been cool, you know, not had any issues throughout the Chase.
1 Driver (Truex) employed by Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing
“I think in years past, this probably would have freaked me out. I think that I’d have been a lot more nervous, I’d been a lot more scared. I would have felt a lot worse had things not gone right than I do today.”
Truex is now with Furniture Row Racing, a one-team outfit based in Denver, Colo., far removed from NASCAR’s North Carolina epicenter.
“It’s definitely not easy to do it the way they’re doing it,” Truex said. “Just look at the sheer numbers, the amount of people that we have. We have 50-some employees. Hendrick (Motorsports) has 500 something, four teams, four satellite teams, their own engine shop. I mean, there’s so many things that are smaller when it comes to our group, what we do.
“It impresses me every weekend what our guys do with what they have.”