Connect with us

NASCAR Cup Series

Martin Truex Jr. Hopeful for Opportune Bristol Win

Martin Truex Jr. has many reasons to keep his head up high as he starts fifth in Saturday night’s race at Bristol. (Photo: Kyle Ritchie | The Podium Finish)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Martin Truex Jr. finds himself in a Game 5 moment like a professional baseball team.

In this case, the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway is like trying to advance to the championship series for the American or National League. It is a bit of a cruel twist of fate for the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion and this year’s regular season victor.

Prior to the start of the Round of 16, it seemed like Truex was an assured pick to advance based on the venues. After all, what were the odds of the 43-year-old Mayetta, New Jersey native missing the cut with tracks like Darlington, Kansas and Bristol on the docket?

Like most other sports, this is why the events roll on. Wins at Dover Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway once labeled the Joe Gibbs Racing driver as the odds-on championship favorite.

Ahead of Saturday night’s 500-lap battle at Bristol, Truex ranks 13th, seven points below the 12th and final postseason spot held by Kevin Harvick. Before taking to the track on Friday afternoon, Truex did not mince words about his situation.

“It’s a terrible spot to be in, last week, we didn’t even get a chance to race, which was disappointing,” Truex said. “I felt like it was probably the best car I had on a mile-and-a-half all year long.

“I was really excited about it after coming off a tough Darlington race, and then two laps in, you feel like you’re in trouble with a flat tire and it turns out you ran something over. It’s terrible bad luck. I don’t know what you do about it. You just move on and do the best you can tomorrow night. Obviously, it’s a bad spot to be in.”

A mature, clear mindset is about the only and logical means for Truex to brush off a slow start to his latest postseason efforts. Certainly, the 34-time Cup race winner knows how to tally victories and challenge for the championship as a favorite or underdog.

Likewise, he believes in his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry team led by crew chief James Small. Much like the Buffalo Bills of the 1990s coached by Marv Levy, it is about uniting as a collective to achieve marvelous feats in the face of adversities.

A fifth place starting position at Bristol for Martin Truex Jr. may offer some hope for a Round of 12 position. (Photo: Kevin Ritchie | The Podium Finish)

“I think just working together for a while helps,” he said. “We feel confident in one another and our abilities. I’ve got a great team. I know what they are capable of.

“For me, you can’t change what happened last week or the week before – you just learn from it and move on and try not to let it affect this week. This hasn’t been our best place, by any means, but I look forward to the challenge.”

Like gladiators in a coliseum, Truex knows it might be a ruthless race on the familiar concrete surface. That might mean hurting others’ feelings if it means doing what it takes to advance into the Round of 12.

“It’s going to be what it’s going to be,” he said. “We just have to do our best. Hopefully, it shakes out and we can start round two in a good spot again.”

After posting the 24th fastest time in Friday’s practice round, he qualified fifth, a strong starting position for Saturday night’s race. In 32 career starts, Truex’s numbers may be paltry with two top fives and four top 10s.

Then again, in a race where everything rides on him and his No. 19 team to execute, maybe his 33rd start at Bristol is the best one yet.

“I guess it feels a little bit similar, but at the same time different,” Truex said. “You always go to the last race knowing that you are only racing three other guys, and tomorrow night, we essentially have no idea who we are racing yet, so we just have to go and not over complicate it and go and give our best effort and not have any mistakes and stay on top of things.

“I think we are ready to do it, just again, wait and see. We are ready to go. What’s going to happen is going to happen.”

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in NASCAR Cup Series