It is safe to say that Martin Truex Jr. has figured out Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the longest race on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit.
In his first 19 starts at Charlotte, Truex’s record was 0 wins, 0 top fives and four top 10s.
But in recent years his Charlotte performances have taken a 180-degree turn. In Charlotte’s past six races, Truex has won twice and scored five top fives. His most recent win at Charlotte was in the 2017 fall playoff race.
Where Truex has truly shined has been in the 400-lap Coca-Cola 600. In the past three Coca-Cola 600s, he has had results of fifth (2015), first (2016) and third (2017) for an average finish of 3.0. He has also led 756, or 63 percent, of the 1200 laps in those three races.
The question begs why the sudden turnaround for the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion at the 1.5-mile oval, located in the heart of NASCAR country?
“Ever since I came to Furniture Row Racing we just seem to figure that track out and it has suited us well,” explained Truex. “Very difficult track to get around and very tough to get your car setup right. Our guys are really good at giving me cars that I can drive and give me the feel in the car that I need to go fast. So hopefully we can continue that Sunday in our No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota.
One of the biggest moments in Truex’s career was when he won the 2016 Coca-Cola 600 in record fashion by leading 392 of 400 laps or 588 of 600 miles.
“That was a special night and will always remain a career highlight,” Truex said. “We had a great car and it was just our night. We didn’t make any mistakes and took advantage of a very fast Toyota Camry.”
Though Truex doesn’t like to look back at the what ifs, he did mention that he had a good shot of winning the last three Coke 600s if it hadn’t been for two of the races (2015 and 2017) that came down to a gambling fuel mileage contest.
“No doubt we could have won three in a row,” Truex noted. “Just a long race and more opportunity for fuel mileage to come into play. At some point of the race you get those long green-flag runs and for whatever reason they seem to come at the end. That’s the reason we lost it twice.”
The Memorial Day Weekend race will honor fallen military heroes, whose names will be on the windshield of the race cars. The tribute is part of NASCAR’s 600 Miles of Remembrance which honors military service members who paid the ultimate price to defend freedom.
Truex will honor 1st Lt. Arlen Del Richardson, a Lawrence, Kan. native who was killed in Vietnam in February 1970 during a reconnaissance mission. Richardson, who was 27 at the time of his death, was an U.S. Army medevac helicopter pilot.
“This is the weekend we all need to sit back, reflect and give thanks to all of our service members who lost their lives to defend freedom,” Truex stated. “I am honored to have 1st Lt. Arlen Del Richardson riding with me on this special weekend.”
Truex is coming off a pair of top-five finishes – fourth at Dover and second at Kansas. He is eighth in the driver point standings. His record after 12 races includes one win, seven top fives, seven top 10s and three poles.
FRR PR/Photo Mark Wilson/Getty Images