Truex leads Playoff contenders to Talladega wild card

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Only four races into the 10-race 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and Martin Truex Jr. is thus far turning in a championship run for the ages. He has two victories and a runner-up finish in the four Playoff races and leads the points standings heading into Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The 2017 champion Truex leads all drivers with six victories on the season. He has 13 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes and has an average finish of 10.1. He currently holds a 15-point advantage over Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin in the Playoff standings and leads the series in average finish (2.75) in the first four Playoff events.

All of those positive statistics are good – and perhaps especially necessary – for Truex heading to the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway high banks this week. The venue has been a challenge for Truex, historically-speaking.

In 29 career Monster Energy Series races at Talladega, Truex has more DNFs (13) than top-10 finishes (eight). He has only a pair of top-five results – both fifth-place finishes (in 2006 and 2015). His average finish of 21.3 is 25th-best among this week’s starting field. He started and finished 20th in the May race – his first top-20 finish since May, 2016. He was 23rd in the October Talladega Playoff race last year.

Truex does actually have a bit of positive racing history at Talladega despite his struggle in the Monster Energy Series. He has two Xfinity Series race victories – one each in his 2004 and 2005 championship years.

“We feel good about where we’re at,’’ Truex said. “Obviously, we wish we could have won last week and not had to worry about Talladega, but everybody on our team has been doing a good job all year and especially in the Playoffs.

“We know this weekend is going to be a huge challenge for us because of how the manufacturers have been working together the last few plate races. Strength in numbers is huge and we don’t really have enough cars to do what those other guys do. We have a lot of smart people at JGR, so I’m confident we’ll come up with a game plan this week and make the best of it.’’

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