● Truex and the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry team for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) set the tone for the season right out of the gate by winning the 150-lap feature in the non-points Clash at the Coliseum on Feb. 5 in Los Angeles. Truex won his heat race, then went on to lead the final 25 laps of the feature en route to the victory.
● Looking for No. 1: Truex is still seeking his first Atlanta win. Among his 26 Cup Series starts at Atlanta, Truex has finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th in a Cup Series race during his career at the 1.5-mile oval.
● Prior to the 2022 season, the 1.5-mile Atlanta oval was repaved, its banking in the turns increased from 24 to 28 degrees, and the track reconfigured to vary from 40 to 55 feet. The frontstretch width is now 52 feet while the backstretch and turns are set at 42 and 40 feet wide, respectively. With the repave and reconfiguration, the racing at Atlanta was drastically changed and now more resembles racing at the superspeedways at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
● Truex has six top-five finishes and 13 top-10s and has led a total of 383 laps in 26 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Atlanta. Truex’s average Atlanta finish is 15.0. In his last 13 races at Atlanta – 11 on the old surface and two after the repave and banking reconfiguration, Truex has scored six top-fives and 11 top-10s there.
● Ahead at this Stage: Truex leads the NASCAR Cup Series with 56 stage wins since the beginning of the stage era in 2017. He is the only driver with 10 or more stage sweeps, as well. While Truex came close to winning a stage at the season-opening Daytona 500, he does not have a stage win so far this year.
● With his 17th-place finish at Phoenix last weekend, Truex heads to Atlanta 10th in the standings with 122 points, 32 out of the lead.
With the repaving and reconfiguration of the Atlanta oval before last season, would you qualify it as a speedway race, and what are the new challenges there because of those changes?
“It’s definitely a speedway race, no question about it. Last spring, we led some laps and we were leading there and had a late caution and restarted on the front row. We got a good shove down into (turn) one and (turn) two, and (Corey) Lajoie was leading the inside lane and got up inside of me, and Chase Elliott was stuck up in the middle of us and got us three wide and got into me and shoved me up the hill and got me out of line, and that was it. Sort of what happens at those types of places – you can be in the best spot possible, but you have to count on other guys to help you and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. All I can do is hope we are in the same position this weekend with our Bass Pro Shops Camry TRD and maybe things will work out a little bit better in our favor and we can bring home the win.”
How much has superspeedway-style racing changed with the NextGen cars?
“Certainly, I count Atlanta among the speedways now, but I would say that the superspeedways haven’t changed as much as the other tracks with this car. Just the way you can bump draft with this car and the way it drafts is completely different than the previous-generation car. I think right now there are a lot more options as far as how lanes work. Used to be that you would never want anyone on your outside, and now you can pass guys on the bottom a bit easier. So it creates opportunities on the speedways, but you also have to be really aggressive.”
After several races with the new, longer restart zone, how have restarts changed?
“We saw it cause some issues at Fontana, but in Vegas and Phoenix everything was just fine. They tell us not to lay back on restarts all the time, and a lot of guys get away with still doing that. As long as we can all stay closed up, it’s not going to be a problem. It gives the leader an advantage, which is what it should be.”