● Truex and the No. 19 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 a victory that gave him and the team much-needed momentum heading into the 2023 season. While the team had been knocking on the door during the opening 10 races of the season, the breakthrough points-paying win finally came at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway last month.
● 32 and Counting: Truex’s win at Dover was his 32nd career Cup Series
victory, putting him 29th on the series’ all-time wins list.
● As part of #NASCARSalutes and the 600 Miles of Remembrance initiative
during the Coca-Cola 600, the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Camry will be honoring Chief War rant Officer 2 Rusten Radford Smith. CW2 Smith passed away in a helicopter accident near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on March 29, 2023, at 32 years of age. Smith attended Missouri S&T and later joined the U.S. Army and served as a Blackhawk pilot in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) with C. Company Sixth Battalion, 101st Combat Airborne Brigade. Smith joined the Army in 2012. He had multiple deployments, including two combat tours to Afghanistan and Europe for the Atlantic Resolve. He was a decorated war veteran and received the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal, along with others. Smith was an avid outdoorsman, and Bass Pro Shops and Truex are honored to have CW2 Smith riding along on the No. 19 at Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.
● Truex has three wins, seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10s and has led a total of 1,059 laps in 31 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Charlotte. Truex’s average Charlotte finish is 14.1.
● Truex notched his most recent Coca-Cola 600 win in May 2019, when he led 116 laps en route to his third victory at the 1.5-mile oval. Truex’s other Charlotte wins came in May 2016 and September 2017. The Bass Pro Shops driver’s most memorable of two Coca-Cola 600 wins came in his first win there in 2016, when Truex led a whopping 392 laps, the most miles any driver has ever led a NASCAR Cup Series race to date in one of the most dominating performances of the modern era of NASCAR.
● Truex heads to NASCAR’s longest race sixth in the driver standings with 385 points, 44 out of the lead.
What is your favorite thing about the Coca-Cola 600?
“My favorite thing about the Coke 600 is how much the track changes and how long the race is. It’s such a big challenge to get prepared for and get through the whole race. We’ve been fortunate to win it a few times. For whatever reason, it’s been a really good race for me and my Bass Pro Shops team the past seven or eight years. I always look forward to the challenge – it’s a grind and I love that. Always honored to not only have a fallen soldier riding along with me, but also for all the work Bass Pro Shops does with the USO and all their great work with our military heroes.”
What is it like winning the Coke 600?
“When you win the 600, you get to go upstairs in the Speedway Club and get the jacket – you get a ring and a jacket – it’s a big deal, it’s not like winning a normal race. Anytime you get to do those things it’s really special and you definitely savor the moment. For me, leading 492 miles or whatever back in 2016, it was a great trip up there after. The most laps and miles led in a NASCAR race, it was incredible deal to be able to do that.”
What does it mean to you, all the things that are done for the families of fallen service members during the weekend?
“It’s obviously special to honor a fallen service member on all of our windshields, but also just to meet the family members who get to come to the track. And just to see their excitement and their appreciation for what NASCAR does to put that on and honor the family members. It makes them feel very special, and for us it’s just a huge honor. To do the break during the race is special, too. It’s just part of the whole day to honor those who have made so many sacrifices for our country, and to have the halfway break is very moving.”
Would you say the 2016 Coca-Cola 600 was a day that lined up for you the most perfectly in your career, and are there others that have been that good that maybe not everyone would know like that day?
“Certainly that 2016 Coke 600 was a special day. We started on the pole and led almost every lap, and the only laps we didn’t lead was when we were pitting. Essentially led every lap we were on the track racing. To do that in a 600-mile race, the longest of the year, to do that was as close to perfection as it gets. But, I feel like there wer other races that I might have had a better performance by me, just because I know when I make mistakes and do the little things here and there. The 2016 Coke 600 that year, it got pretty sketchy a couple of times for as easy as it looked from the outside. I’ve had a couple of Darlington races where I think I had better performances. Last year, we led with 30 to go and had the belt issue and didn’t end up winning, I felt like that was one of my best races ever, even though we didn’t win. There have been a few along the way where I felt like I didn’t make any mistakes and I got everything I could, but certainly that Coke 600 was as dominant as we’ve been as a team.”