● Martin Truex Jr., 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 was knocking on the door over the first 10 points-paying races, the breakthrough win finally came at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway on May 1, and Truex has added two more points-paying victories and four overall this season – June 11 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and July 17 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
● Ducks Unlimited Riding Along at Daytona: Longtime partner Bass Pro Shops and Joe Gibbs Racing welcome Ducks Unlimited to Truex’s No. 19 Toyota Camry TRD for Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The world leader in wetlands conservation, Ducks Unlimited has protected or restored more than 16 million acres of habitat since 1937. Bass Pro Shops has been a major contributor to that achievement. In the last three years alone, more than $2 million in Bass Pro Shops contributions has led to more than 76,000 acres of habitat conserved. Just as impressive is that Ducks Unlimited has conserved nearly 70,000 acres of wetlands in Florida alone since the 1980s.
● 34 and Counting: Truex’s win at New Hampshire was the 34th of his Cup Series career, putting him in a tie with 2004 Cup Series champion Kurt Busch for 25th on the all-time win list in NASCAR’s top series.
● In his 36 career Cup Series outings at Daytona, Truex has three top-five finishes, six top-10s, and he’s led a total of 144 laps. His average Daytona finish is 21.3.
● Outside of the NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona, Truex has made seven career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts there. Of his 13 career Xfinity Series wins, only one is at Daytona, coming in July 2005. Truex is a two-time Xfinity Series champion (2004 and 2005) to go with his 2017 Cup Series championship.
● So far this season, Truex has scored three points-paying wins, eight top-five finishes, 14 top-10s and has led an impressive 828 laps through 25 races. To put the laps-led number in perspective, Truex led just 572 during the entire 36-race season in 2022.
● Ahead at this Stage: With his two stage wins at Michigan three weekends ago, Truex extended his lead in the NASCAR Cup Series with 61 stage wins since the beginning of the stage era in 2017. He is the only driver with 10 or more stage sweeps, with his latest sweep coming at Michigan, and that sweep of the opening two stages added more valuable playoff points to carry into and through the postseason. Truex also leads the series all-time in stage points with 1,967.
● After last weekend’s sixth-place finish at Watkins Glen, Truex retained his lead in the Cup Series driver standings. He has 861 points, 39 ahead of second-place JGR teammate Denny Hamlin. The regular-season champion will receive 15 playoff points when the postseason begins Labor Day weekend in September. Between his stage points and the playoff points earned with his three victories, Truex now has accumulated 20 playoff points this season. With Daytona as the final race of the regular season, Truex will look to clinch the regular-season title and the important playoff points that go with it this weekend.
Martin Truex Jr.,
How do you attack trying to win at Daytona knowing how chaotic that race can be?
“I think we’re in a pretty good spot, we just need to be smart and need to do just what we know how to do. Daytona is always a crapshoot, so you never know what can happen. We just have to be mindful of the first two stages and see what we need to do in the final stage and that will set our strategy for the rest of the race. Really excited to have Ducks Unlimited on board along with Bass Pro Shops this weekend. They do amazing work in conserving and restoring in Florida and around the country. Would love to get those guys a good run and be able to bring home the regular-season championship and those 15 playoff points that go with it.”
Do you feel any similarities between this season and your 2017 championship season?
“Yeah, I feel like we’re there. You never know what can happen in the playoffs. The elimination format, it could be crazy. You never know. I feel like every single weekend we’re right there. We’re in the mix, we have really good speed and a shot to win, it seems like, on a regular basis. That’s kind of where you want to be. I feel like in our years when we won our championship or finished second and were right there, it was kind of the same feeling. Every week was OK, we’re right there, and if we do everything right, we’re going to be in the hunt for the win. Yeah, that feels good and, hopefully, we can keep that up for the next 11 races.”
What are races like at Daytona?
“Daytona is a wide-open crapshoot. Everyone holds it wide open. You get down to the end of the race and we’ve seen the crashes over and over on the green-white-checkereds. Everyone just holds it wide open and, if they have any momentum at all, they just try to drive through the guy in front of them and it spins him out and crashes him. It’s really just a wild card, it’s kind of crazy. I wouldn’t say I’m not unconformable there, but it kind of stinks to get down to the end, if you make it that far, to just get crashed at the end. I’m hoping we can have some better luck this weekend with our Ducks Unlimited Bass Pro Shops Camry.”
Did superspeedway racing change with the NextGen car last year?
“I think superspeedways probably haven’t changed much as opposed to some of the other types of tracks. Just the way you can bump draft with this car is totally different than the previous-generation cars. I think right now there are a lot more options as far as what lanes work. It used to be that you never wanted anyone on the outside, and now you can pass guys on the bottom a bit easier and that sets up some other opportunities. I feel like the racing has been fun on superspeedways, but you have to be really aggressive, as well.”