● 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.
● Playoff Time: Truex started the playoffs with an 18th-place finish last weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and now sits sixth in the standings, 25 points above the 12th-place cutline with two races remaining in the opening Round of 16.
● 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.
● Truex has two wins, 10 top-five finishes, 17 top-10s and has led a total of 906 laps in 30 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Truex’s average Kansas finish is 12.1.
● Strong in the Heartland: Truex’s two Kansas wins came by way of a season sweep of the spring and fall races there in 2017. The feat kicked off a 13-race stretch on the 1.5-mile oval during which he earned six top-fives and finished inside the top-10 all but once.
● While he doesn’t like to play favorites, Truex certainly excels at tracks with worn-out surfaces, where driver skill is key to managing the tires and the racecar over the course of a long race. At four such tracks, Kansas, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Darlington, and Homestead-Miami Speedway, Truex has six career wins, 23 top-five finishes and 45 top-10s. He’s also led 2,433 laps at three of this year’s 10 playoff tracks. So it should be no surprise that Truex is looking forward to Sunday’s race at Kansas, along with Homestead, site of the third-to-last race of the season and the next-to-last race of the Round of 8.
● So far this season, Truex has scored three points-paying wins, nine top-five finishes, 15 top-10s and has led an impressive 832 laps through 27 races. To put the laps-led number in perspective, Truex led just 572 during the entire 36-race season in 2022.
Martin Truex Jr. ;
What is racing at Kansas like, and what other track is most similar?
“I would say Kansas is a lot like Homestead but with a tri-oval. Similar corners and little bit of progressive banking. The wall has really come into play the last couple of years there since the asphalt has worn out. So, running high is very important there, and also momentum is very important at Kansas. You have a big, wide front straightaway that gives you the option to make big bold moves on the restarts where it can get pretty wild there. Kansas is definitely high on my list of places I like to race and we are hoping for a great weekend there with our Bass Pro Shops Camry.”
Is your toughest competition within Joe Gibbs Racing?
“I think it is too early to tell. A lot can happen in the playoffs, which we have seen in the past, we just have to worry about ourselves and be consistent and try to execute and we will be fine. The other guys – the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and 20 (Christopher Bell) – are fast. It is always tough to race with your teammates because you all have the same thing and you share everything during the week, so how do you find that extra little bit? I think James (Small, crew chief) has done a really good job of that this year, and we will look to keep it going.”
How do you handle that?
“You just go race hard, and obviously fair. We don’t hold anything back as far as meetings and sharing things, but just once you get to the track on Saturdays, it’s every team for itself. I feel like we do a good job working together and keeping it professional and racing well with each other on the racetrack, as well, so it’s nice to have great teammates.”