● 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 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, then last weekend at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City saw his day end on lap three due to a cut tire. That leaves him 13th in the playoff standings, seven points below the 12th-place cutline with Bristol as the final race of 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 top-five finishes, four top-10s and has led a total of 287 laps in 32 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Bristol. Truex’s average Bristol finish is 20.8.
● 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 are your thoughts on racing at Bristol?
“Bristol hasn’t been my favorite place, but we’ve had some good runs there, too. I think we’ve been competitive there over the years. It’s a place that’s tight and things happen fast there, so you have to be on your toes. Always really excited to be a part of how great the crowd is there, and the fans love that place. Bass Pro Shops is the sponsor there again and they do a lot of cool stuff for the fans. Hoping we can have a strong run there for them and get to the next round of the playoffs. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Has the makeup of your team changed over the years, and how do you feel about its playoff savviness?
“I feel like our team is very experienced, playoff-wise. The core group has been together and has the same mindset that we had in 2017. That is always good, and it gives me a lot of confidence when something that happens like last week at Kansas that’s totally out of our control. The guys put their head down and keep working and we’ll do the same this week in Bristol. I still have a huge amount of confidence in my team. They are doing a great job and pushing all of the right buttons, so we just have to keep doing that and see where things fall.”
Is the competition as close as it’s ever been?
“Ever since we went to the NextGen car, everything has been closer, and you can see that in the standings, as well – it’s pretty tight. It is harder to find an advantage, it’s harder to run at the front every week consistently. Everything is tighter, closer together, less room for error, and you really have to be on top of things. The points situation is the same as every other race. This weekend, we just need to qualify the best we can, run up front and hope for good things to happen, but we really just have to control what we can control.”