● 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.
● Headed to Round of 8: Truex sits second in the reset playoff standings following last weekend’s cutoff race on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval. Truex is just five points behind leader William Byron heading into the first of three Round of 8 races Sunday at Las Vegas.
● Truex has two wins, seven top-five finishes and 14 top-10s and has led a total of 304 laps in 23 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Las Vegas. Truex’s average Las Vegas finish is a strong 10th. His average finish is second best among active drivers with Joey Logano posting a slightly better 9.9 average.
● Truex notched his most recent Las Vegas victory in September 2019, when he led 32 laps. It was his second win on the 1.5-mile oval and first at Las Vegas since joining JGR.
● 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.
● 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 33 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 you expecting at Las Vegas this weekend?
“Vegas is a great track that’s wide and you can run all over. We saw a lot of guys run high the last three races there with the bumps. I feel like the car has evolved and we’ve gotten better at being able to get through the bumps and move around. I expect it to be a great race out in Vegas. I love going out there and it’s a great racetrack. The last couple of races there, we were in contention right to the very end with our Bass Pro Shops Camry and were fighting for the lead and eventually the caution came out and the strategy didn’t work out.”
You’ve been able to get through the first two playoff rounds with help from a really strong regular season. What got you through these rounds, and what will it take to get to the Championship 4?
“Stage points and bonus points certainly helped us a ton. I didn’t create the system. We used it to our advantage. That won’t get us through the next one. The next one, you’ve got to be running up front. Two winners of the next three races are probably going to be playoff guys that are still going. Need to turn it up and we need to figure it out quickly. That’s the beauty and that’s the thing that sucks about this deal, you know what I mean? I’m sure there are guys who are upset. They outran us enough to get in, but they didn’t have the bonus points. We have some really good tracks for us this round, so I’m hoping to go out to Vegas and have a good run this weekend and we’ll fight hard the next three races and see where we land with our Bass Pro Shops Camry. Vegas was good for us in the spring and I would expect us to run up front this weekend.”
What is it about Las Vegas and tire strategy, which has been a factor a fair bit in recent memory?
“It’s an interesting place, it’s fast and high-speed and has tire falloff but, for whatever reason, it’s a place that has unique asphalt, and when the tires cool off you can fire off and run one or two fast laps. These days, with these cars, if you can get that clean air and get those two to three car lengths out front of guys that are on better tires behind you, and guys in-between you and the four-tire guys, you have a huge advantage for a few laps. It’s all about what the other guy does. You can be the only guy on two tires and you are a sitting duck, but if you have four to five guys behind you on two tires, you have a bit of a buffer and so it just depends on what goes on around you.”