● 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.
● One to Go: Heading to Sunday’s Season Finale 500k at Phoenix, Truex sits 12th in the driver standings that were reset after last weekend’s third and final Round of 8 playoff race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Just 35 points separates Truex from eighth-place Chris Buescher as the No. 19 team will try to get all it can Sunday to maximize its position in the final 2023 standings.
● Truex has one win, six top-five finishes and 14 top-10s and has led a total of 259 laps in 35 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Phoenix. Truex’s average Phoenix finish is 15.6.
● Truex notched his Phoenix victory in March 2021, when he led 64 laps en route to his first victory at the 1-mile desert oval.
● 34 and Counting: Truex’s win at New Hampshire was the 34th of his Cup Series career, tying him 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, 16 top-10s and has led 898 laps through 35 races.
Martin Truex Jr.
What is the biggest challenge for you when racing at Phoenix?
Phoenix is very straightforward-looking, but the two ends are so different that it’s a big challenge to get your car working good, especially with the NextGen car having come around, and we are shifting a bit. It’s definitely a fun place and it’s been really racy there the last couple of years and I enjoy going there. We struggled there in the spring with the new aero package, but I think we figured out a ton over the summer and ran well at New Hampshire and some of the other flats track and think we should be strong this weekend with our Bass Pro Shops Toyota.”
Let’s say you are in the lead on the final restart at Phoenix. What’s going through your mind?
“I think just getting a good jump and getting through turns one and two. That dogleg breeds opportunities to cut the corner. If you can get to turn one with a little bit of a cushion, you are in generally good shape, so it’s all about the restart there to be able to maintain the lead and be able to bring it home.”
What kind of emotional roller coaster do you feel like you were on during these playoffs?
“You just try to keep your head on straight and go out and do your job through the highs and the lows. I think it just shows how tough this sport is. Anybody that races here and guys that have raced here that do the broadcasts, they’ll tell you. It’s this close, man. You find this little bit, and suddenly you look like a hero. Some other guys find some stuff, suddenly you’re not. We’ve been fast at times, but execution hasn’t been solid, hasn’t been consistent. We’ve had some bad luck. We’ve had a little bit of everything. Like I said, some years it feels like it’s your year, some years it feels like it’s not. I just feel we couldn’t do anything right and, when you get down to the final eight and the final four, you have can’t have anything go wrong.”