Improvement Continues for Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr

Martin Truex Jr. is currently 17th in the Sprint Cup Series point standings. (Photo: Getty Images)

Martin Truex Jr. turned in another solid performance Saturday night with his second place finish in the IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Michael Waltrip Racing driver notched his second top-five finish in the last three races and feels after a mostly frustrating 2011 season he’s ready to be competitive once again.

“We're not out of the woods,” Truex said. “We've still got some work to do. I feel like the mile-and-a-half, two-mile stuff is still where we're behind and where we need the most work, and we'll just keep plugging away at it. And hopefully finish off the season strong and be prepared for next year.”

Truex and new crew chief Chad Johnston, who replaced veteran Pat Tryson earlier this summer, have started to click and that relationship has translated to not just better communication but performance as well.

Since Johnston took over duties for the No. 56 NAPA Toyota team, Truex has steadily moved up the point standings going from 23rd to 17th.

“Chad has definitely brought a lot to the table for our team, and the communication between us has gone really well,” Truex said. “I feel like he's the right person for me to get the most out of me and ask the right questions and make sure he's giving me what I'm looking for.”

Truex points to Johnston’s skills as having a trickle down effect on the entire effort both at the track as well as back at the shop.

“The communication, the relationship has been great for our team,” Truex said. “He's a great leader. The guys really respect him, and he really fits in our system and the way we do things, the way we set up our cars, the way we go through all the work and all the stuff that we do. He's really on top of his game.”

Saturday night, Johnston’s call for a two-tire strategy late in the race was instrumental in helping Truex get the necessary track position to move to the front of the field and eventually hold off Jeff Gordon for second place.

Johnston says everything has been part of the team moving forward and sees even better days ahead.

“Even when we don’t run well, when you don’t run well is when the communication needs to be best,” Johnston said. “I feel like we have that. We both want to run good, as a team we all want to run good. We have a great group of guys and it’s great to have a finish like this.”

Truex hopes to continue building on the solid foundation that is now in place with a strong effort for over the last 12 races of the season.

“We've had some good races here lately, fourth at the Glen,” Truex said. “So trying to build a little bit of momentum here towards the end of the year. The guys on the NAPA Toyota have been working really, really hard, all the guys at the shop, working hard on our stuff and just got to thank them for sticking with it and working hard.”

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