There is an undisputed king of NASCAR Cup Series short-track racing and his name is Martin Truex Jr.
It wasn’t long ago the very thought of Truex Jr. being the best short-track driver in NASCAR’s top division was ludicrous and for good reason. At one point in his career, Truex Jr. was winless in 80 starts on tracks less than a mile in length.
But then something clicked. Suddenly after what most certainly seemed like an eternity to the New Jersey native, Truex Jr. figured out how to win on short tracks and when he did it’s been a stellar streak of performance. He has now won five of the last eleven short-track races with his latest victory coming last week at Martinsville Speedway, a track that had long been a struggle.
“You know what, it was never clicking,” he explained. “I mean, even at times where we could have decent runs, it was like fifth, sixth, seventh. I felt that was the best I could ever run here up until, like, 2015 or so. For whatever reason, I just could never get the car to do the things I wanted it to do.
“It came a point where people told me, ‘They can’t do those things you want it to do.’ You’re like, okay, maybe it can’t do those things and I just need to figure out how to drive it the way it is. After not having success at a track, it comes to a point where you really don’t know what you need to do, if it’s even possible to do the things that you want to do. It’s a real challenge.”
However, that challenge is over as Truex Jr. has been victorious in three of the last four races at the .526-mile Virginia short track.
Now he turns his attention to another Virginia track this week in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Joe Gibbs Racing driver hasn’t been too shabby at the .75-mile speed plant in recent years.
Truex Jr. has finished in the top-three in the previous four Richmond races a streak that includes a sweep of the pair of 2019 events.
It all adds up to Truex Jr. having an excellent chance to be the season’s first three-time winner Sunday afternoon and perhaps returning to the dominant form he displayed just a couple of years ago.
“Feeling good about it,” said Truex Jr. “Got a great team. Pit crew really stepped up today. Got a great stop on the last one that got us the lead. We got all the tools necessary. Great sponsors, Bass Pro, Auto-Owners, Reser’s, TRD and Toyota, all they did for us. We have a great opportunity to win a lot of races. Hopefully, we can take advantage of it this year more than we did last year.”