Martin Truex Jr. has five top 10 and two top-five finishes in the first eight races this year, but he and crew chief Cole Pearn haven’t been the dominant force the sport has become accustomed to seeing lately. It turns out there is a simple reason.
“Rule changes,” Truex said Friday at Richmond Raceway. “Lot of ‘em. Lots and lots of rule changes.”
Among them are the new aero package and a raft of tweaks to qualifying. Whereas Truex and Pearn had dialed in the old package and knew what did and didn’t work from track to track, this year has left NASCAR Cup Series teams learning on the fly.
By this time a year ago Truex had one win, two poles, two stage wins, and 143 laps led. oing into this weekend’s race, he has no wins, no poles, no stage wins, and just 14 laps led. But he is seventh in points with a foundation to build on.
“We just haven’t executed that well as a group,” Truex admitted. “Fridays have really hurt us. Last week was another example of that; we qualified 23rd at Bristol (and) we had a car we probably could have won with. So, we just got to put together full weekends.”
Truex has qualified 20th or worse in four of the last six races. Driving from the 23rd starting spot to inside the top 10 at Bristol, Truex had to pit with a loose wheel that relegated him to a 17th-place finish. Twelfth the week before in Texas, the only other blemish on Truex’s season has been crashing out of the Daytona 500.
“Honestly, we’ve been good enough to win four or five races already,” he said. “Part of the race, we’re good here, part of the race we’re good there. We have a mistake here, we have a mistake there. You got to do it all right. You’ve got to be perfect, and we haven’t been able to do that yet.”
The good news is that while Richmond hasn’t yet welcomed Truex its victory lane, the short track has been one of his better hunting grounds in recent years. In the last five Richmond races, Truex has led 675 laps.
Truex qualified sixth for Saturday night’s race pending inspection.