Martin Truex Jr. knew where the questions were going, and quickly and succinctly responded before the inquisitor had finished crafting them.
“I never had any doubt,” said Truex about any doubts he may have of winning a championship with Joe Gibbs Racing.
There were no doubts even through the parts of this season …
“Nope,” Truex said.
That he would be in this position?
“No,” continued Truex. “I wouldn’t have went there if I didn’t think I could win a championship. I would have retired.”
Now set for his fourth appearance in the title race in the last five years, Martinsville Speedway was the seventh victory of the season for Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn. It is one victory short of the career-high mark Truex and Pearn set in 2017 on their way to winning the championship.
At that time, the duo were simply alliance partners with JGR. Following the closure of Furniture Row Racing over the winter, team owner Joe Gibbs decided to release Daniel Suarez to make room for Truex and Pearn to come in-house, and they’ve given Gibbs four consistent contenders.
It was a slow burn, though. Truex started the year with five top-10 finishes in the first eight races, and just 14 laps led. Even in the area he and Pearn had proven to be masters of – stages – they weren’t showing much dominance. Race nine in Richmond is where the flood gates opened as Truex led 186 laps and won his first race. Two weeks later, it was domination again in Dover and another checkered flag. Truex’s first three wins of the season came in a span of five races.
Statistically, Truex not only has the wins, but also other numbers to show he’s one of the best this season. He’s working on another career-high average finish, and he leads the overall point standings.
On the one hand, Truex doesn’t feel much different chasing a championship with Gibbs. However, it is new to have the organization pulling for Truex and his group, as opposed to when they were the outsiders winning the championship two years ago.
“So it’s a little bit different I think from that perspective,” said Truex. “But for me, that’s all team stuff. That’s for Cole to deal with and the crew guys and the pit crew and all that stuff. For me, I don’t really feel like it’s any different. I do the same job now as I did then, and just have a lot more people to know their names during the week and thank. So it’s a little bit different. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t change a lot for me.”
Not that he ever thought otherwise.