For the guy sitting on the playoff grid bubble, Martin Truex Jr. was as calm and jovial as he’s ever been when meeting with the media Saturday afternoon at Pocono Raceway.
Because he is winless, Truex, the 2017 series champion, holds the final playoff spot by 68 points over Kevin Harvick. Truex was the championship runner-up last year, and just once in the previous five years has he finished worse than second in points (2020). But when asked if he’s feeling pressure about his playoff situation, Truex was quick on the response.
“Playoffs?” cracked Truex in a nod to Jim Mora’s 2001 rant about his Indianapolis Colts. “No, to answer your question [about pressure]. No, not at all. It is what it is. We’ve been trying to win all year.
“We’ve been close. We’ve been running better lately, leading more laps lately. We don’t change what we do; we don’t change who we are. The more we can run up front, the more we can lead laps, the better our chances are going to be of winning, and we showed that last week. I think had we put four tires on, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now, but that’s racing and how things go. So…continue to race the way we do and, as of right now, we’re in. There’s no reason to be nervous. We need to do our jobs, try to win and if we can’t win, stack up all the points we can.”
Truex acknowledges the six races left in the regular season is a “ton” of racing and he knows there could be no more new winners — in which he can point his way into the playoffs — or even three new winners.
“You never know,” Truex said.
But no matter what happens, he is as cool and collected as can be.
“If we don’t make the playoffs, I’m not going to lose my job. I’ll be here next year,” he said. “I’m not going to lose my house. I’m still going to be alive and happy and healthy and [we’ll] try to fix it and get better.
“It’s not worth worrying about now. There are too many things that are on the table that are unknown.”
Truex is a Cup Series veteran who has experienced the many highs and lows racing can throw a driver. It brings him a perspective that allows him to be straightforward about having to fight for a postseason spot.
“One hundred percent, no question,” he said. “I know where I’m at. I know what I’ve done. I know what I can do and where our team is at. We can win races, and worrying about it is not going to help us win races. Focusing on what we need to be better at, focusing on the job at hand is what will win races.
“I’ve been through this before. I’ve been sitting here in a position to win four or five races and had zero, and it’s like, damn, I know we can do it. We just got to get over that hump. If we can get over that hump, I feel like we can win. We’re getting better. We’re hitting our stride at the right time, I feel like.”
It might be unbelievable to some that Truex is in such a position, but he’s unfazed by the turn of events.
“We haven’t won a race,” Truex said. “We’re fourth in points; we have the most stage wins. We just haven’t figured out how to finish the last stage. I don’t know — it’s just one of those years where it’s like whatever we do seems wrong, and I’ve been through this many times where you get on a stretch, you’re fast, you know you’ll win, it’s coming at any point, but it’s like everything you do ends up being the wrong thing. That’s part of racing.
“Sometimes things don’t roll the way you need them to, and sometimes you make bad decisions and they snowball. I feel like we have a team to win, we’ve had cars to win, especially here lately. There’s no reason to panic and lose your mind and go crazy about it. It is what it is; you can’t change it. We’ve got to go win a race and hope that there’s not another new winner and we can keep getting good points.”