All of the attention right now in the NASCAR Cup Series is squarely on Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. I mean, they’re the ones to beat for the 2020 championship in Phoenix. But, a driver getting overlooked too is Martin Truex Jr.
To me, this is a three-way fight amongst this trio to be hoisting the championship trophy in the Arizona desert on November 8.
Truex, says that depending on the place, he thinks he can stack up well against Harvick and his teammate in Hamlin.
“Depends on the track,” said the 2017 series champion. “Depends on where you’re asking about. We’ve been better than them at times, but I’d say obviously they’ve been really strong pretty much everywhere. They’re just fast.
“I think Kevin and Rodney are both — they both do a great job. They’ve been fast for years. It’s not surprising. They know all the little details, and they do a great job executing.”
But, Truex does think that if they are going to seriously contend for a championship against them, that they need to find a little bit more speed out of the No. 19 Toyota.
“I think overall they’re probably just a little bit — got a little bit more speed than we do,” Truex continued. “I think probably one of the biggest things I notice is their ability to get through traffic better than our cars, and that’s something we’ve been really focusing on and working on, and we haven’t found a whole lot that really has helped us in that department.
“Just trying to figure that out, but again, the 11 has been really fast, they’ve won a bunch of races, but we’ve been right there, too. Again, we’ve been right there, we just need a little bit more. You just keep working, that’s all you can do. This stuff is hard, it’s not easy, so it’s pretty impressive what they’re doing.”
Truex, enters the regular season finale on the heels of seven straight top three finishes. He’s also had eight in the last nine races. He’s done that work on a bunch of different tracks from 1.5-milers, to 1-mile flat track, to a 1 mile high banked concrete track to a wide 2-mile oval and a ROVAL. That’s comforting because he’s been good everywhere.
“Yeah, definitely been good to run right out front, be running top 3,” Truex said of his consistency. “That’s where you need to be running to make your way through the playoffs. Obviously wish we could have won a few more. Our bonus point situation is not the greatest, and that’s something that we’ve really been working hard on trying to get some more here lately. Just seems like we’re always just right there second or third. Overall it was good. It’s good momentum. It’s good to be consistent. We’ve just got to keep working to find a little bit more.”
Truex, says that while being in the top three is nice, he would like to finish races off with wins though too.
“I mean, I think there was two or three races there in this stretch that I thought we had the best car, and I thought we should have won, and I screwed up at the Daytona road course last week and probably could have — probably could have got a win there I felt like or at least battled for it,” he continued.
“A couple places we’ve been really good, Kansas I thought we had the best car and lost track position on pit road just by strategy.
“I mean, it’s just been little things here and there that we’ve got to be smarter about, but also I think overall we’ve got to find a little bit more speed if we can, and again, we’re so close. It’s just little things here and there we’ve got to look at and figure out how to turn those seconds and thirds into victories.”
Now, it’s to Daytona, a place Truex has never really been good at. He’s 0-for-30 in points paying races. He’s finished 18th or worse in six of his last eight races there. Also, on superspeedway’s in general, Truex is 0-for-61 with only four total top five finishes.
So, does a track like Daytona ruin all the momentum Truex has gained heading into the playoffs?
Yeah, Daytona you just go race and see what happens,” he said of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN). “I don’t think you really take anything out of that place. It is what it is there.
“For us I think we just go there and hope to finish on all four tires and not crashed. Really it has absolutely zero bearing on the playoffs, so I think for us, we’re in a good place. We’re comfortable with where we’re at. We feel good about things, and we’re totally focused on what we’re doing, and I think the consistency is something that’s going to pay off. We’ll just have to wait and see how much.”