In three of the last four years, Martin Truex Jr. won the opening race of the playoffs. That includes his win in Las Vegas last year. In the year that he didn’t win, he was third (2018). But, I question on whether Truex can even get a top five in Sunday’s Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN).
Nothing against him either and I get some of you may think I’m crazy for saying that. Truex, has eight top four finishes in his last eight starts on the season and nine in the last 10 overall. The speed in his No. 19 Toyota is there as a championship contender.
Unfortunately for him, it just hasn’t been there lately in Darlington.
Since his 2016 win, Truex has no top five finishes on the Lady in Black in five tries. His last four finishes are 11th, 15th, sixth and 10th respectively. He’s just not had race contending cars and I wonder if he will this weekend too.
Then, at the end of the round, you have Bristol. That’s a place where Truex has 12 finishes of 20th or worse in his last 14 starts. His last top five there was in 2012. If Darlington is rough and Bristol has the good potential to be difficult, does that make Richmond a must win?
Luckily, Truex swept both Richmond races last year and has won his last four starts in the Commonwealth of Virginia as he won last year’s playoff race at Martinsville to go along with this year’s spring race there too.
Also, Truex has less bonus points entering this year’s playoffs than in years past too. He only has 14 of them. Normally, he’s had 30+ coming into the postseason. With so few of them, a couple of bad races could put him below the cut line.
Plus, Truex is doing this with a new crew chief this year in James Small. All of this could be an interesting first round for the JGR driver despite him entering the playoffs hot.
I mean, a solid top 10 outing would be great for him since this is a playoff race now. He can’t afford to use a mulligan early.