Truex entered 2023 season mad about how 2022 went, hopeful Clash win translates well into a strong redemption campaign

Martin Truex Jr. enters the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season on the heels of a winless campaign. In fact, he’s not won in his last 44 starts.

“Mad,” Truex Jr. described as his feelings enter the 2023 season.

Despite a winless year without a playoff berth while driving for one of NASCAR’s top teams, Truex felt like they had a solid year overall. They were good enough to be well within the top 10 in points accumulated for the entire season. At the end of the regular season however, they were in the top five still. Unfortunately for Truex, due to 15 different winners eligible for the postseason via wins already and Ryan Blaney making a wild comeback at Daytona in the regular season finale, Truex was left on the outside looking in.

“Yeah. Just determined. Just have a lot of fire in my belly to go out and change what we did last year,” Truex continued.

“If you look at all the statistics, we had a decent year. We were consistent. We scored a lot of points. We struggled on short tracks and road courses, which ultimately is what kept us out of the playoffs.

“Just so many times that we felt like we were doing the right things and probably should have won a couple races, and they got away from us. That was very, very frustrating. Knowing that we were doing everything we needed to do to win, it sucked.”

Truex said that he spent the last three months just waiting to go out and show the garage what he can do again. He’s determined to show them all that they’ll have to deal with him more this year than last.

“We’ve been very fired up this off-season, working very hard, all of us,” he said. “It’s just nice when it all works out and you can come to the track and things go the way you hope they will.

“Hopefully we can do a lot more of that. We’ve got a lot going on good in our camp, at Toyota. I’ve got a great team, and I knew they were great last year, and we’ll just see how far we can go, but I feel really good about things. Fired up and excited, and it’s just a good feeling to be able to win a race, and even though it’s not points or anything, it’s just good momentum.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 05: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on February 05, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Truex started the weekend off quickest in Saturday’s practice session. Then he only qualified 22nd not too long after. Here we go again, he felt. Then came Sunday. They stated sixth in their Heat. Truex in just a few short laps, found the front and never looked back en route to a heat race win. That rewarded him with a front row starting spot for the Main Event.

Truex just kind of hung around and was in the right spot at the right time.

Truex passed Ryan Preece on Lap 125 when Preece’s No. 41 Ford briefly lost power. Austin Dillon also got by Preece for second with 20-to-go as the two set sails for the gold medal in front of a raucous crowd in Tinseltown.

The thing is, Truex was maintaining his advantage over Dillon until Michael McDowell ran out of gas with 10 laps left to bring out the 15th caution of the night. Dillon trailed Truex by 1.828 seconds prior to the yellow.

“On the restarts at the end, it’s frustrating when you’ve got a big lead, and like the 34 was trying to — he rode around at like 10 miles an hour for three or four laps; he should’ve just got off the damn track, you know what I mean? Obviously he wasn’t going to finish the race, so why was he just riding around? So that was frustrating.

“Then the other stuff, it’s just guys getting into each other on a tiny little track and getting spun out and things. The restarts you’re just trying to get a good jump and then not screw it up.”

On the ensuring restart, Dillon chose the line up inside of Row 2 which allowed Bubba Wallace to take the front row. Wallace and Dillon would have an intense battle for that second spot before Dillon punted Wallace in Turn 1 on Lap 143.

The final restart would see Dillon make the same decision to line up in Row 2. His Richard Childress Racing teammate of Kyle Busch would take the front row alongside his former teammate. Busch got a great launch but had nothing for Truex. He eventually let Dillon by to try and get the win, however Truex was just too good.

Truex topped Dillon by .786-seconds to give Toyota their 7th Clash win.

“I just think for us it reminds us that we’re doing the right stuff and we can still go out and win any given weekend,” Truex noted. “We felt that way last year, but it never happened.

“You always get those questions, right, like are we fooling ourselves or whatever, but it’s just always nice when you finish the deal.

“And racing is funny. We didn’t really change anything, the way we do stuff. We just tried to focus and buckle down and say, okay, these are things we’ve got to look at and work on, and that’s what we did, and we had a little fortune tonight.

“The 41 was really strong. He had some issues. We’ve certainly been in that position a lot, as well. Not sure how that would have worked out if he didn’t have issues. He was really strong. Then like the restarts just worked our way.

“I was having tons of brake issues all night and throughout the second half of the race, so just lucky to be able to put it all together and hang on to those restarts and put it all together with the brake issues I was having.”

Truex says that this gives them massive momentum heading into Speedweeks at Daytona. He’s made five Championship 4 appearances in the last 8 years. However, Truex Jr. entered 2020 having only two wins in his last 43 races run too. Then came a four-win season and all the momentum back in 2021. That was subsequentially lost in a winless campaign in 2022 to give him 6 wins in his last 115 tries.

Now, he’s the only one coming to Daytona with a win in 2023.

“It’s huge. It’s a huge confidence booster,” Truex said. “Just reminds you that you’re doing the right stuff. You know, we’d like to win them all. We’re 1 for 1 right now, so that’s a good way to start. Daytona 500 is a huge race. It’s the biggest race of the year for us, and going there with momentum is great. Been really close there before; it would be an awesome one to check off the list.

“Honestly, we were probably the worst car here last year, literally, besides maybe the guys that didn’t have charters. We were just God awful. We barely made the race. Rode around the back and I spun out by myself on the last lap it was so bad, you know, trying to pass one car.

“To come back this year and be first in practice, I was really honestly nervous last night. I went to bed thinking today was going to suck. It was going to be a long day because it’s going to be hard to pass and we were starting sixth in our heat on the outside.

“They only take five. It’s like, well, if you finish fifth you’re still going to suck in the race because you’re going to start 20th. To be able to drive up through the field in the heat and win that was just huge. It was a huge confidence builder.

“I knew after that if we could just be smart tonight and stay up front all night we’d have a shot at it. But it’s a big deal. Any of these races are hard to win. All of them are hard to win. Doesn’t matter if there’s points or not. We’re proud of this one. It’s a big deal.”

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