Can Truex Jr. take anything out of Clash win and snag 1st Daytona 500 victory on Sunday?

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

“Mad,” Truex Jr. described as his feelings entering this season.

Despite a winless year in 2022 which as a result kept him from securing a playoff berth while also driving for one of NASCAR’s top teams, Truex felt like they had a solid year overall. They were actually 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.

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)

Which was why his Busch Light Clash win earlier this month was so big for him. It showed he and his team that they can still do this.

“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.

“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. 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.”

Now, how much of that can carry over into Daytona this week. That’s an entire different animal in comparison to a race inside of a football stadium. A quarter mile oval with speeds around 80 mph compared to a 2.5-mile superspeedway with speeds over 100 mph faster.

Truex maintains that the Clash win gives them massive momentum heading into Speedweeks at Daytona still. 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.”

The thing is, Truex has shown up to Daytona year after year and leaving each time dejected.

A year ago, he swept both stages of the 2022 Daytona 500, but also still finished 13th too. He’s also 0-for-73 in drafting races if you include both Atlanta events last season and has scored just 6 top 5’s in those 73 starts. He has 3 top 5’s in 35 Daytona tries at that and 0-for-18 in the Daytona 500.

Does that Clash win change his trajectory at Daytona?

Even the greats take years to accomplish a win in the Great American Race while some never do it. Terry Labonte was 0-for-32. Mark Martin and Ricky Rudd each 0-for-29. Bobby Labonte was 0-for-24. Rusty Wallace was 0-for-23. Tony Stewart (0-for-17), Carl Edwards (0-for-12) and Ned Jarrett (0-for-7) never won either.

It’s now more like winning the lottery when you win at Daytona. We’ve seen two straight years of a first-time winner and four in a six-year span.

Does Truex add his list to Daytona lore on Sunday?

One comment

  1. I love Martin Truex Jr. To me he epitomizes everything I think a NASCAR driver should be. I think he’s the kind of professional that will learn more from his 2022 season and will take those lessons and be stronger this year. We all will fall down but only those who get back up to fight another day will reap the rewards. I wish him the best going forward.


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