Martin Truex Jr. had been mired in NASCAR Sprint Cup series mediocrity at Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR). It looked like a really bad career move. Then, somehow, Michael Waltrip convinced Mark Martin to take his party to MWR. Whether it is Mark’s work ethic, knowledge about racing or that he is simply a great mentor, no one is saying. Either way there is no doubt that it changed MWR and improved the whole team.
Martin Truex Jr. had an 11th place finish at Daytona and followed it up with a 7th place finish at Phoenix the next week. He remained in the top ten in the standings until the series finished up at Homestead. Jeff Gordon won the race and was able to capture tenth place in the standings from Truex.
Truex didn’t win a race this year but he did have statistics that rivaled 2007, the best year he has had previously. Martin and the NAPA Toyota team had seven top five finishes and 19 top ten finishes. Truex led an unimpressive 434 laps. Often overlooked but especially important this year is he had one pole and will be entered in the preseason shootout at Daytona. Champion Brad Keselowski and runner up Clint Bowyer didn’t earn a pole and will not be entered.
“Just running so well each and every week and having so much speed in our race car.” Martin summed up his season “Obviously, making the Chase is a big deal for our team after the last two years that we had together. Definitely making the Chase and all of the races we’ve led and dominated. All of those days where we had the car to beat. The bad side of that is we didn’t win, so we need to work on that.”
Martin Truex Jr. can’t wait for the next season. Martin and his crew chief Chad Johnston have already been planning to be even better. When asked what he needed to do Martin said:
“I hate to even say it. Just a little better fortune. It’s almost like there was a lot of times where I felt like we did the right things. We did everything right, it just didn’t work out. Things happened that we didn’t expect. You make decisions sometimes and the situation after you make your decisions changes and it affects the outcome in a bad way. We had a lot of that it seems like. I think for us, with the way we ran this year with our consistency, I feel like if we can keep doing that and we can start to take more chances. I think if we’re solid each and every week we can afford to take more chances, and we just need to be able to do that.”
Truex had it right, without some gutsy calls, Brad Keselowski wouldn’t have won races and wouldn’t be champion. Truex and Johnston will need the right mix of consistency and take some chance to go for the wins. If they can do that they will end up higher in the standings and perhaps bring the championship to Michael Waltrip Racing.