Martin Truex Jr. keeps telling himself it can’t get any worse. Maybe he should now start pleading with the racing gods for a little bit of mercy.
How does it get worse than starting second and finishing last because of engine failure at the season-opening Daytona 500? Or having no top-five finishes more than halfway through the season?
“I come home every weekend after the race and tell myself, ‘Next weekend is going to be better,’” Truex said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s got to be better. It can’t get worse.
“It’s been really frustrating, the whole season, but we’ve got to stay positive. We’ve got to keep working hard and get this thing turned around.”
Getting it turned around is easier said than done, of course. And it’s hard to find a reason why things will suddenly change for Truex and the No. 78 Chevrolet team.
He got caught in a wreck and finished 32nd at Pocono last weekend, hasn’t had a top-10 finish in nearly two months and is buried near the bottom in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings.
Momentum is something that has eluded Truex all season. He flirted briefly with it, posting consecutive top-10 runs at Dover and Pocono in early June, but that flamed out quickly. His next seven finishes have been 37-15-19-15-12-25-32.
“It’s just been really tough for us to gain any kind of consistency, not only with our finishes but with our race cars,” he said. “It seems like we’ve really struggled a lot just to find any kind of balance with our cars, and to where we could go throughout a weekend and have something that we could work with. So we’ve kind of been searching. We’ve been a little bit all over the map as far as those things go.
“But if we could just have one good race, one win could change your whole season with the way the system is now. We’re staying optimistic. We’re working hard. We’re trying to look at the positives in everything and just try to go forward and have a better weekend next weekend.”
That’s the mindset Truex has to have, but it’s hard to sugarcoat what’s becoming another forgettable season for the 34-year-old. Truex has yet to truly make his mark at this level.
He entered the top-racing circuit full time in 2006, fresh off consecutive championship seasons in the Nationwide Series in 2004 and 2005, but has made the Chase only twice the past eight years. He had a spot in last year’s Chase, but a penalty knocked him out.
It’s fair to wonder if Truex will ever put it all together. He has only two Sprint Cup wins, one coming in 2007 at Dover and another at Sonoma last year. Now, he’s simply hoping for a top-five run.
As stated, Truex has yet to finish in the top-five this season and it would appear that he should at least have an outside chance Sunday at the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International. He has finished in the top-five three of eight career races at the road course.
“I’ve been fortunate over the years to have good race cars and teams that understand road racing, and obviously have enjoyed it and have had decent success at it,” Truex said. “Definitely looking forward to this weekend. I think it’ll be a chance for us for sure to have a good run and hopefully turn things around because it’s been pretty rough lately.
“Hopefully it’ll go well. I’m looking forward to it.”
12 Consecutive races won by Toyota drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series before the streak ended last Saturday at Pocono. That’s the longest string of wins by one manufacturer in the 19-year history of the series.
“My simple joys? [My girlfriend] Amy, Redskins, my family, drinking a cold beer.” — Dale Earnhardt Jr., on his joys in life after winning last weekend at Pocono
“Road racing is a totally different beast. It’s fun and challenging all at the same time. You really have to concentrate the whole time, otherwise it’s easy to make a mistake that could cost you.” — NASCAR Nationwide Series driver and Plano native James Buescher