Mar 29, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
What was supposed to be a fresh start for Martin Truex Jr. in 2014 has instead become a frustrating if not stale start, with seemingly one bad thing after another this season.
Forced out of Michael Waltrip Racing when NAPA Auto Parts pulled their sponsorship in light of the attempt to manipulate the field of last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, Truex had high hopes moving on to his new team, Furniture Row Racing.
FRR was coming off its best season ever, becoming the first single-car team to ever qualify for the Chase, with Kurt Busch behind the wheel.
When Busch moved on to Stewart Haas Racing, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect for Truex. He moved into a ride that appeared, at least on the surface, maybe even better than what he had at MWR.
But what Truex hoped for and what has turned out in actuality in the first five races of the season are 180 degrees apart.
Things looked like they’d start out great when he qualified on the outside pole for the season-opening Daytona 500.
Unfortunately, he ultimately wound up finishing last when his engine blew up just 30 laps into the race.
He finished 22nd at Phoenix, 14th at Las Vegas, fell back to 36th at Bristol and left Fontana this past Sunday 23rd.
Add those five races together and Truex’s average finish thus far this season is 27.6.
At the same time, he’s back to 30th in the overall standings, 82 points — almost two full races of points — behind series leader Carl Edwards.
There’s an old saying in NASCAR that how you do in the first five races of the season is usually a reflection of how the rest of your season is going to be like.
If that’s the case, The Mayetta, N.J., native is in big trouble heading into Sunday’s race at Martinsville, because the .526-mile bullring is one of his worst-performing tracks.
“We need to start finding a rhythm with this Furniture Row Racing team,” Truex said earlier this week. “Things have not gone our way so far this season.
“Some of it is our fault and a large part has been some very tough luck.”
While Truex obviously hopes he’s ready to break out, his past record at Martinsville appears to indicate he’ll suffer more of the same fate he’s had both this year overall, as well as throughout his career thus far at the southern Virginia track.
“Going to Martinsville presents another challenge,” Truex said this week. “To be honest, Martinsville is a place I still haven’t figured out. I have had some good runs over the years there, but it has been very inconsistent. I’ve been hooked up at Martinsville sometimes and other times I couldn’t get out of my own way.”
Even before Saturday’s washed out day of both Sprint Cup practices as well as the Camping World Trucks Series race (postponed until after Sunday’s Sprint Cup event), Truex was expecting a different kind of track.
Now with the rain having washed away all collected rubber, a completely green track is not in Truex’s favor, either.
“The biggest challenge about Martinsville is the track changes so much throughout the weekend,” he said. “And the track is never on Sunday what it was like all weekend.
“As soon as they drop the green flag, the track is completely different than it was the day before when you feel you have your car dialed in for the race. Though brakes aren’t as big of an issue as they use to be at Martinsville, you still need to take care of them. If not, you can burn them up.”
Truex needs a big lift this weekend, especially after last weekend’s race at Fontana. Not only did he crash in practice, forcing him to go to a backup car for the race, he ultimately finished a lot worst – 23rd – than what he felt his secondary ride was capable of.
“Every time we felt the momentum swing our way, we seemed to take a punch in the gut,” Truex said. “Finishing 23rd is never acceptable for us because we feel that we are a Chase-caliber team. But considering the incidents that we were faced with, I can honestly say that we fought for every inch of that 23rd-place result.
“Not a good weekend, but I am proud of the way we kept on bouncing back from all of the adversity. We’re going to be ok. We’re just going through a rough streak right now.”
For his sake, hopefully that rough streak will end Sunday.
“We understand the challenges and the uncertainty of Martinsville,” Truex said. “But when this Furniture Row team goes to a race, we feel confident that we can put together a strong race and be a contender. This weekend is not any different.”
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