clearn.png
Wednesday January 19th, 2022 8:31PM

Truex quietly chases 2nd NASCAR Cup championship at Phoenix

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

PHOENIX (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. stood on pit road moments after his first victory at Phoenix over a Cup career stretching nearly 20 years and quickly put a target on a more meaningful race at the track.

“I wish it was November,” Truex said. “Hopefully, we can come back in November and have a shot at the championship.”

Eight months later, Truex is back in the desert and, just as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver hoped, does indeed have a shot at the NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Truex didn’t quite call his shot and guarantee his spot in the field, but the 2017 champion had good reason to feel like he’d back among the four drivers racing for the title Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. This is the fifth time since 2015 that Truex races with the championship at stake and, with two previous runner-up finishes, he has as good a shot as any of the other three drivers to win it all.

Always a threat on the track, Truex is the most unassuming championship contender in Cup.

Denny Hamlin is fueled by raw emotion from dust-ups with other drivers and, like his fellow 23XI owner Michael Jordan, finding any slight to use as motivation. Kyle Larson’s return from suspension for a racial slur into the driver to beat has been the story of the season. With a second straight title in sight, Chase Elliott attends World Series games and screamed himself hoarse rooting for the Atlanta Braves.

And Truex?

About the only time a light shines on Truex outside of racing is when he walks the runway to raise money for charity.

“Luckily, I haven’t been in any confrontations lately,” Truex said Thursday. “It’s always good to not have enemies when it comes to a race like this.”

A year after his worst season since he blossomed into a perennial contender, Truex quietly went about his business and won four races. The 41-year-old New Jersey native prefers fishing and hunting in his down time rather than creating off-track headlines. Hamlin and Larson had the bulk of the media attention when the four drivers simultaneously spoke ahead of this weekend’s finale.

Spending time in the championship spotlight, though, sure beats the alternative — not racing for the title at all. Truex’s four wins marked the fifth time since 2016 he’s reached that total, including in 2017 when he won a career-best eight times. But last season, Truex stumbled in the first season he was paired with crew chief James Small. He had only one win driving the No. 19 Toyota and finished seventh in the points standings last season.

The first real sign he was on the rebound came in March when he blew past Joey Logano on the final restart and pulled away to win for the first time in 31 career races at the mile track.

“That the was best car I ever had here my whole career,” he said. “The car felt really good and did a lot of good things. If we can make that happen again, and hopefully have even more speed, we’re going to be tough to handle.”

Truex won the second playoff race at Richmond and drove a battered car last week at Martinsville into the fourth and final slot in the playoff field. While his win in the spring gave his repeat bid a boost, Truex has traditionally struggled at Phoenix and has only five top-fives with four DNFs in his career.

Truex, who signed a contract extension before the Daytona 500, had three career Cup Series wins in his first 10 full seasons before his career took off in 2016 at now-defunct Furniture Row Racing. He has 28 of his 31 career wins since 2016 and is a perennial championship contender. Truex raced with FRR for the title in three of the last four seasons — he won in 2017 and was runner-up to Logano in 2018. He finished second again in 2019 in his first season with JGR.

Truex held the lead in 2018 with 12 laps to go when the championship race was at Homestead-Miami before Logano caught him down the stretch and his 2019 bid was marred by a tire mix-up in the pits that cost him his shot at catching Kyle Busch. The 312-mile race on Sunday means time is short to try and overcome late problems that may arise.

“The last two we’ve been in, we’ve finished second and probably had the best car,” Truex said.

JGR teammate Hamlin has two wins and time is running short for the veteran to win his first Cup championship. Larson has nine wins driving for Hendrick Motorsports and teammate Elliott has two.

“I feel like the best four teams are in the final four,” Larson said.

With a win, Truex would join Kyle Busch as the only active drivers with two championships.

“We know we have a great shot at it. But we don’t have the weight of the world on our shoulders,” Truex said. “We’ve done this before. We’ve been here before. We understand what it takes.”

___

More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Baseball , AP Online Auto Racing, AP Sports - Major League Baseball, NASCAR
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Truex quietly chases 2nd NASCAR Cup championship at Phoenix
Martin Truex Jr. is racing for his second career NASCAR Cup Series championship
6:29PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Biden administration sues Texas over new voting restrictions
The Biden administration is suing Texas over new voting rules that outlasted a summer of dramatic protests by Democrats
6:25PM ( 24 minutes ago )
GOP state officials push back on employer vaccine mandate
Republican governors, lawmakers and attorneys general are forming a wall of opposition to President Joe Biden's plan to require vaccinations or COVID-19 testing at all private employers of 100 workers or more
6:17PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Adaptable Saints take on Falcons with a new starting QB
The New Orleans Saints have learned this week that they'll be without starting quarterback Jameis Winston and top receiver Michael Thomas for the rest of the season
5:16PM ( 1 hour ago )
Sabres end 8-month stalemate by trading Jack Eichel to Vegas
The Jack Eichel era in Buffalo is over
5:10PM ( 1 hour ago )
College Football Playoff expansion talks to continue Dec. 1
The administrators in charge of the College Football Playoff plan to meet again on Dec. 1 to continue expansion talks, which need to reach a consensus by the end of the year if a new postseason format is to be implemented for the 2024 season
4:59PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
Durant scores 32, Nets hit 22 3s in 117-108 win over Hawks
Kevin Durant scored 32 points and led the spurt that broke open the game late in the third quarter, and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Atlanta Hawks 117-108 for their third straight victory
11:04PM ( 19 hours ago )
World Series TV viewers up 20% from 2020 but down from 2019
World Series television ratings rebounded following the record low set last year
8:03PM ( 22 hours ago )
Champion Braves plan 2-part parade celebrating past, present
The Atlanta Braves will give a nod to past and present with a two-part parade celebrating their first World Series title in 26 years
7:19PM ( 23 hours ago )
AP Online Baseball
NASCAR's Bowman drives on, shrugs off Hamlin 'hack' label
Alex Bowman spun Denny Hamlin from the lead with six laps remaining at Martinsville Speedway and then went on to win his fourth race of the season
5:02PM ( 2 days ago )
The Latest: Official: China needs to be top climate polluter
 China is at a “special development stage” that warrants its status as the world’s biggest current emitter of climate-damaging fossil fuel pollution
1:10PM ( 2 days ago )
The Latest: Africa seeks $12.5B from world to tackle climate
The head of the African Union says the world must support the continent’s efforts to adapt to climate change, including a program that requires $25 billion over five years
12:15PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Online Auto Racing
Summer castoff Jorge Soler transforms into World Series MVP
A bit player during the Chicago Cubs’ drought-smashing victory over Cleveland five years ago, Jorge Soler was voted MVP of the Atlanta Braves' six-game World Series win over the Houston Astros
2:22AM ( 1 day ago )
Braves GM Anthopoulos has COVID-19, misses Series clincher
Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos tested positive for COVID-19 and wasn’t with the team when it clinched the World Series championship
1:55AM ( 1 day ago )
World Series defeat could mark end of era for Astros
Atlanta’s 7-0 victory over Houston in Game 6 to win the World Series could mark the end of an era for the Astros
1:38AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Sports - Major League Baseball
Out of the way! NASCAR contenders want traffic to pull aside
A conversation on driver code and on-track etiquette is raging in NASCAR, and with it comes debate about the expectations of non-playoff drivers
10:36AM ( 1 week ago )
Larson wins at Texas for 1st spot in NASCAR's championship 4
Kyle Larson is the first driver in NASCAR's championship four
7:25PM ( 2 weeks ago )
Truex in tight NASCAR chase for start of round of 8 in Texas
The third round of NASCAR's playoffs are getting started in Texas
4:35PM ( 2 weeks ago )
NASCAR
Biden administration sues Texas over new voting restrictions
The Biden administration is suing Texas over new voting rules that outlasted a summer of dramatic protests by Democrats
6:25PM ( 24 minutes ago )
GOP state officials push back on employer vaccine mandate
Republican governors, lawmakers and attorneys general are forming a wall of opposition to President Joe Biden's plan to require vaccinations or COVID-19 testing at all private employers of 100 workers or more
6:17PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Witness: Shooting victim threatened to kill him, Rittenhouse
Witnesses at Kyle Rittenhouse's murder trial say the first man shot on the streets of Kenosha was “hyperaggressive," threatened to kill Rittenhouse and another man who were patrolling with guns, and later lunged for Rittenhouse’s gun in an attempt to take it away
6:13PM ( 37 minutes ago )
Former Delaware governor Ruth Ann Minner dead at 86
Ruth Ann Minner, the only woman to serve as Delaware’s governor, has died
6:03PM ( 47 minutes ago )
NBA: Firm will probe Suns after report of racism, misogyny
The NBA has asked a law firm to investigate the Phoenix Suns after a published report detailed allegations that owner Robert Sarver has a history of racist, misogynistic and hostile incidents during his 17-year tenure in charge of the franchise
5:55PM ( 55 minutes ago )