Martin Truex Jr. Just Won’t Go Away

Martin Truex Jr. just won’t go away.

It had been 29 races since Truex last won a race before Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Raceway, but he’s been through much lengthier, of course.

“I don’t look at those numbers,” Truex said. “I don’t really pay attention to it.”

This one was particularly frustrating because the 2017 champion was in the mix every week, but just couldn’t close out for whatever reason.

“I don’t know how many times we’ve been second, third, fourth, top-5 since we won last year at Martinsville,” Truex said. “But it’s been a bunch.”

Yeah.

There were 13 top-5s after he won at Martinsville Speedway last June, including a pesky seven-race stretch where he finished third or second literally seven times over a 10-day span.

“It’s like, man, what do we have to do to turn it around so it’s our day,” Truex said. “I think that’s probably what you see, a little bit of relief and excitement for how hard the guys have really worked to put together all the details and make it happen.”

At 40-years-old, you never know if a season with that much wasted potential would portend a downturn that would sharply manifest itself the following season, and Truex knows that — even if he doesn’t know the exact numbers of any winless streak.

He wore a knowing expression on his face upon climbing out on the frontstretch. While he always expects to reach Victory Lane, Truex didn’t actually expect it at Phoenix.

“It’s never been our greatest track, I’ll say that,” Truex said. “It’s always been just okay. I’ve never come here with a really warm, fuzzy feeling that we’re going to go there and win, we’re going to go there and be really, really strong and lead laps.

“That was definitely a nice surprise today.”

It was especially surprising considering that Truex slapped the wall early in the race — necessitating a lengthy repair job on pit road.

But again, Truex wouldn’t go away.

Once his car was repaired, he methodically worked his way back to the front and took the lead from Joey Logano on a restart with 25 laps remaining and would lead untouched the rest of the way.

The victory for Truex was encapsulating of his entire career in many ways.

Truex snapped a 69-race winless streak the first time he took then underdog Furniture Row Racing to Victory Lane at Pocono in 2015. His lone victory at Michael Waltrip Racing at Sonoma in 2013 broke a 213-race winless streak dating back to his first victory at Dover with Dale Earnhardt Inc.

After back-to-back Busch Series championships, Truex was poised to become one of the next big things, but his career never really took with organizations that were always trending in the wrong direction and ultimately closed shortly after his departure.

He was 36-years-old entering the 2016 season with just three wins to his credit, but again, he just didn’t go away.

You couldn’t keep Truex down.

Since then, Furniture Row latched on with Toyota, which eventually paved the way for Truex to join Joe Gibbs Racing upon the closure of the former. He averaged seven wins a season from 2016 to 2019 and earned a sure-fire entry into the NASCAR Hall of Fame upon his retirement, all in the past five years.

Sunday was his 28th win, which ties him all-time with Carl Edwards, who many consider a Hall of Famer even without a championship or Daytona 500 triumph.

But again, Truex doesn’t count numbers one way or the other, be it the accomplishments or the slumps. It’s probably what keeps him level and so impossible to keep away in the first place.

“I don’t chase numbers or anything,” Truex said. “I do this because I love it. I do it to be part of a team and have that camaraderie and to challenge myself.

“There are days when I feel like I can win a couple more championships. There are days when I say to myself I’ve done a lot, I’m really lucky to have done what I’ve done, to win championships in this series and in the Xfinity Series, win a bunch of races. It’s been really fun.

“When I moved to North Carolina as a 24-year-old, I never would have thought I would be able to accomplish all the things I have,” he said. “So, from that standpoint I’m really excited.”

So, for anyone who counted Truex out after a competitive but plain unlucky season, your sense of history probably fails you.


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