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Truex Jr. keeps pushing toward ending streak

September 29, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Martin Truex Jr. talks with Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Mark Martin, who he cites as a key mentor in the garage. (Getty)

Michael Waltrip Racing driver looking to make the most of Chase this time around

DOVER, Del. -- Martin Truex Jr. is living proof that Sprint Cup victories, even for Chase contenders, are hard to come by.

"I remember [my Dover win] quite well. ... I don't think I probably enjoyed it as much as I should have. I didn't think it would be this far until the next one."

--MARTIN TRUEX JR.

It was June 2007 when Truex posted his one and only Cup victory, winning at what he considers his home track -- Dover International Speedway. Less than two years removed from consecutive Busch Series championships, Truex made it look easy. Driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc., he led 219 of 400 laps and breezed to victory, more than seven seconds ahead of Ryan Newman. Truex finished 11th in the Cup standings that season. Big things seemed on the horizon. Few suspected that horizon would extend 195 races, with Truex still seeking a second Cup victory.

"I remember [that race] quite well," says Truex, now 32 years old and back at Dover for the third race of the Chase, Sunday's AAA 400. "It's something I'll never forget. I don't think I probably enjoyed it as much as I should have. I didn't think it would be this far until the next one."

Not that he hasn't come close.

All told, Truex he has 71 top-10 finishes in 253 starts. He finished second at Kansas Motor Speedway and has thirds at Bristol and Pocono this season. Perhaps his greatest disappointment came at Atlanta where Truex seemed positioned for victory until Jamie McMurray crashed, bringing out a caution with three laps to go and enabling Denny Hamlin to snag the win.

"Certainly, we've been so close on so many occasions," says the Mayetta, N.J. product. "I feel like we've got the team [at Michael Waltrip Racing]. I feel like we really have been deserving of a couple wins and we just haven't been able to get them."

Are the good finishes without wins disappointing?

"That's pretty obvious," Truex says. "When I look back on [this] season, we've had a lot to be proud of. We've done our jobs very well. We've performed well enough to win a few races and it just seems it wasn't meant to be.

"But I feel like we can still get a win or two before the year is out. We've got strong race cars. I've got a lot of confidence in what we're doing and we've got some great tracks in the remaining eight races."

Those tracks include not only Dover, but also Kansas, where he finished less than a second behind Hamlin in April.

The 1.5-mile circuit at Kansas seems to be to Truex's liking, but when it comes to Dover, there is no place like home.

Truex, who hosted a golf tournament to benefit the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation on Wednesday, rolled his NAPA Toyota rolled off the truck and turned the fastest lap in Friday's first Cup Series practice

Dover

Practice 1
Pos.DriverSpeedTime
2.C. Bowyer156.59722.989
3.D. Hamlin156.56322.994
4.M. Martin156.32523.029
5.G. Biffle156.31123.031

"This has been a great week for me and my family," Truex says. "We had a great turnout for our tournament and fan event on Wednesday and raised a lot of money. We were first in practice, so it's been a good start to the week."

Truex knows he needs to keep the momentum going. After the first two races of the Chase he's in 10th place, 34 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.

"We really haven't started the Chase off the way we wanted to," says Truex, who finished 17th at New Hampshire after a ninth-place effort at Chicagoland Speedway. "This is a good place for us to come and turn it around and get on the right track -- get the momentum going in the right direction."

But Truex knows his comfort factor at Dover is no guarantee of success.

"There are times when you can love a race track and be as upbeat as you've ever been and still go in there and have a bad weekend," he says. "At the end of the day, if you can't get your car to do what you want, it doesn't matter how much you love the race track. New Hampshire is a place I really enjoy going to and we've struggled there for three years."

Who will win?


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Truex was part of the Chase in 2007, and hopes to still do better this time around than back then.

"I think, this time around, I definitely appreciate the opportunity more," he says. "I understand how big a deal it is for our team to be in [the Chase] this year. The team is still positive and upbeat about what we can for in the next eight races."

Truex says having teammates like fellow Chase competitor Clint Bowyer and veteran Mark Martin, has been highly beneficial.

Bowyer, sitting sixth in the Chase, says he's feeding off Truex and the information his team provides in the same manner.

"I think it is a big deal," Bowyer says. "When you go to the shop, there are so many people excited. They are like, 'Thank you,' and I'm like, 'No, thank you, man. You're the reason and your hard work is the reason that we're here.' I just walked into a wonderful situation and it's really a lot of fun to be part of it."

Bowyer is in his first season at MWR. Truex, on the other hand, has captured three poles and 10 top-fives in three seasons at Waltrip Racing.

"We've always had great team meetings," Truex says. "This year, they've obviously been different with three cars -- especially to have three cars that are as competitive as ours. We have three guys that expect to win each weekend."

Truex knows there's no time like now and no place like Dover to meet those expectations.

"We've got to get the ball rolling here," he says. "We've got strong cars. I've got a lot of confidence in what we're doing. Hopefully, one of these days, it's all going to work out for us."