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Martin Truex Jr. 2013 preview

January 14, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Martin Truex Jr. 2013 preview
Can consistency carry Truex Jr. to Victory Lane in 2013?

Martin Truex Jr. realizes his team missed a golden opportunity in 2012.

Martin Truex Jr.

No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota

2012 rank

11th

Team

Michael Waltrip Racing

Crew chief

Chad Johnson

Biggest change for 2013 is...

Confidence. After two years of sub-par performances at MWR, Truex no longer has to wonder if his team has the necessary tools to contend for the championship.

Watch out for...

Sealing the deal. Truex has proven he can get to the front; he simply hasn’t been able to remain there when it counted.

Will win the title if...

The chemistry between himself and crew chief Chad Johnston continues to improve, the pit crew remains solid and Truex finds his way back into the win column.

2012 was...

Watch the video below for Martin Truex Jr.'s 2012 season in review.

But the Michael Waltrip Racing driver says he’s confident the group will continue to make progress, and he expects to once again be a contender next month when the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season gets under way in Daytona.

VIDEO: Martin Truex Jr. season in review

“I just can't help but think what could've been,” Truex Jr., 32, said of his seventh full season in Cup, a season that ended with an 11th-place points finish. “There were so many chances for us to really make it very, very, very special and we missed out on those.

“There's always room for improvement. We know the areas we need to work on … and we're going to work hard on doing that."

Buoyed by strong runs throughout the course of 2012, Truex Jr. and the No. 56 team, along with teammate Clint Bowyer, put MWR cars in the Chase -- a feat that hadn't happened since the organization made its Cup debut.

For perhaps the first time since he joined MWR in 2010, Truex Jr. had cars as fast as any of those contending for wins. He and new crew chief Chad Johnston meshed quickly, and the result was a season-long effort that saw the team maintain a top-10 points position for 34 of the 36 weeks of the season.

That consistency, as well as strong efforts from his teammates (Waltrip, Mark Martin and Brian Vickers split the driving duties in the group’s third Cup entry) quickly raised expectations, and continue to do so, as the new season approaches.

“I think that our expectations have definitely taken a huge turn to where we expect to be running up front each and every week and winning races,” Truex Jr. said. “I think that the overall attitude of the guys in the shop and the people at Michael Waltrip Racing has been great -- phenomenal -- ever since I've gotten there and that's a credit to Michael and the organization that he's built, the work ethic that he’s instilled into his people there.

“It seems like even when we weren't doing well we were enjoying ourselves and really enjoyed what we were doing. It was just a matter of putting all of the right pieces together and getting the right combinations inside the company as far as people on the race track and things like that.”

If there was disappointment in the past season, it came in two key areas. Although he contended for wins, earning seven top-five and a career-best 19 top-10s, Truex Jr. was unable to snap a losing streak that has now grown to 203 races. The team also failed to produce consistently once the Chase got under way, with only five top-10 finishes in the 10-race battle.

Truex Jr. said there “were some things we didn’t capitalize on,” and mistakes were made over the course of the season. “But as a young team, I feel like we learned a lot about ourselves, and learned a lot that’s going to help make us stronger.”

See the full schedule of our top 12 Sprint Cup Series drivers and read more below:

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

11. Martin Truex Jr.

10. Jeff Gordon

9. Tony Stewart

8. Kevin Harvick

7. Matt Kenseth

6. Denny Hamlin

5. Greg Biffle

4. Kasey Kahne

3. Jimmie Johnson

2. Clint Bowyer

1. Brad Keselowski