Martin Truex Jr. feels like storm has passed
January 28, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
Driver -- via Skype -- raves about chance for a fresh start
Editor's note: Photo via Charlotte Motor Speedway/HHP
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Maybe it was the tropical surroundings talking, but Martin Truex Jr.'s outlook for the season could not have been -- well, sunnier.
"Well, we're going to win every race," Truex deadpanned. "There's no doubt about it."
Through the powers of modern technology, Truex "attended" Furniture Row Racing's portion of the Sprint Media Tour on Tuesday while sunning himself on a remote island nearly 2,000 miles away.
Truex, entering his first season with the single-car Denver, Colo., team, joined the news conference mid-stream via Skype from the 35-square-mile island of Anguilla, with palm trees and the sound of waves crashing in the background. It was a sharp contrast to the weather back in Charlotte, N.C., where other teams and drivers braced for late-afternoon snow showers during the media tour rotation.
With the Daytona 500 just 26 days away, Truex said it was a perfect venue for getting in the right frame of mind for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season ahead.
"Look out your window, and then look out mine," Truex joked. As if on cue, a drink was delivered to the driver's beachside chair. "Could that not have been better timed? That wasn't even planned. That's perfect."
Perfect timing also aptly describes how Truex, 33, came to be just the fourth full-time driver in the Furniture Row team's 10-year existence. The driver's four-year tenure with Michael Waltrip Racing came to a rather abrupt end amid the aftermath of heavy penalties for the team's manipulation of the race results for the 2013 regular-season finale.
Shortly thereafter, Truex was booted from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs and longtime sponsor NAPA ended its association with the Waltrip team, forcing MWR to scale back its three-car operation and Truex to seek employment elsewhere.
"Obviously, a lot of things happened last year, and I think the best thing for me was just to move on and try to forget about it," Truex said. "I think this definitely helps that process."
In Denver, Furniture Row was faced with losing Kurt Busch -- who helped guide the team to its first Chase appearance -- to Stewart-Haas Racing in the offseason. With both Truex and Furniture Row looking, each found themselves with the best available option in free agency.
"Man, the planets lined up," said Joe Garone, Furniture Row Racing's general manager, noting that he called Truex almost immediately once his services were available. "A tragedy for one team and one driver turned into a positive, so it was really an interesting part of history for us there for sure, and for Martin."
The situation for Truex -- beyond having drinks with umbrellas brought to him and getting a solid helping of Vitamin D -- is a team fresh from its best season, an underdog 10th-place season with former Cup champ Busch at the wheel. Furniture Row's No. 78 Chevrolet showed speed in all facets of practice, qualifying and race day last year, but couldn't quite break through into Victory Lane for the first time since scoring its only win in 2011.
Part of the team's undoing in late-race situations was shortfalls on pit road, whether it was a speeding penalty or -- more frequently -- a miscue from the team's crew. Garone addressed that through a unique arrangement to hire Truex's pit crew from last season, bringing them on as Furniture Row employees who continue to train at the Waltrip team's complex.
"They produce really good numbers that we're all privy to," said crew chief Todd Berrier. "To keep them working out where they were in the same environment they've been, I think is a really huge stepping stone for us. Kurt probably passed more cars than anybody over the course of the season. We had a really fast car and a lot of those times we were running at the front, ended up toward the back and had to pass 'em all back. I think that that'll help negate that a little bit."
Truex ended his lengthy personal losing streak of 218 races last summer, filling a six-year void with an emotional victory at Sonoma Raceway. Furniture Row's current skid on the Sprint Cup tour stands at 98, a number that will reset if Truex wins every race next season, as tongue-in-cheek predicted.
"Everybody wants to be in that Chase. Everybody wants to be in that championship," Truex said. "At the end of the day, we all talk about it. That's what we're here for is to race for a championship. I've been fortunate enough to be in the Chase a few times, been unfortunate enough to be kicked out of it before, and this year honestly I think that we're going to be a strong contender as far as getting in there."