Truex Jr. looks to turn his luck around at Texas
April 05, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
The No. 78 team trying superstition to bring good fortune their way
FORT WORTH, Texas -- In his very first race weekend driving for Furniture Row Racing, Martin Truex Jr. nearly won the pole position for the season-opening Daytona 500.
A tick slower than rookie Austin Dillon, he still earned a front row spot on the sport’s most famous grid -- a watershed moment for the single-car team and a well-needed sign of promise for Truex, 33, who had moved into the seat after four years at Michael Waltrip Racing.
Four days after just missing out on a Daytona 500 pole position, Truex was collected in a multicar accident in the 150-mile qualifying race and forced to the rear of the Daytona 500 starting field with a back-up car. On race day, he lasted 30 laps before his car had engine problems and he finished last.
Truex has earned only one top-20 in the five races since. He's had tire problems, run over debris, been wrecked out, gotten speeding penalties -- you name it.
“I wish we could start over, honestly. It's been tough,’’ the good-natured Truex said, shaking his head and mustering a laugh.
“It started out really good, and went and turned bad very quickly.’’
Despite a litany of random adverse circumstances, the former Nationwide Series champ and two-time Cup winner Truex Jr. swears he’s not the least bit superstitious and doesn’t put good luck trinkets in his race car.
He did receive a good luck video via his Facebook page, courtesy of one of his youngest and most ardent fans, 10-year old Canadian Bryson Bangma, whose mom had her 1st grade class sing an 11-second good luck video.
He looked genuinely surprised Saturday morning to see one of his team members, spotter Clayton Hughes, reveal a four-leaf clover inserted into his credential sleeve. He looked even more stunned to hear the team’s general manager Joe Garone laugh and divulge that Saturday morning, he’d actually stopped on the side of the road on the way to the track to toss a penny in a pond for good luck.
At this point, any change in fortune would be welcome news for Furniture Row Racing, which can’t seem to catch a break this season.
After Daytona, the team struggled at Phoenix (22nd), made the wrong tire gamble on the last pit stop at Las Vegas (14th), and broke a track bar mount at Bristol (36th).
At California two weeks ago, the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet blew a tire in practice forcing Truex into a back-up. A huge piece of debris flew up into the car during the race, causing substantial damage and he salvaged a 23rd place finish.
Last week, Truex rallied from a poor qualifying run at Martinsville, and was running 10th when he received a speeding penalty. He was spun out later in the race and finished 21st.
“What goes through your mind is, hopefully next week will better,” Truex said. “That’s really all you can do. Racing is difficult. There’s a lot of things that happen on a weekend and a lot of opportunities for little things to screw your weekend up.
“Unfortunately for us, it’s happened more times than not this year. But there's still some things from each of those weekends we can take away. We’re learning each other as far as the team goes -- communication, the race cars, where we are as a team and what we need to work on to get better.
“Really, what we have to do is not let the things that have been happening out of our control get us down. We have to worry about what we can control.”
Truex mustered a smile when asked about the team’s morale. He insists both he and the team are doing well, that it probably looks worse from the outside. So much of what has happened is fixable. So much more has been fluke or circumstance.
Truex likes his chances here at super-fast Texas Motor Speedway, where he scored his first career Sprint Cup Series pole in 2007, and nearly won this race last year, finishing runner-up to Kyle Busch.
Last November, the last time the circuit raced at Texas, Truex was formally introduced as Furniture Row’s driver for the 2014 season. It was a major development for Truex, who lost his sponsorship and subsequent ride at MWR in the wake of the Richmond race controversy -- not of his doing.
In many ways Truex believes the ordeal helped make him better equipped to deal with the difficulties and impediments the team has encountered early this season.
“For sure it’s been tougher (because of the great start at Daytona),’’ Truex said. “It was like okay, we took a deep breath and thought everything’s going fine. There’s nothing to be nervous about. When you go to a new team you don’t know what to expect, it makes you nervous. I spent four years at MWR and it started kinda rocky and we really worked hard to get where we were.
“Then all that stuff happened and you start over and it’s like, okay, is this going to go like last time and start out this rough and take a couple years to get things figured out?
“So starting the way it did, was like okay, awesome, this is great then all of a sudden it goes the opposite way.
“This sport can really take you through some emotions, me in particular,’’ he said.
“I hate that I’ve had to go through all this crappy stuff, but all this that I’ve been through helps me get through a start to the season like this, being able to keep a positive attitude and perspective, making sure the team doesn’t get down and concentrates on what we’ve done well, not the things that have gone bad.
“All you can do is work as hard as you can and get better every single day,’’ he said smiling and then pausing.
“Every day is a new day. Every weekend is a new opportunity."
And that's something his good luck kids could learn from.