News & Media

Truex steadfast in ability to win at Cup level

March 18, 2011, Joe Menzer,

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- When Martin Truex Jr. arrived on the Cup Series scene to drive full time in 2006, most figured his experience as a back-to-back champion in the Nationwide Series virtually guaranteed success.

Truex admitted Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway that he was among those who believed the hype. Pat Tryson, who is now the crew chief for the No. 56 Toyota Truex drives for Michael Waltrip Racing, knew better.

"It's been hard, but I know the next win isn't far. It's just around the corner."


"He thought coming to Cup was going to be just like that. It never is," said Tryson of the belief that Truex was going to be able to immediately duplicate what he did in NASCAR's lower-tier series. "What people forget is that Nationwide is Nationwide. They have different motors; the cars drive a lot different. It's like going from Triple-A to the Major Leagues [in professional baseball] or from college football to pro football.

"It's a big step. You're king of the hill down there, but there are 12 guys up here already who were king of the hill down there, too."

It has been a long process for Truex to learn that hard truth. Now in his sixth season driving full time in Cup, Truex has won precisely one race -- at Dover in 2007. Heading into this Sunday's Jeff Byrd 500 at Bristol, that was a long 134 races ago.

"No, I didn't think it would be this difficult," Truex said. "I've been in position to win a lot more races than one and we just haven't closed the deal. Obviously, the last few years have been pretty difficult.

"The first couple went pretty well and we fought for wins a lot. Then we went through two really crazy transition years [while driving for what was originally Dale Earnhardt Inc.], and last year was another new deal for me."

Last year was the first with Tryson on top of the Truex pit box, and also was the first for Truex at MWR after spending his entire Cup career at DEI and the organization into which that company eventually evolved. Tryson is a veteran crew chief who has won races with different organizations and different drivers, but the best he and Truex could manage when all was said and done last year was a 22nd-place finish in the point standings.

"We had the speed last year," insisted Truex, who won a total of 13 races while capturing the Nationwide titles in 2004 and '05, respectively. "We had a chance at winning a few races, especially at the end of the season when we got our program going the right direction.

"It's just been kind of difficult. It's been hard for me because I've won championships and I've won races in everything I've ever run. To go three seasons or so without seeing Victory Lane again has been difficult. You have to keep working hard, focus on the things you know you can do better and try to be a team player -- all those things. It's been hard, but I know the next win isn't far. It's just around the corner."

Unlike the last time Truex was full of this much confidence, Tryson believes it just as much as the driver does this time. Truex is off to a fine start this season, sitting seventh in points heading into Bristol -- where he's never finished higher than 11th in his Cup career. He backed up a respectable run in the season-opening Daytona 500 (where he ran better than he finished, which was 19th) with strong runs at both Phoenix and Las Vegas, where he ran in the top five much of both races before finishing 14th and sixth, respectively.

Tryson and Truex said some subtle changes within the race team that were made last season allowed them to begin building some positive momentum that culminated in a strong run in the 2010 season finale at Homestead-Miami.

"Obviously Homestead was real good, but the last three or four races last year we started taking off," Tryson said. "You never know. You hope you jump right into it when you change teams and start working with a new driver, but these things usually take time. It just took a little longer than we thought it would, that's all.

"Even last year we ran well in a lot of races. We just never seemed to finish them off. It seems like we've started finishing them off better now."

Tryson has won races in the past with Cup drivers Elliott Sadler, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch. He said he has complete confidence in the abilities of Truex.

"He's as good as the guys I've worked with in the past," Tryson said. "It's just taken us a little longer to get it figured out. Hopefully now we've got some things figured out and we can go out and win some races, make the Chase."

Truex made the Chase in 2007 when he won his one and so far only Cup race. He hasn't been back to either Victory Lane in a points race or the Chase since then, but hasn't forgotten how special either accomplishment would feel. He said he thinks his team has the staying power and obvious know-how to get there again, and soon.

"The main thing is the confidence that I have in my race team and what we're doing and what they're able to give me," Truex said. "I feel like we can go anywhere and win."