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Truex on teammate/competitor balance with Kyle Busch, tricky nature of Charlotte

CONCORD, N.C. – Martin Truex Jr. has reaped the benefits of competing under the Joe Gibbs Racing umbrella in more ways than one in his inaugural season with the team.

Along with working for one of the sport’s newest Hall of Fame inductees in team owner Joe Gibbs, he’s also been able to work more closely with teammate and defending Coca-Cola 600 champion Kyle Busch — a relationship that’s been strong both on and off the race track for a number of years.

“He’s just so good at driving the cars and giving the information about what he needs to go faster and just explaining things about his race car,” Truex told “It’s fun to just chat with him and bounce things back and forth. Hear what he’s dealing with and how he deals with it.

“You know, you see those things against competitors throughout the years,” he added. “You see how they do things and you always wonder what they think about it. What are their thoughts? How are they actually going about doing these things? So, it’s been fun kind of getting a closer glimpse of that.”

While Truex’s synergy with all of his JGR teammates makes the organization more robust as a whole, all that flies out the window when it’s time to get the job done.

“All those things are positive, but on Sunday you’ve got to race against the guy,” said Truex. “… They’re great competitors, great teammates and we all respect each other a ton. Throughout the week, I think our main focus is how do we get all four cars to finish first through fourth. But when the green flag drops on Sunday, it’s every man for himself and that’s what makes it fun.”

Truex heads into Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) still searching for his first trip to Victory Lane on a 1.5-mile circuit in 2019, but Charlotte Motor Speedway is a welcoming sight. Aiming for his fifth consecutive top-five finish in the event from the 14th starting position, the No. 19 driver hopes to keep it up at a track that didn’t treat him as kindly earlier in his career.

“For many years, this was probably one of my worst tracks,” Truex said. “As you have a place like that, you just continue to focus on it and not give up. Try to find what it takes to get around a place. Then you just hit on it and you can carry that for a number of years.”

“You hope it never goes away, but you know in reality at some point things change and you’re going to have to start looking for something different,” he added. “We’ve just been kind of riding that wave of momentum and riding out how I want it to feel — I know how my car needs to feel to be good during the race.”

RELATED: Full Charlotte schedule | Starting lineup for Coca-Cola 600

Truex dominated the race in 2016, leading 392 of the 400 circuits, but it’ll be a tall task to repeat. This time around, he anticipates that it’ll be a little tougher than usual as teams adjust to a new style of racing on the 1.5-mile track – on top of all the other challenges Charlotte demands of drivers.

“This place is so temperamental,” Truex said. “Everybody talks about Charlotte being so temperature sensitive. It’s just a big challenge and it’s something over the years where we’ve built up a great notebook, things we can look back and lean on. Now, of course, the rules have changed so much, it’s going to be a new challenge.

“Trying to figure out the package we’re running now here is going to be different,” he added. “We got a glimpse of what it was like in the All-Star Race and now hopefully we can make the right adjustments coming into the 600. We can go out there and keep that success at Charlotte rolling.”