In a way, the area surrounding Las Vegas Motor Speedway is like the big bad wolf in the Three Little Pigs fable.
When conditions are right, it’ll huff and puff and blow cars all over the racetrack.
Martin Truex Jr. is quite aware of how gusty things can get at the 1.5-mile oval. And although weather predictions call for near-perfect conditions in Sunday’s Kobalt 400 NASCAR Cup race, Truex is ready to ride the wind if he has to in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry.
“Wind is usually a huge factor for drivers at the Las Vegas race,” Truex said in a media release. “It won’t affect the fans’ enjoyment of the race, but from our perspective we have to be ready for a sudden change of balance with the race car.
“Depending on what direction the wind is coming from it can change the way your car handles so drastically. The wind can actually make it flip 180 (degrees) on your balance from one end to the other on the racetrack. It’s really difficult.
“Last year we had winds so strong that it literally broke the windshield out of the race car. I thought the windshield was going to come in on me. The headwind on the frontstretch was almost like a tornado. As far as the handling goes it changes so drastically and it is something we battle every time we go there.”
Since joining Furniture Row in 2014, Truex has had finishes at Las Vegas of 14th (2014), a career-best second (2015) and 11th (2016) – a three-race average of 9.0.
“History will show that the mile-and-a-half tracks have been good for us,” Truex said. “After our performance in Atlanta on Sunday (eighth place), I feel our Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota will have a good day, barring any unexpected issues, like a clutch problem and speeding penalty which we had in Atlanta.”
Truex has quickly climbed upward in the NASCAR Cup standings after just two races. He was 17th in the points after finishing 13th in the season-opening Daytona 500, and them climbed 10 spots to seventh place after his Atlanta showing.
With a three-race West Coast swing next up on the schedule – Las Vegas (1.5 miles), Phoenix (1-mile) and Fontana (2 miles) – Truex wants to keep things going in the right direction.
“If we’re going to make an early move, the next three western tracks are the kind we like,” Truex said. “But right now the only focus we have is on Las Vegas and how we can maximize our performance.”