‘Magnet for trouble’ Martin Truex Jr. looks to reverse personal Bristol history

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Martin Truex Jr. has only managed to figure out Bristol Motor Speedway twice in his NASCAR Cup career.

In the fall 2011 and spring 2012 races, Truex earned the only two top five and top-10 finishes of his career at the half-mile track when he finished second and third.

His other 20 starts in “Thunder Valley” have seen the Furniture Row Racing driver tend to be a “magnet for trouble.”

Since finishing third in 2012, Truex has failed to finish on the lead lap in six of nine Bristol starts. A crash in the 2013 night race gave Truex his second Bristol DNF and left him with a fractured wrist.

“Bristol is Bristol and you’re rarely going to beat the house,” Truex said in a press release. “The track is known for its wild races and it seems that I have been a magnet for trouble. Our recent record might not show it, but we do have a car that can compete and contend at the Bristol short track. We just need to be patient and stay out of the wrecks.”

Truex’s best Bristol result since joining Furniture Row Racing in 2014 was 14th in last years’ spring race.

But the driver of the No. 78 Toyota has made a habit of reversing career trends over the last three seasons. Though he’s still looking for his short track victory, Truex has six wins since 2015 after only winning twice in his first nine full Cup seasons.

The most recent was March 12 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

When it comes to short tracks, Truex has manged to increase his fortunes in recent seasons.

After only two top fives and four top 10s at Martinsville from 2006 -2014, Truex has added three more top 10s and 239 laps led since taking over the No. 78.

He even won Stage 1 in the last month’s race, giving him a series best four stage wins through seven races. But Truex’s day fell off from there and ended with him in 16th.

With nine playoff points earned, Truex trails only Brad Keselowski (10). Those will be added the drivers’ point totals once the playoffs begin.

“Those are going to be crucial, definitely once the playoffs starts,” crew chief Cole Pearn said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “SiriusXM Speedway.” “You want to have consistency all across the board. But really, it’s about race wins. The stage points, yeah, it’s great to pick up one point here and there. But vying to win the race is still where the money is at. Those are the ones you want to collect”

Said Truex, “The next two weeks (Bristol and Richmond) will give us a good gauge on where we stand with our short track program.”

At Richmond International Raceway, Truex had finishes of ninth and third last year and led 193 laps in the fall race. That was after four top 10s and 20 laps led from 2010 – 2015.

Now Truex takes his early season momentum, with an average start of 10.9 and average finish of 8.7, to his second worst track on the circuit.

“We want to get into a consistent rhythm with all the different types of tracks,” Truex said. “We had a variety of things happen to us this year – good breaks, bad breaks – but overall we have come out of the gate with a decent start. It was sure nice to get that win early in the season.”

One thing that’s been consistent this season so far is that no races have been impacted by rain on race day. Only qualifying for Martinsville has been canceled.

But rain is in the forecast each day of the race weekend in Bristol.

“I think this week everyone is a little concerned about the weather,” Pearn said. “Limited track time is a possibility. Hopefully we got decent notes to fall back on if it comes to that.”

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Stats, Results for Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway

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John Hunter Nemechek led the final six laps to win the Camping World Truck Series’ M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.

It’s his second win in two weeks.

Nemechek beat out Johnny Sauter, Brandon Jones, Grant Engfinger and Christopher Bell.

Click here for race results.

Johnny Sauter keeps Truck points lead, John Hunter Nemechek in eighth

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With his Stage 2 win and his second-place finish in the M&M’s 200, Johnny Sauter retains his lead in the Camping World Truck Series standings leaving Iowa Speedway.

Sauter has a 42-point lead over Christopher Bell.

Completing the top five is: Chase Briscoe (-76), Matt Crafton (-95) and Ben Rhodes (-123).

With his second win in two weeks, John Hunter Nemechek moved from ninth to eighth in the standings, 153 points back from Sauter.

Click here for the full points standings.

John Hunter Nemechek wins at Iowa, second Truck victory in a row

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At one point going four-wide on a restart with seven laps to go, John Hunter Nemechek drove from fourth to first to win the M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.

It is Nemechek’s second Camping World Truck Series win in two weeks after an emotional victory at Gateway Motorsports Park. It is his fifth career win.

Nemechek passed low on Chase Briscoe and Johnny Sauter into Turn 1 and cleared them on the backstretch a lap into the final run. The No. 8 team changed four tires during the final caution. Sauter, who led 72 laps, did not pit.

“All year we felt really good about this whole stretch,” Nemechek told Fox Sports 1. “Gateway, Iowa and Kentucky. Hopefully we can go to Kentucky and make it three in a row.”

Driving the same truck he used to win last week, Nemehcek had to pass Sauter, Briscoe and Noah Gragson on the restart.

The top five was Nemechek, Sauter, Brandon Jones, Grant Enfinger and Christopher Bell.

Stage 1 winner: Christopher Bell

Stage 2 winner: Johnny Sauter

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Brandon Jones’s third-place finish is his season best and first Truck top five since 2015 … Christopher Bell earned his sixth top five through nine races … Grant Enfinger earned his fourth top five, but it came at the expense of teammate Matt Crafton, who he caused to crash to bring out the final caution … Jesse Little finished ninth for his first career top 10 in his 11th start.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Ben Rhodes, Kaz Grala and Austin Wayne Self were in a wreck with three laps left in Stage 2 …. Ryan Truex’s night ended with 33 to go when he brought his truck to pit road for an engine problem. He finished 20th … Matt Crafton backed hard into the outside wall with 15 laps to go after being tagged by his teammate, Grant Enfinger, on his left-rear quarter panel. It is his first DNF of the year. Crafton finished 19th … Harrison Burton and Justin Haley crashed in Turn 4 coming to the checkered flag. Burton placed 11th; Haley 10th.

NOTABLE: The race was red flagged for 12 minutes and 26 seconds to clean up fluid from the three-truck crash at the end of Stage 2.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “That’s me. Four tires. That’s the man right there. Fire Alarm (Services). What do they want? They want a win and we got them one.” – Gere Kennon, crew chief for John Hunter Nemechek after winning the M&M’s 200.

WHAT’S NEXT: Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on July 6 on Fox Sports 1.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s farewell tour begins at Sonoma with service dogs named in his honor

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To commemorate Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s career and his final start at the track, Sonoma Raceway gave the driver a gift he doesn’t have to take home and will benefit others for year to come.

During his Friday press conference, the track surprised Earnhardt with three Labrador Retriever puppies. Named “Dale,” “Junior” and “Amy” – after his wife – the puppies are being given to the organization Paws as Loving Support (PALS) Assistance Dogs.

Donated by Micons Labradors and Fieldstone Labradors and sponsored by the track, the puppies will be trained to help children with disabilities in the Sonoma community.

“I’d like to thank the track for their investment to make this happen,” Earnhardt said. “It really warms my heart. Amy is going to be excited but sad she is not here. We do love dogs and making a difference in people’s lives. I’m excited to maybe come back and see how the dogs are doing.”

Sonoma is the first track Earnhardt is racing at for the last time since he announced his retirement plans in April.

The puppies will take part in PALS thorough training process, including time with incarcerated youth twice a week, before being matched with a child with a disability and his/her family as a service dog or placed with a professional as a facility dog.

PALS Assistance Dogs trains dogs to help children with disabilities including Autism, Down syndrome and mobility impairments. Some are placed with professionals working with children with special needs as facility dogs. In addition, Courthouse PALS dogs provide emotional support and comfort to victims and witnesses of violent crimes before, during and at the conclusion of a trial.

“Dale has such a huge following among our fans and we wanted to find a way for his legacy to carry forward locally, well beyond his days as a driver,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager. “These three puppies – Dale, Junior and Amy – will make a meaningful difference in the lives of young people in the North Bay for years to come.”

On race day, 10,000 “Thanks, Junior” hand-held fans will be given out and the No. 88 will be written in the sky by the Patriots Jet Team.

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