Two previous appearances in the Chase for the Sprint Cup didn’t truly prepare Martin Truex Jr. for what he’s faced this year.
“The feeling that I get is that you’re just nervous and scared all the damn time,’’ Truex told NASCAR Talk. “I’m being honest.’’
It’s understandable since one mistake or bit of misfortune could keep a driver from advancing.
In his first Chase since 2012, Truex had not competed in this format, which features eliminations every third race. A weekend of struggles at New Hampshire turned into an eighth-place finish and gave him a bit of comfort heading into this weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway. He is ninth in the standings with a 15-point cushion on Kyle Busch, who is 13th. The top 12 after Dover advance to the second round.
There could not be a better site for an elimination race for Truex than Dover – a track he scored his first career Sprint Cup victory, has finished in the top 10 in five of the last seven races there and placed sixth in May after leading a race-high 131 laps.
Even with his strong run there earlier this season, Truex wasn’t satisfied, saying at the time the car just wasn’t right during the race. He admits it’s an ongoing issue his team has had at that track.
“To beat (Jimmie Johnson) there you’ve got to have it exactly the way you want it,’’ said Truex, referring to Johnson’s track-record 10 wins at Dover. “We just missed it a little bit. For some reason that tire we’ve been running there, we run it at a few other tracks, it kind of gives me the same feeling all the time. We’ve had a little bit of trouble of getting it dialed in with that tire.
“We kind of fight the same issue with the car every time we run this tire. It’s almost like the car doesn’t react to what we’re doing to it.’’
Teams have run the same right-side tire at Dover since 2012. This is the only track this season that will run those tires. The left-side tires being used this weekend were used at Dover earlier this season. The left-side tires also have been used this season at Texas (Truex placed ninth), Kentucky (17th) and Chicagoland (13th). The left-side tire will be run later in the Chase at Texas and Homestead.
Other than weather – rain is in the forecast much of the weekend at Dover – one of the main topics of conversation likely will be restarts after NASCAR penalized Brad Keselowski for jumping the restart last weekend at New Hampshire.
Truex planned to see the video of that infraction since there’s a good chance he could be starting or restarting on the front row based on his success at Dover.
“I think it’s really simple to understand the rule,’’ Truex said. “The leader starts the race between the single and double red lines. I don’t understand where there is so much confusion with that. I think the confusion always come on what the second-place guy does. As far as I’m concerned, I’m perfectly fine with it, and I’ll handle it. I’m not really worried about it at all. I know what the restart rules are and I know how to make it work.’’