The last time Martin Truex Jr. visited Kansas Speedway, it was the beginning of arguably the best four-race stretch of his 12 years racing full-time in the Sprint Cup Series.
Truex and his No. 78 Chevrolet paced the field in May for a race high 95 laps. But after pitting with the rest of the leaders with 10 laps left, Truex finished ninth as Jimmie Johnson claimed one of his four wins on the season.
Similar scenarios played out in the Coca-Cola 600 and at Dover International Speedway, where Truex led 131 laps in each race but couldn’t find victory lane. It finally happened in the fourth race, at Pocono, when Truex led 97 laps and won the third race of his Sprint Cup career.
But the result at Kansas, where the Sprint Cup Series heads this weekend for the Hollywood Casino 400, is one that’s too familiar to Truex.
“Kansas is the race that I keep on saying that we’re due to strike gold,” Truex said in a team release. “It’s been one of my better tracks over the years with a couple runner-up finishes. I felt we had the car to beat in this year’s spring race at Kansas — we led the most laps but fuel mileage strategy bit us at the end.”
Based off his average career finish at Kansas (17.5), the 1.5-mile facility represents Truex’s 10th best track. But he has been increasingly close to claiming a win in Kansas in recent years. His average finish since the track’s repavement in 2012 is 10th.
Truex’s two runner up finishes came in 2012, during his second of three seasons at Michael Waltrip Racing.
Truex led 173 laps in the spring race but had a front-row view of Denny Hamlin‘s rear bumper as he won. In the spring 2013 race, Truex led 46 laps but finished fourth.
Should the No. 78 win Sunday, it would be a measure of redemption for May. More importantly for Truex, currently third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, he could get a good night of rest knowing he would advance to the third round of the Chase.
“A victory at Kansas would mean automatic advancement into the next round of the Chase, and no sleepless nights worrying about the wildcard race at Talladega,” Truex said. “There’s something about Kansas Speedway that makes me feel comfortable. Any time you have confidence in a track it’s a huge advantage, especially in high-pressure situations as we are right now in the middle of the Chase.”
Truex thought he was going to be in a tense situation last weekend with the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte. After a year of having some of the best cars of his career, Truex felt he had the worst he had driven all year.
But that car was the vessel for Truex and his third-place finish, his best career showing at the track.
“Whatever records we equal or set are a result of a team effort,” said Truex. “I am surrounded with plenty of talent on this team, as was evident last week in Charlotte when we came back strong on Sunday after struggling in qualifying and practice.”