Despite Coke 600, career records, Truex is not duplicating 2015 success

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The 2014 Sprint Cup season was arguably the worst of Martin Truex Jr.‘s career.

In his first year with Furniture Row Racing, which ended with a career-low 24th result in the standings, Truex earned one top five and just five top-10 finishes, the latter his lowest total since his rookie year in 2006.

And through 36 races, Truex led only one measly lap at Talladega, a career low. He led three more laps in 2005 as a part-time driver.

Fast forward to now, with Truex fresh off the biggest win of his 11 years of full-time racing in the series.

Truex led a race-record 392 laps on the way to victory lane in the Coca-Cola 600. That brings his season total through 13 races to 809 laps, a career high.

His previous high was 581 laps led in 2007, his second full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series.

Now Truex heads to Pocono Raceway and the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400.

Pocono was the site of Truex’s breakthrough win in 2015, but it also topped off the best four-race stretch of his season, which he essentially is improving on in 2016.

During the four-race stretch of Kansas, Dover, the Coke 600 and Pocono, Truex led 454 of his season’s 567 laps. He led the most laps in all four races and finished with one win, three top fives and four top 10s.

This season, with Dover and Charlotte having swapped spots on the schedule, Truex has led 611 laps in the first three races of the same stretch.

In addition to winning earlier, Truex also has two poles.

But there’s a reason why Sunday’s win took a big weight off the shoulders of the No. 78 team.

Even with the improvement over this stretch last season, Furniture Row Racing isn’t experiencing the same overall success from 2015. Through the first 13 races, the No. 78 Toyota has led seven, the same number at this point last year.

The biggest difference between 2015 and 2016 for Furniture Row entering Pocono is top-10 finishes. Truex finished in the top 10 in all but one of the first 13 races in 2015 and was second in the points entering Pocono.

Truex now is seventh in the points. His win Sunday was just his second top five after narrowly finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the closest Daytona 500 finish in history.

After a seventh at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Truex didn’t finish in the top 10 again until Texas, where he led 141 laps and finished sixth. He failed to finish better than 13th in three of the next four races before a ninth at Dover.

These numbers obviously would be different if not for the error in pit strategy at Texas and the late pit stop for a fluke lug nut problem at Kansas.

Now with a win, Truex will look to avoid the pitfalls that came his way after the Pocono win last year. In the 12 races between the first visit to Pocono and the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicagoland Speedway, Truex led only 11 laps while earning three top fives and a ninth-place finish at Darlington.

But Truex was able to turn it around in the Chase, making it all the way to final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway.