There was a point where Martin Truex Jr. wouldn’t have been blamed if he wanted to change his first name every time he raced at Martinsville Speedway.
He absolutely hated the place more often than loved it because the half-mile paperclip shaped track rarely showed him any love.
In Truex’s first 18 NASCAR Cup races at Martinsville, he had an average finish of 23.1 (and an average start of 18.1).
During that 18-race stretch, which began in 2006 and ran through 2014, Truex finished 20th or worse 11 times.
But somewhere, somehow, some way, a switch was thrown in 2015 and suddenly Martinsville has become one of Truex’s better tracks.
In his last four starts there, he’s finished sixth (in both 2015 races), 18th (last spring) and seventh (last fall). That most recent appearance also included his first pole at Martinsville.
Truex’s average finish in those four races is 9.25, while his average start in the same number of races is 5.5.
Is it any wonder that a track Truex once dreaded to go to has now become one he’s looking forward to returning to this weekend for Sunday’s STP 500. He’s hoping the next step there is a win.
“From my standpoint Martinsville has gone from a puzzle to a place where I continue to feel more comfortable,” Truex said in media release. “We’ve had some good runs there recently and this weekend will be a good test to see where we stand with our short track program.
“We know we can get it done at the intermediate and superspeedway tracks.”
Truex comes into this weekend ranked third in the NASCAR Cup standings. He won at Las Vegas, was fourth this past Sunday at Fontana and eighth at Atlanta. His worst finishes thus far in 2017 have been 13th at Daytona and 11th at Phoenix.
That’s an impressive season average finish to date of 7.4 (and an average start of 13.2).
Truex also is tied for most stage wins (with Kevin Harvick) with three and his eight playoff bonus points leads the Cup Series. He also ranks second in laps led with 225.
Still, Truex isn’t satisfied with what he’s done thus far.
“We’ve had a pretty good run so far,” he said. “However there’s still plenty of room for improvement. We might be a tick off here and there but overall not a bad start to the season.”