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.”