Don’t be surprised if Martin Truex Jr. starts listening to the old Mama’s and Papa’s hit “California Dreamin’” this week.
Equaling his best finish of the season – runner-up in Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix (he also was second at Atlanta) – Truex has a lot to look forward to.
Not only did Truex finish a close second to race winner and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch on Sunday, he makes his return to Auto Club Speedway this weekend.
In last year’s Cup race at the high-speed 2-mile speedway, Truex sat on the pole, led 125 of 200 laps and had the largest winning margin (11.6 seconds) in any race of the season.
It would become his first of four wins in 2018, culminating with a runner-up finish to Joey Logano in the championship-deciding season finale at Miami.
“(It was) a great day for us here at Phoenix which is not one of our greatest tracks,” Truex said after Sunday’s race. “I’m looking forward to going to one of our favorite tracks next weekend in California and seeing if we can go back-to-back.”
With 19 wins, Truex has captured back-to-back victories at the same track three times in his Cup career: he took the checkered flag in both races at Kansas Speedway in 2017, at Chicago (2016 and 2017) and Kentucky (2017 and 2018).
With his second-place finishes at Atlanta and Phoenix, Truex is knocking on victory’s door. If he had a few extra laps – and some extra fuel – he may have had a shot at overtaking Busch at the end.
But Truex was running very close to empty, so he had to save fuel. Still, he was able to get past fourth-place finisher Aric Almirola and third-place finisher Ryan Blaney in the closing laps to end up behind Busch.
“We did save quite a bit there,” Truex said of saving fuel. “The car was really fast there at the end. Just a good day overall for our Bass Pro Camry.
“Everybody at JGR and TRD and everybody back at the shop are really doing a good job. Our boys in the pits did a good job today as well, so thanks to Cole (Pearn, crew chief). James (Small, engineer) and all the guys, we’re starting to click.”
Truex admits his team still needs a little work, particularly in unloading off the hauler, but he’s optimistic heading to Fontana.
“We’re a little bit off on Fridays and that’s getting us behind, but I feel like each weekend – as the weekend goes – we’re getting a little strong and a little stronger,” he said. “Two second places is pretty decent. We’ll just keep chipping away at it.”