Martin Truex Jr. ready to pick up where he left off at Martinsville

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If there ever was an event where Martin Truex Jr. would probably like to trade his sunglasses for working headlights on his Toyota, tonight’s race at Martinsville Speedway would be it.

The venerable .526-mile short track in southern Virginia — the shortest track on the Cup circuit — hosts its first-ever Cup night race under the lights this evening. It has been quite the anticipated event for the sport’s oldest legacy track, the only facility to host Cup Series races every year since the series was founded in 1949.

“It’s definitely going to be different, but I think it’s exciting to have our first night race there,” Truex said in a media teleconference. “Doing it mid-week, it should be fun so hopefully it goes over well. We’re all looking forward to it.”

Whether in the daylight or night time, Martinsville has been, is and always will be Martinsville. In other words, the racing will still be ultra-tight, tire wear will be ultra-significant and tempers are likely to flare up as much as brakes routinely overheat there.

“I think the biggest question for us right now is just the tires,” Truex said. “The tires are different and that can have such a huge impact at Martinsville.

“So, with no practice, kind of going back and building off of the things that we’ve learned there with our car and being able to win last fall, are those things going to work still?

“And, how is the tire going to change the way the car drives and what it needs to do to be fast? Definitely a lot of question marks there as far as that goes I think more so than just being at night.”

Tonight’s race – weather permitting (there’s a nearly 50% chance of rain in the forecast at race time, per wunderground.com) – marks the third mid-week race NASCAR has held since returning from the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus. It’s something Truex would like to see continue once things become more normalized as the virus is brought further under control.

“From a driver’s perspective, for me, I think it’s been good, I’ve enjoyed it,” Truex said. “The fact that we’ve had all one day shows and no practice, no qualifying has made it a little bit easier on the teams. I think I would be all for it.

“Everybody has always talked about how long our season is and it would certainly be a way to shorten up the schedule timeline wise. I think it falls more on the teams and what they are capable of. It’s a lot of work to prepare race cars and do all the things you need to do to show up to the race track and race.

“There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. I think for the drivers, it’s easy. You show up and you race. I think you have to ask the teams more about how they feel about it and how many races could they do in a short amount of time like that.”

Truex is adapting to the new normal, per se, in NASCAR – namely, no practice and in most cases, no qualifying before races. But he likes the get in and drive routine.

“I feel that I can get in and fire off and go just as hard as I need to,” he said. “It’s different from the perspective that you really don’t know what you have, and you have to kind of fly by the seat of your pants feel and just react and make adjustments on the fly.

“There is no, ‘Well, I’m going to go in the garage and make a few adjustments.’ You kind of just have to deal with what you have and wait for a pit stop to work on it. So, it’s been a little bit different from there. I definitely feel like I’m confident in being able to fire it off into turn 1 as hard as I need to each week.”

After a series-leading seven wins last season, the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has yet to visit victory lane this season. But the odds look optimistic tonight: his most recent Cup Series win was last fall’s playoff race at Martinsville.

“I feel real close, I feel we were in position to win three or four already,” Truex said. “It’s just one of those things where we haven’t had everything come together.

“This past weekend at Atlanta, I felt like we had a dominant car through the first two stages, and just lost the handling a little bit there in stage three. Track cooled off a little bit. The car changed a little bit and you find yourself not able to track down the leader again.

“We’ve been right there. I feel like we had a shot at winning Darlington and the Coke 600. Those are the past couple races. I feel like we are right there, and we are working to get better each week.”

Some may point to Truex’s failure to win thus far this season being tied to still getting used to new crew chief James Small, who replaced the now retired Cole Pearn after last season.

“As far as the things with James, it’s a learning process,” Truex said.

But at the same time, the Mayetta, New Jersey native believes the transition from Pearn to Small has “been pretty seamless, really.

“We know each other and we’ve worked together long enough (Small was previously Truex’s chief engineer) to know that, and I don’t think that’s anything that is holding us up. It’s just a matter of putting all the little details together and executing.”

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NASCAR Saturday schedule at WWT Raceway, Portland

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Saturday is a busy day for NASCAR. The Cup and Craftsman Truck Series are at World Wide Technology Raceway. The Xfinity Series is at Portland International Raceway.

Cup teams will practice and qualify ahead of Saturday’s Truck race at WWT Raceway. The Xfinity Series has practice, qualifying and its race Saturday at Portland.

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)

Weather

Saturday: Sunny. Temperatures will be around 80 degrees for the start of Cup practice and climb to 89 degrees by the end of Cup qualifying. Forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 92 degrees around the start of the Truck race.

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 10:30 a.m. — Truck Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 10:45 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Cup qualifying  (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (160 laps, 200 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)

Weather

Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 74 degrees and no chance of rain around the start of the Xfinity race.

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 10 a.m.  — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Xfinity practice (No TV)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 4:30 p.m. — Xfinity race (75 laps, 147.75 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Truck starting lineup at WWT Raceway: Ty Majeski wins pole

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Ty Majeski will lead the Craftsman Truck starting lineup to the green flag Saturday at World Wide Technology Raceway after winning the pole Friday night.

Majeski claimed his fourth career series pole and first of the season with a lap of 138.168 mph around the 1.25-mile speedway.

MORE: Truck starting lineup at WWT Raceway

Ben Rhodes, who won last week at Charlotte, qualified second with a lap of 137.771 mph. He was followed by Christian Eckes (137.716 mph), Carson Hocevar (137.057) and Stewart Friesen (137.007).

The series races at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1.

Saturday Portland Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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There have been different winners in each of the last nine Xfinity Series races this season. Will the streak continue Saturday at Portland International Raceway?

Those nine different winners have been: Sammy Smith (Phoenix), Austin Hill (Atlanta), AJ Allmendinger (Circuit of the Americas), Chandler Smith (Richmond), John Hunter Nemechek (Martinsville), Jeb Burton (Talladega), Ryan Truex (Dover), Kyle Larson (Darlington) and Justin Allgaier (Charlotte).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Portland International Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:46 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 10 a.m. … Practice begins at 11:30 a.m. … Qualifying begins at 12 p.m. … Driver introductions begin at 4:15 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Donnie Floyd of Motor Racing Outreach at 4:30 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed at 4:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 75 laps (147.75 miles) on the 1.97-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 12 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 4:30 p.m. ... Coverage begins at 4 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 4 p.m. and can be heard on mrn.com. … SiriusXN NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 73 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last year’s inaugural Xfinity race at Portland by 2.8 seconds. Myatt Snider finished second. Austin Hill placed third.

NASCAR Friday schedule at WWT Raceway, Portland

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Craftsman Truck Series teams will be on track Friday at World Wide Technology Raceway to prepare for Saturday’s race. Cup teams will go through inspection before getting on track Saturday.

Xfinity Series teams will go through inspection Friday in preparation for their race Saturday at Portland International Raceway.

Here is Friday’s schedule:

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)

Weather

Friday: Partly cloudy with a high in the low 90s.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 1 – 8 p.m. Craftsman Truck Series
  • 4 – 9 p.m. Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 6:30 p.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (FS1)

Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)

Weekend weather

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 77 degrees.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 6-11 p.m. Xfinity Series (no track activity on Friday)