Martin Truex Jr. says he’s returning to Cup next year

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LEBANON, Tenn. — Former Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. will return to Joe Gibbs Racing next season after mulling his future.

Truex confirmed the announcement Friday in a session with reporters at Nashville Superspeedway.

“I’m back in the 19 next year,” Truex said.

“The competitive side of me said I’m not done and I’m going to keep fighting, so here we are.”

Truex, who turns 42 on Wednesday, will compete in his 18th Cup season next year. The 2017 Cup champion has 31 career Cup victories but has yet to win this season.

The decision could come as a surprise to some based on comments Truex had made in recent weeks. Struggling with performance, Truex’s view on the future seemed to sour, but he says that wasn’t the case.

“I don’t like not running good,” Truex said. “I’m here to win. I feel like everybody is working really, really hard right now. I’ve got an awesome team. They’ve got my back, and I’ve got theirs. It’s an up-and-down sport. I’ve been a lot worse off than this before. We’re sitting in a good spot in points (sixth), it depends on how many guys win if we can’t, but I feel like we’re getting closer and we’ll keep doing all we can.”

Truex said as he contemplated his future, the decision became easier.

“It opens up your eyes to a lot,” Truex said. “At the end of the day it’s really about the fight, if I want to keep going and doing what I’ve been doing, will I be happy in a year? Is it what I really, really what I want to do? At the end of the day, this is what I really want to do.

“I never had, like I said, I just felt like I wanted to take the opportunity to explore my options and what it would look like either direction … if I went and done something else or didn’t race Cup full-time, what my life would look like and things would look like. There were some things in there that were surprising, some things that weren’t surprising. I had never done that before. I had never thought about it until this year.”

Truex said he and Joe Gibbs Racing have agreed to details to return.

Said Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson in a statement: “We’re delighted that our 2017 Cup Champion, partner and friend is back in his Camry TRD for at least another year!”

With Truex back in the No. 19 next year, Joe Gibbs Racing will focus on signing two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch to a contract extension. The team also is seeking to secure sponsorship for Busch with Mars, Inc. leaving the team and the sport after this season.