Martin Truex Jr: ‘I still pinch myself’ three years into dominance with Furniture Row

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As Martin Truex Jr. stood in the back of a truck riding around Kentucky Speedway before last Saturday’s Cup race, a fan called out to the 2017 champion.

“Let somebody else win!” he yelled.

After a beat, Truex responded with a chuckle, “No!”

Truex stayed true to his word. A few hours later, the Furniture Row Racing driver took the checkered flag to claim his fourth win of the season.

His triumph over Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski took his career win total to 19 – tying him on the all-time wins list with Joey Logano, 2019 Hall of Fame inductee Davey Allison, Greg Biffle, Hall of Famer Buddy Baker and Fonty Flock.

The victory is the 17th for the No. 78 team since 2015. Truex leads all drivers in wins since 2016 with 16.

For a driver who only won twice in his first nine full-time seasons, Truex said “I still pinch myself” over his dominance of the sport.

He doesn’t lead the series in wins after 19 races. That goes to Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, who are tied at five wins each.

This marks the first time since 1974 that three drivers have won four or more races at this point in a season.

“I think all three of us have great teams,” Truex said after his win. “Those two guys are great drivers. Obviously, I have a lot of respect for them. It’s pretty amazing to be a part of this group, honestly. I think when I was a kid and you (saw) Dale (Earnhardt) and Rusty (Wallace) and guys like that, Terry Labonte and you had guys that just dominated and won everything, and watching them, it was like, ‘Man, that’s so cool, they’re heroes and they’re such a big deal,’ and to think that I’m one of those guys this year and I guess last year, too, is just ‑‑ it’s amazing to me.”

Even after he won his first Cup title last November, it didn’t occur to him until almost a month later that he will one day be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame alongside Earnhardt, Wallace and Labonte.

Truex joined Furniture Row Racing in 2014 after losing his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing, a casualty of the race manipulation scandal involving MWR in the 2013 regular season finale at Richmond Raceway.

That year, Truex went winless, led one lap and finished 24th in the standings.

The following season Truex was paired with rookie crew chief Cole Pearn. The duo won one race, earned eight top fives and made the Championship 4.

In their 126 races together, the duo has put together a record comparable to other great driver-crew chief parings in Cup history.

“Really the last three years have been just having the time of my life and just lucky to have great people around us, a great car owner (Barney Visser),” Truex said. “Just feel really lucky.  I’ve been on the other side of it before where teams were struggling and struggled to get in position to win races, and having a lot of things kind of going against you and kind of fighting that uphill battle.

“So it’s amazing to be on this side of it. I can’t tell you how proud I am of all the guys on our team and what they’ve done, and I honestly just enjoy every single one of these wins like it’s my first because you never know when they’re going to come to an end.  You never know when you’re going to have your last one. You never know what’s going to happen next. Just trying to ride the wave of momentum and enjoy it all, and my team is just so badass, I can’t even explain it.”

Truex, 38, “always felt” he “could get the job done” during the early years of his Cup career, spent with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and then MWR.

“I had enough glimpses of really good days or glimpses of greatness that I think it just kept me alive, kept me hungry enough to keep fighting for it,” said Truex, who won two Xfinity championships before moving to Cup. “I think through the years there was just ‑‑ for me personally, and I don’t know what everybody else thought, I know I had some people that probably didn’t think I was that good.

“That’s part of this deal.  You’re only as good as your last race. And if you’re not getting results now, people question your ability.  … For me personally, I always (felt) like I could be a good driver, be a great driver.  I never knew I’d get to where I was last year, and I never really knew I could go on a championship run and win (16) races in three years … That’s been amazing.”

 

NASCAR America: Breaking down Cole Pearn’s ‘fake’ pit call at Sonoma

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It was the pit call that surprised the NASCAR world and put a wrench in the plans of Kevin Harvick‘s team Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.

After multiple laps of telling Martin Truex Jr. to pit on Lap 73 and with his pit crew waiting on the pit wall, crew chief Cole Pearn told his driver not to pit at the last moment, as race leader Harvick committed to pit road.

It resulted in Truex pitting eight laps later, giving him fresher tires to catch and pass Harvick and the other leaders to earn the win.

On NASCAR America, Steve Letarte and Dale Jarrett discussed how such a move worked.

“The best way to fool with your pit crew is fool everyone,” Letarte said. “Tell everyone you’re going to come to pit road, even your own driver Martin Truex Jr. and it really came down to this: If you pit with 38, 39 laps to go, you’re going to have to come and get one more pit stop, one more splash of gas or some tires. That was the question: who was going to do what?”

Truex said after the race he was going to do whatever Pearn told him to do. Letarte said that kind of trust is essential if Furniture Row Racing wants a second championship.

“There’s not enough time in these races to have explanations,” Letarte said. “You heard what Martin Truex Jr. had to say, it’s ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ I give a direct answer and I’m off the radio, back to driving the race car. He says ‘pit,’ I’m going to pit. He’s says ‘we’re not pitting’, I just stay on the race track. Blind belief in that person on top of the pit pox, that is what must happen for a team to go win a championship.”

Watch the videos above and below for more.

Rodney Childers able to joke about Cole Pearn’s winning pit strategy

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Most of the questions coming out of Sunday’s Cup race at Sonoma had to do with the abrupt change in pit strategy by Furniture Row Racing that delivered Martin Truex Jr. a victory and snatched away Kevin Harvick‘s shot at his sixth win of the year.

Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, seemingly got snookered when Cole Pearn told Truex not to pit at the last moment on Lap 73 before Harvick and teammate Clint Bowyer pitted. Fresh tires from pitting eight laps later allowed Truex to retake the lead and win.

Though he apologized to his team after the checkered flag, Childers was in good spirits soon after. Fox Sports’ Jamie Little posted a video on Twitter showing the two crew chiefs talking and laughing in Victory Lane, with Pearn overheard saying “I’m sorry.”

Early on Monday, Childers responded to the video, noting his respect for the No. 78 team and joking about getting outsmarted.

“And at least @colepearn told me he was sorry,” Childers said. “That was kinda like sending your friend down the wrong haunted trail at Halloween.”

Pearn was asked about Childers’ visit to Victory Lane and where their relationship stands.

“We have a great relationship I feel like,” Pearn said. “I respect him a lot, and I feel like he does the same. Him and Martin worked together back at (Michael Waltrip Racing), so they’re good friends. At the end of the day, we’re playing a game … he’s a good guy, and I think it’s kind of cool for him to do that. … I always try and congratulate them when they win, and he always does it when we win. Like I said, we’ve raced against each other now for ‑‑ as long as I’ve been a crew chief, we’ve battled them a lot of weeks, and they’re a great race team, make us better.  I think that was cool.”

Cole Pearn called Sonoma race win with treehouse injury

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Cole Pearn was working wounded Sunday when he called Martin Truex Jr.’s winning run at Sonoma Raceway.

The crew chief for the No. 78 Toyota had a gash on the right side of his forehead, one so noticeable he was asked about it after the race (you can see it in the video interview above).

“I wish I was fighting a bear or a cougar or something cool, but my wife (Carrie) has been on me about building this treehouse for our kids,” Pearn said. “I wanted nothing to do with it, but we were fortunate with the West Coast race we were able to fly out Friday morning, so I actually like had somewhat of a day off on Thursday, and I decided to get involved.

Pearn said the treehouse had been “screwed up a bit” during the first attempt at construction. After tearing it down, he and his wife were in the process of resetting a 4×4 corner post.

“I thought my wife had it and she didn’t, and I walked away to get a clamp and she yelled my name and I turned right into it and basically got KO’d by it,” Pearn said. “But yeah, it went right down to my skull, bled a lot, and had to get stitched on the inside, then on the outside.  Was back in about an hour, and I worked until about 9 Thursday night and I finished the stupid thing, so I’m glad it’s done.”

Joe Garone, Furniture Row Racing’s president, joked Pearn’s race-winning strategy that tricked Kevin Harvick’s team was a result of the incident.

“He probably wouldn’t have made that call if he wouldn’t have been hit in the head,” Garone said.

Martin Truex Jr. charges to second place in Coke 600 despite pit issues

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CONCORD, N.C. — The only reason Martin Truex Jr. didn’t get a shot at celebrating his second Coca-Cola 600 win was because the guy who finished in front of him – Kyle Busch – was “flawless.”

That’s how Truex’s crew chief, Cole Pearn, described Busch’s night.

Truex’s 600 miles were anything but.

The No. 78 Toyota finished second in Sunday night’s race despite qualifying 15th and suffering consecutive pit road penalties, for speeding on Lap 203 and an uncontrolled tire on Lap 227.

The speeding penalty came after Truex entered and exited the pits in second.

Then there was the pit guns.

Pearn told NBC Sports the team went through three pit guns during the 400-lap race. One mishap resulted in the second penalty.

“The gun screwed up on the right rear and the front (tire) changer left and left the tire sitting there, cause usually the rear carrier comes to get it,” Pearn said. “But we went through three guns tonight … The whole reason we got the uncontrolled tire was cause the gun screwed up.”

Truex said the pit gun problem was “one of those freak things” where it reversed on the changer as he was hitting the fifth lug nut and he had to manually switch it back.

The No. 78 also had one unsecured lug nut following the race.

Even with the issues, Truex said it was a “solid day overall” for his team, which earned its third consecutive top five.

As for the speeding penalty?

“I can’t wait to see the time,” Truex said. “It couldn’t have been much. But I just hit some of those bumps a little bit wrong and got going a little too fast and tapped the brake just a split second too late. I typically don’t get a lot of speeding penalties, so Cole won’t ride my butt too hard this week about it.”

Truex said his team “cleaned it up well” after that.

The final restart came with 93 laps to go and Truex restarting eighth. With 55 to go he was in second, but lost multiple spots during green flag stops.

But he was back in second with 34 to go.

That’s when Pearn and his team started “praying” for a restart.

“I thought we were really equal to them the last few runs of the race,” Pearn said. “It was just a matter of track position and chasing from behind.”

Two years after Truex led 392 laps to capture his Coke 600 win, Busch led 377 while sweeping all four stages.

It was also the first time Truex hadn’t led a lap in the race since 2014.

“At the end of the day, we ran second,” Truex said. “He kicked everybody’s tail. That’s just the way it goes.”