TALLADEGA, Ala. – Martin Truex Jr., a three-time Xfinity Series winner at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, hasn’t enjoyed the same sort of success in the Monster Energy Cup Series on NASCAR’s largest track.
The defending Cup Series champion, and driver of the No. 78 Toyota for Furniture Row Racing, heads into Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 looking for his first restrictor-plate victory.
“It’s crazy,” Truex, 38, said Saturday following the day’s lone practice session on the 2.66-mile layout. “I used to come here in the Busch Series days and the first three times I raced here, I won. I won at Daytona in the July race and I felt like it really wasn’t that difficult.
“Clearly all the stars and moons had lined up at those races for me because I really haven’t been able to reproduce that in the Cup Series.”
A year ago, Truex didn’t need outstanding performances on the series’ only two restrictor-plate tracks. The team, led by crew chief Cole Pearn, dominated the 1.5-mile venues which make up the bulk of the schedule. Seven of his eight wins came on the mile-and-a-half tracks. One came on a road course.
He went 13th and 34th at Daytona, 35th and 23rd here at Talladega.
Winning here, or at Daytona, he said, “would be a huge deal because it’s one of those styles of racing that I have won at yet in this series and it’s something that I’ve really worked on and I’ve tried hard to get better at.
“We’ve tried hard as a team as well … and it just hasn’t been in the cards for us yet.
“You want to be a guy that can win anywhere. You want to be a guy that the competitors look at you each and every week no matter what the track is that here’s a guy we’re going to have to beat.
“Including that aspect of it would be a big deal for me.”
• A LITTLE HELP HERE: Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott has already earned a spot in the next round of the playoffs. Teammate Alex Bowman has not. And Bowman sits 34 points below eighth-place Ryan Blaney.
Can the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet aid his teammate?
“I know that if I was in his position I would certainly want at least my teammates not to hurt my effort,” Elliott said. “You don’t want to impede that progress, but I feel like (team owner Rick Hendrick) has always kind of been a race win guy … I don’t think he is ever going to let something like that pull me out of potential contention to win or me laying over to let him win.”
Those conversations haven’t really come up during his tenure at HMS, Elliott said. As for not hurting Bowman’s chances, “I’m certainly open to doing that,” he said.
“If he can move on as well, that does nothing but help all of us in our company.”
• PSYCHO-DEGA: Aric Almirola said he has worked with various nutritionists and physical conditioning coaches through the years, “and different people that have a lot of knowledge about the human body and how to make it perform at its best.”
Thus far, however, he’s avoided consulting a sports psychologist.
“I’m scared to work with any sort of psychologist about what they would tell me about my brain,” he said.
“I know some guys have and I know it’s big in the golfing community and … big in tennis and other individualized sports, but I have not.
“I think coming to Talladega you do have to have the right mindset … the right frame of mind and being positive about it and being excited.”
You’re already beaten, he said, if you arrive thinking “Oh man, why did I sign up to do this? We’re just going to wreck and this is ridiculous. I hate restrictor-plate racing.”
“Previous success … always helps the mindset coming to different race tracks and, for me, Talladega is a place where I’ve had success.”
A former winner at Daytona, Almirola has finished eighth or better in his last four Talladega starts.