Jeff Gordon is a past series champion and scored the victory a couple of weeks ago at Martinsville. Kevin Harvick has led the series in each of the categories. Kyle Busch has proven that he is fast everywhere and can win in anything, as evidenced by how he was able to qualify for the Chase despite missing the first 11 races of the season. Then there’s Martin Truex Jr., a driver that has been solidly consistent through the season and the Chase.
With the statistics laid out on the table, it’s easy to see why Truex has largely been overlooked throughout the Chase for the Sprint Cup thus far, and enters this weekend as the underdog. It’s even more understandable when you consider that Truex drives for a single-car team based out of Denver, Colorado while each of his competitors drive for teams with four cars each, located in NASCAR’s hub in North Carolina. The one thing that helps Truex’s situation is the alliance that Furniture Row Racing has with Richard Childress Racing’s three-car organization.
“We get our engines from them, our chassis from them. We share basically everything,” Truex commented of their partnership. “We’re almost like a teammate to the RCR guys. But at the same time we do everything out in Denver, one car. It’s quite a bit different than what we’re up against.”
The underdog is a position that Truex is fully embracing and understands, as he understands why his fellow competitors, as well as the media and fans, have given him that label. It’s also something that team General Manager Joe Garone is fully embracing right now.
“It’s really everything,” he commented. “It means the world. It’s the biggest thing you could ask for. It brings a legitimacy to the team because we’ve been a team that’s been growing for so long on a pretty linear upward curve. To come to this point in time, it answers a lot of questions.”
Though with that said, he isn’t about to be overlooked this weekend as he feels that his team with Cole Pearn calling the shots has as good a chance to win the championship as any of his rivals.
“We want this more than anything right now,” he stated. “It’s all or nothing. I mean, this is the only thing that matters. You know, I don’t know if, based on past history, just the things that I’ve been through, you never know when you’re going to get an opportunity like this again. All we can do is make the most of it, put our best effort out there. The guys have worked hard. They feel confident about what we’re going to have this weekend. It’s a huge deal and you never know, like I said. May never get this opportunity again.
“I mean, that’s how big of a deal it is for me. But at the same time, what can you do different? You got to go out there and you got to stay focused and do your thing, do what we’ve been doing all year long. Hopefully, we can step that performance up and be able to win the race. But I’m just really excited to be a part of this, to be given this opportunity, have a great team behind me. Hopefully, we can make it happen. There’s no guarantees. It’s going to be difficult. It’s going to be tough. But I’m telling you, we want it as bad as anyone out there. It’s ours to go get.”
The success that they’ve had isn’t something that has surprised Truex, though, as he says he knew before the season even started, during the pre-season testing, that they had something strong for 2015.
“Honestly, once Cole brought in his new engineers and we all got together and started working on racecars, I knew what we were capable of this year. It felt that good. We had that chemistry, that belief. They were asking me questions that I’d never been asked before. I’m like, Wow, this is awesome, you know,” he explained. “We’ve just continued to build on that relationship and get better and better and better. So I’m not surprised at all.”
Truex feels his season to this point – 22 top-10s highlighted by a win at Pocono Raceway – showcases that his team can get the job done this weekend.
“We can get the job done on any given day, and this Sunday is no different than that,” he commented. “So we’re going to just do our best and go race hard and hopefully put our best on the racetrack and feel like we’re in a position to do something special. You never know when you’re going to get this opportunity again, so we’re really just 100 percent focused on what we’re doing. We’re not really worried about what people think, what people are saying. We’re just going out there to do our jobs to the best of our ability, and that’s what we’ve done all year. Hopefully, that will pay dividends in the end.”
While there may be tons of talk right now, it doesn’t matter once the green flag drops on Sunday, as once the helmet goes on, whatever everybody has been saying doesn’t matter as he immediately focuses on what he has to do, and what it will take to get the job done. He knows it won’t be easy, but he’s excited about the opportunity and feels that his team has a good shot at it. The statistics back up his claim, too, as he has three top-fives and seven top-10s in 10 previous starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“I’m looking forward to this weekend. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he continued. “There’s really no pressure. It feels good to be here. This whole season has been just a ton of fun for me, and to see the progress of my race team, hopefully, we can finish off the final chapter here.”