Truex primed for 600th Cup career start at Gateway

With the NASCAR Cup Series set to compete for the first time at Gateway’s World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois, Martin Truex Jr. is also set to achieve a major milestone start of his own. By taking the green flag in this weekend’s event at Gateway, the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota TRD Camry will make his 600th career start in NASCAR’s premier series.

A native of Mayetta, New Jersey, Truex made his inaugural presence in the Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July 2004. By then, he was contending for the 2004 Xfinity Series championship for Chance 2 Motorsports and was serving as a standby competitor for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was recovering from injuries and burns sustained following a fiery wreck at Sonoma Raceway while practicing for the American Le Mans Series Grand Prix at Sonoma. Taking over Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet Monte Carlo under the first caution period, Truex settled in 31st place in his unofficial Cup debut.

Three months later, Truex made his official Cup Series debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway in October, where he drove and retired the No. 1 DEI Chevrolet to a 37th-place result due to an engine issue. He returned for the 2004 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, where he ended up 32nd place after his right-rear tire shredded his rear quarter panel late in the event.

Entering the 2005 NASCAR season as the reigning Xfinity Series champion with an opportunity to defend his series title, Truex also made a total of seven starts in the Cup circuit for Dale Earnhardt Inc. His first start of the season occurred in the 47th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in February, which he finished in fourth place during the second of two Gatorade Duels a few days prior and earning a transfer spot for the main event. During the 500, however, he finished 34th due to a late engine issue. Returning at Talladega Superspeedway in May, Truex was running towards the lead pack when he was involved in a late multi-car wreck and fell back to 21st place. His best on-track result during the remaining six events to his limited Cup schedule was seventh place at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600 in May. This marked Truex’s first top-10 career result in the Cup circuit.

After achieving his second consecutive Xfinity title in 2005, Truex took over the No. 1 DEI Chevrolet Monte Carlo as a full-time Cup Series competitor for the 2006 season. Commencing his rookie Cup season with a 16th-place result in the 48th running of the Daytona 500, he earned a total of two top-five results, five top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 20.8. His best on-track result was second place in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway behind Greg Biffle as he finished in 19th place in the final standings.

Truex commenced the first 11 scheduled events of the 2007 Cup Series season with three top-10 results. Then at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, he earned his first non-points Cup victory in the All-Star Open after fending off Johnny Sauter to earn a transfer spot to the All-Star Race, where he went on to finish 10th. Two weeks later, the New Jersey native earned his first points-sanctioned NASCAR Cup Series career victory at Dover International Speedway after leading 216 of 400 laps and beating pole-sitter Ryan Newman. The victory occurred in his 58th start in NASCAR’s premier series and on a day where former NASCAR CEO Bill France Jr. died at age 74. Truex backed up his first victory at Dover with four top-three results and six top-10 results for the remaining 13 regular season events, including two runner-up results during both Michigan International Speedway events, as he earned a spot in the 2007 Cup Playoffs. Despite finishing in the top 10 four times during the final 10 events, however, he never contended for the 2007 title and settled in 11th place in the final standings. Nonetheless, Truex’s sophomore Cup season was a success as he earned his first win, his first pole at Texas Motor Speedway in November, seven top-five results, 14 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 16.4.

In comparison to the 2007 season, the following two seasons (2008 and 2009) for Truex were disappointing seasons as he did not make the Playoffs. In 2008, his best on-track result was fourth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in June as he racked up three top-five results and 11 top-10 results before finishing 15th in the final standings. By then, he surpassed 100 career starts in NASCAR’s premiers series. In 2009, where DEI merged with Chip Ganassi Racing, Truex won three poles, including one for the 51st running of the Daytona 500, but his best on-track result was fifth at Phoenix Raceway in November. Earning a total of six top-10 results throughout the season, he slipped back to 23rd place in the final standings.

Following a four-year run with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Truex joined Michael Waltrip Racing to pilot the No. 56 Toyota Camry. Despite commencing the season with a sixth-place result in the 52nd running of the Daytona 500, he struggled with maintaining consistency as he finished no higher than fifth place, which occurred at Martinsville Speedway in March, and achieved a total of seven top-10 results and a single pole (Dover in May) throughout the 36-race schedule. When the final checkered flag of the 2010 season flew, Truex, who did not make the Playoffs, wrapped up his first campaign with MWR in 22nd place in the final standings. 

The 2011 Cup season saw Truex and the No. 56 MWR Toyota Camry team achieve a second pole at Dover in October, a season-best second-place result at the Bristol Night Race in August, three top-five results and 12 top-10 results, with the driver finishing in 18th place in the final standings, four spots better than in 2010. By then, he surpassed 200 Cup career starts.

Truex, who remained at MWR for a third consecutive season, commenced the 2012 season by finishing 12th in the 54th running of the Daytona 500 despite earning a $200,000 bonus for leading the halfway lap. Not long after, he earned a pole and five top-10 results during the following six events. Then at Kansas Speedway in April, he led a race-high 173 of 267 before settling in second behind Denny Hamlin. After recording seven additional top-10 results during the following 16 events, Truex was placed in another opportunity to win, this time at Atlanta Motor Speedy in September as he was leading in the closing laps when a late caution due to Jamie McMurray blowing a right-front tire spoiled his run. After being beaten off of pit road by Hamlin and spinning his tires on the final restart, Truex settled in a disappointing fourth place. The result, nonetheless, was enough for him to make his second appearance in the Playoffs and return to the postseason for the first time since 2007. Ultimately, Truex and the No. 56 team achieved another second-place result at Kansas in October along with four additional top-10 results during the final 10 Playoff events, but finished in 11th place in the final standings. Nonetheless, his average-finishing result of 12.1 was his personal best along with 19 top-10 results throughout the 2012 season.

Fresh off a multi-year contract extension with MWR, Truex finished in the top five three times as he also earned a total of six top-10 results during the first 15 events of the 2013 season. At Texas in April, he led 55 laps before settling behind Kyle Busch in second place. Then at Sonoma Raceway in June, Truex snapped a 218-race winless drought after claiming a dominant victory and achieving his second Cup career victory, the first since winning his first race at Dover in 2007. He went on to post three top-10 results, including two third-place results, during the following nine scheduled events as he was vying for a spot for the 2013 Cup Playoffs.

At Richmond Raceway in September, Truex nursed his No. 56 Toyota Camry to a seventh-place result following a three-lap dash to the finish and he claimed a Wild Card spot to the Playoffs in a tie-breaker over Newman, who was leading late in the event before slipping back to third place. Controversy, however, ensued two days later when NASCAR assessed major penalties to Michael Waltrip Racing for the team’s involvement in manipulating the outcome of the event that involved teammates Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers to ensure that Truex would make the Playoffs. Among the penalties included a $300,000 fine and a 50-point dock for each of MWR’s three-car operation. The penalties eliminated Truex from Playoff contention while Newman and Jeff Gordon, both of whom were affected by MWR’s manipulation, were added to the Playoffs. With his title hopes for 2013 diminished, Truex recorded four top-10 results for the remaining 10 scheduled events before finishing in 16th place in the final standings.

Two weeks prior to the 2013 Cup season’s conclusion, Truex inked a deal with Furniture Row Racing to drive the No. 78 Chevrolet SS for 2014 season, replacing Kurt Busch as Busch transitioned to Stewart-Haas Racing while Truex’s former ride at MWR became a research and development team and with his primary sponsor NAPA Auto Parts opting to depart the team entering 2014. Despite qualifying on the front row for the 56th running of the Daytona 500, the New Jersey native was forced to start at the rear of the field for the main event after wrecking his primary car during his Budweiser Duel event. During the main event, he suffered an early retirement in 43rd place, dead last, due to an engine failure. Two races later, Truex made his 300th Cup career start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March. His first season with Furniture Row Racing, however, was a difficult season as he claimed a season-best fourth place at Kansas in October, five top-10 results and just a single lap led throughout the entire season before finishing 24th in the final standings.

Following a difficult 2014 season, Truex roared out of the gate with seven consecutive top-10 results during the first seven scheduled events in 2015, which marked his 10th full-time season as a NASCAR Cup Series competitor. This stretch included a runner-up result behind Kevin Harvick at Las Vegas in March. Despite finishing 29th at Bristol Motor Speedway in April, Truex reignited his top-10 streak, beginning at Richmond Raceway in April through Dover International Speedway in June. Then at Pocono Raceway in June, Truex, who had potential race-winning opportunities slip from his grasp early in the season, made a triumphant return to Victory Lane after fending off Harvick to record the first victory for Furniture Row Racing since 2011, the first for Canadian crew chief Cole Pearn and the third for the driver of the No. 78 Chevrolet SS.

Coming off the Pocono victory, Truex recorded four additional top-10 results during the final 12 regular season events before making his third appearance in the Playoffs. Throughout the Playoffs, Truex was consistent as he earned five top-10 results in nine weeks to transfer from the Round of 16 all the way to the Championship 4 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November and with an opportunity to claim his first title in NASCAR’s premier series over Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon. During the finale, however, Truex finished 12th on the track and settled in fourth place in the final standings. Nonetheless, the fourth-place result was the best result in the standings for both Truex and Furniture Row Racing, with the driver notching eight top-five results, 22 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 12.2.

Entering the 2016 Cup season with momentum and a new manufacturer as Furniture Row Racing swapped from Chevrolet to Toyota, Truex settled in second place in the 58th running of the Daytona 500 after being edged by Denny Hamlin by 0.010 seconds, which marks the closest margin of victory in the Daytona 500. Truex backed up his run in the 500 by recording four additional top-10 results despite being eluded several opportunities of winning an event. Notable moments of him nearly winning occurred at Texas in April, where he led a race-high 141 of 334 laps only to fall back to sixth following a late pit stop; Kansas in May, where he led a race-high 172 of 267 only to be plagued by a loose wheel and finish 14th; and at Dover in May, where he led 47 laps and fell back to ninth after being involved in a late multi-car wreck. Nonetheless, the on-track frustrations ended at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600 in May, where he started on pole, led 392 of 400 laps and grabbed his first victory of the season and his fourth Cup career victory. Truex’s total laps led of 392 are the most by a Cup Series winner and having led 588 miles during the 600 event, he established the all-time record for the most miles led in a NASCAR event.

Twelve races later, Truex earned his second victory of the season in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in September after fending off Kevin Harvick through the final 16 laps. Coming off a third-place result during the regular season finale at Richmond, Truex then capitalized on a late caution and a stellar four-tire service from his pit crew to win at Chicagoland Speedway during a two-lap shootout. The Chicagoland victory along with Truex’s fourth overall victory of 2016 at Dover in October were more than enough for the New Jersey native to transfer from the Round of 16 to the Round of 12. During the Round of 12, however, his championship hopes evaporated following two consecutive results outside of the top 10 along with an engine failure and a 40th-place result at Talladega in October. Posting two top-10 results during the remaining four scheduled events, Truex capped his third full-time season with Furniture Row Racing in 11th place in the final standings. Despite finishing one spot shy of the top-10 mark in the final standings for a third time, he capped off the season with four victories, five poles, eight top-five results, 17 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 13.9. In addition, he surpassed 400 Cup career starts.

The recent on-track momentum for Truex and Furniture Row Racing continued in the early stages of 2017 as Truex claimed his first victory of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March. He would go on to win at Kansas Speedway in May, Kentucky Speedway in July and Watkins Glen International in August throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch. To go along with 17 top-10 results, Truex claimed the 2017 Cup Series regular season title. He then commenced the 2017 Playoffs by winning at Chicagoland Speedway for a second consecutive season and transferring from the Round of 16 to the Round of 12. Three races later, Truex secured a spot in the Round of 8 after winning at Charlotte and Kansas in October. After posting three consecutive top-three results in the Round of 8, he earned a spot in the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. At the finale, Truex led 78 laps and held off title rival Kyle Busch to claim his eighth victory of the season and his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. By becoming the 31st different competitor to win a title in NASCAR’s premier series, he recorded the first championship for Furniture Row Racing and became the second Toyota competitor to emerge as a Cup champion. Truex’s championship season was a dominant one, where he notched a career-high eight victories, three poles, 19 top-five results, 26 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 9.4.

Truex’s quest to defend his title started off with an 18th-place result in the 60th running of the Daytona 500 after he was involved in a late multi-car wreck. Despite this, he earned his first victory of the season at Auto Club Speedway in March. Four months later, Truex earned victories at Pocono and Sonoma before adding a fourth victory of 2018 at Kentucky in July. Those victories along with a total of 15 top-10 results throughout the 26-race regular season stretch enabled the driver of the No. 78 FRR Toyota to qualify to make the Playoffs for the sixth time in his career. Five top-10 results throughout the Playoffs were enough for Truex to return to the Championship Round at Homestead for a second consecutive season. However, he was unable to defend his championship after being overtaken late by title rival Joey Logano, which relegated Truex to a runner-up result in the final standings. Overall, Truex achieved four victories, four poles, 20 top-five results, 21 top-10 results and an average-finishing result of 10.7.

Two months prior to the 2018 Cup season’s conclusion, Furniture Row Racing announced plans to cease operations at season’s end. With FRR closed, Truex and his championship-winning crew chief Cole Pearn moved over to Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2019 season and took over the No. 19 Toyota Camry team in place of Daniel Suarez. Despite finishing 35th in the 61st running of the Daytona 500, the 2017 Cup champion rallied by posting five consecutive top-10 results during the following seven events. Then at Richmond in April, Truex claimed his first elusive short track victory and his first with JGR after fending off Logano and Clint Bowyer in the closing laps. For the remainder of the 2019 Cup Series regular season stretch, Truex notched victories at Dover in May, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May and Sonoma in June along with six top-10 results before making the Playoffs for the seventh time in his career. By then, he surpassed 500 Cup career starts. For the third time in four seasons, Truex then commenced the Playoffs by winning the Playoff opener at Las Vegas in September. The following weekend at Richmond, he rallied from a late spin while trying to lap Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to claim his sixth victory of 2019 at Richmond and transfer past the opening Playoff round. After posting two top-10 results and transferring to the Round of 8, Truex secured a one-way ticket into the Championship Round for a third consecutive season after winning at Martinsville Speedway for the first time in his career in October. During the finale at Homestead in November, however, he settled in second place on the track and in the final standings behind teammate Kyle Busch. Nonetheless, Truex’s seven victories in 2019 were the most he achieved in a season since winning eight times in 2017. He also recorded 15 top-five results and 24 top-10 results along with an average-finishing result of 9.8.

The 2020 Cup Series season, which marked Truex’s 15th full-time season in NASCAR’s premier series, also marked the first time since 2015 where Truex achieved only a single victory throughout the season, where he won at Martinsville in June. Despite this, he earned a total of 14 top-five results and 23 top-10 results. Qualifying for the Playoffs for the eighth time in his career, Truex was eliminated from title contention following the Round of 8 and settled in seventh place in the final standings.

This past season, Truex achieved three victories throughout the 26-race regular season stretch: Phoenix Raceway in March, Martinsville in April and Darlington in May. As he made the Playoffs for the ninth time in his career, he then won at Richmond in September to transfer to the Round of 12. Three top-10 results during the following six Playoff events were enough for Truex to transfer all the way to the Championship Round and campaign for his second Cup title. During the finale at Phoenix in November, he had the championship lead late until a late caution and pit stop, where he lost the lead, relegated him back to a runner-up result behind Kyle Larson. Despite finishing in second place in the final standings for the third time in four seasons, Truex capped off his 16th full-time Cup season with four victories, 13 top-five results and 20 top-10 results.

Through 599 previous Cup starts, Truex has achieved one championship, 31 career victories, 19 poles, 131 top-five results, 254 top-10 results, 10,851 laps led and an average-finishing result of 13.8. He is currently ranked in fifth place in the 2022 driver’s standings on the strength of two top-five results and six top-10 results through the first 14 events of the 2022 regular season stretch.

Truex is primed to make his 600th Cup Series career start at the World Wide Technology Raceway on Sunday, June 5, with coverage to start at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of  As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases for some links and banners that are being displayed on


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