The stories behind the weekend's auto racing events and a look ahead at upcoming action posted every Monday. Focused on NASCAR, IndyCar and American road racing -- with a little bit of everything else thrown in when appropriate. Updated during the week as needed.
Monday, September 3, 2012
Truex Ready to Join NASCAR's Elite
Martin Truex, Jr., is ready to join NASCAR's elite along with MWR, NAPA
There’s a reason Martin Truex, Jr., was signed last
week to a new three-year contract by Michael Waltrip Racing and sponsor NAPA.
He’s on the verge of a breakthrough.It may not happen this year, but the No. 56
NAPA Toyota is about the join the ranks of the NASCAR elite.
Truex should have won at Atlanta Sunday night.After starting 28th, he raced to the front
and had it well in hand until a late race caution sent it into a
green-white-checkers finish.A slightly
quicker pit stop for Denny Hamlin gave him the perferred line on the restart.Truex started second, spun his tires and
ended up fourth.
Currently fifth in points, Truex is one of only
two drivers headed for The Chase without a win this year, Kevin Harvick being
the other.But Truex knows the team is
due for a breakthrough.
"We're right there,” he said
after renewing his deal with Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR).“We've been close; we've been capable of winning
races all year long. We just haven't finished the deal. We've run second a
bunch of times and we've had the car to beat two or three races and we didn't
do everything right. It takes a lot of things to go your way to win a race. On
the days where we've had the fastest car out there, we didn't have the cautions
go our way or maybe pit strategy or the way the cycles went, but we've had the
speed and we've got the team that's capable of doing it for sure. For now, it's
just a matter of getting that first one out of the way and quit worrying about
it and go after a bunch of them.”
knew he was fortunate to beat Truex.
just fell our way at the end,” Hamlin said. “When you start to falter and fade, you’ve got
to have another aspect of the team that picks you up, and today it was the pit
crew. They won us this race today. We’re very blessed for that. I’m 70 percent
happy for me and 30 percent sad for Michael Waltrip and Martin because I know
they’ve come so close.”
Truex traces his
team’s turnaround back to early in the 2011 season when not much seemed to be
going right.But Waltrip made
commitments to Toyota and its sponsors to improve in 2012.It entered into an association with Joe Gibbs
Racing to share technology and added Clint Boyer, Mark Martin and Brian Vickers
to boost its driver ranks.
“Ever since, we've
been on an awesome road to improvement,” Truex said.“With those guys integrating me into the team
and giving me some say and making me feel like I'm part of something, has
probably been one of the coolest and proudest moments of my life."
Slipping and sliding:Atlanta saw the continuation of a theme
covered here last week, Hamlin moving forward while Tony Stewart continues to slide
backward. Although Stewart qualified on the
pole, he slipped back during the race and eventually finished four laps behind
in 22nd.He’s now in danger of falling
out of the Top 10 in points, although his three wins will keep him in The
Even worse for Stewart, sponsor
Office Depot announced before the race it won’t be back next year, the second
major Stewart Haas Racing sponsor to quit the sport, the U.S. Army having
already announced its withdrawal.Office
Depot was the team’s primary sponsor for 22 of 38 races this year and that
leaves a big hole for the team.Combined
with the Army pullout, SHR basically needs to find a full season sponsorship for one car, a
major task in today’s economic climate.
Contrast that with NAPA, which is
one of the few sponsors that will be the primary sponsor in every race next
year. NAPA obviously doesn't want to miss an part of the breakout year.