By: Ashley McCubbin
Although Martin Truex Jr. was able to score 14 top-five’s last season including eight in a row through the summer, he ultimately wound up seventh in the year-end standings virtue of a 22nd-place finish at Martinsville Speedway.
Now as he looks to make the upcoming 2021 campaign more successful, he admits they could have done some things better, whether surrounding preparation or decision making.
“Our sport, it’s ever changing with the rules and the tracks now this year, tires, all of those things,” he told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “You just have to be prepared to make big decisions and just try to figure out little things to do better there, so we really look at everything, to answer your question, every single piece of our program.”
Primarily, though, the focus for Truex and crew chief James Small this off-season has been trying to find more speed in their racecars, knowing that’ll help the rest of the pieces come together easier. Though looking at ways to improve throughout, the past series champion will also have a new spotter on the roof for 2021.
“I brought in a change in spotter this year to try to be better at speedways, which is now – you look at the 550 package, basically speedway racing on restarts for a few laps,” he commented. “Things like that, we’ve been working on to get better at. It’s everything. It takes all of that to win these races. They are very difficult to win. We look at every avenue.”
Fortunately, Truex is one of a few that does not need to improve his road course program much, always seeming to find himself in the mix for the victory in those events. The pair of event last year produced finishes of seventh and third, along with a win at Sonoma Raceway in 2019.
The driver of the No. 19 Toyota says there has not been any special secret to his success, but rather having a good understanding of the tracks set-up wise and years of experience under his belt.
“New road courses last year with the Daytona Road Course went well for us. The ROVAL has been a little bit up-or-down, but we seem to run pretty well there also,” he reflected. “I look forward to getting back to Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Last year missing both of those was a bummer. Those are two tracks that I always look forward to going to. Then learning Road America and COTA is going to be a big challenge and it’s going to take a lot of extra work to get prepared for that. They both look like really unique, fun tracks and I always look forward to a road course.”
If Truex wants to return to victory lane on a road course, though, he will have to beat Chase Elliott who has ultimately become the king of the road with four consecutive wins. The strength of the No, 9 comes from speed, and not making a lot of mistakes, according to his competition.
“On road courses, you have to push really hard, but you have to do it with discipline,” Truex explained. “You have to understand your marks and be able to continuously hit them. If you look back at the last two Watkins Glen races, we finished second to him in both of those, and arguably had the fastest car, but couldn’t make the pass for the win both times. We kind of got passed on strategy, but if you look at what he was able to do – having pressure on the last 10 or 15 laps of the race and not making that mistake, that’s what it takes, lap after lap.
“They’ve really got a hold on the ROVAL track, where it seems like they are a lot faster than everybody else. They’ve got it going on with their setups. They’ve got their cars figured out to drive the way he likes them, and he does an incredible job of driving them. I’m excited to compete with him again this year on road courses and I know that we will both probably be near the front at some point in time and I look forward to racing with him.”