Team: #78 (Furniture Row)
Top 5s: 8
Top 10s: 17
Best finish: 1st (Charlotte, Darlington, Chicagoland, Dover)
Points finish: 15th
This was Martin Truex Jr’s best year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series so far, but Truex wouldn’t be Truex without a dose of bad luck along the way. The season began with heartache on the run to the finish line at the Daytona 500.
Truex came within 0.010 seconds of winning the 500, with Denny Hamlin just pipping him in what was the closest in the history of the great American race. From there, opportunities passed him by. Truex would lead the most laps at Texas and Kansas, but a poor strategy and lose wheel would see his chances of victory washed away.
Truex would go on to finally cease his chance when it came at the Coca-Cola 600 in May. He would lead an unbelievable 392 of 400 laps to take a historic victory int he most dominant performance NASCAR has seen.
Truex’s second win of the year came at the Southern 500, with Martin holding off a late charge by Kevin Harvick to win in the throwback weekend, making 2016 the first season that Truex has won multiple races in.
His momentum wouldn’t be halted as the chase began either, with Truex winning two of the three races in the first round of the playoffs. Sadly, the second round wouldn’t be as fruitful. Two lacklustre finishes in Charlotte and Kansas would put Truex on the back foot heading into Talladega.
His, previously strong, championship hopes would be evaporated on lap 41, with the #78’s engine going up in smoke whilst he’d been running up front. An out of contention Truex would bounce back to take two top ten finishes in the next two races, but his season would end on a sour note after being caught up in the late-race wreck and Homestead, with Truex’s car being engulfed in flames as a result.
His historic win at Charlotte. In NASCAR’s longest and most gruelling race of the year, Martin Truex Jr schooled the field. After taking pole position, Truex would go on to lead an incredible 392 of 400 laps; equalling 588 miles of the 600. This is a new record for the most amount of miles led in a single race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
What made the win even more special was the occasion. The Coca-Cola 600 isn’t just one of the most challenging races of the year, it is also the weekend that NASCAR remembers the sacrifices made by the United States’ military; a factor that Truex commented on in victory lane:
“This is a big day. Got the troops on the cars, this is a special weekend. It’s really neat to bring that name home to Victory Lane,” Truex said, “Just a lot of emotion right now. Not really sure it’s sunk in yet. Just an amazing day, an amazing weekend for all of us. It’s a weekend you dream about.”
Martin Truex Jr has almost become synonymous with bad luck. It had become a running occurrence in years past that Truex would keep having opportunities slip away and that happened more than once this year too. In my opinion, Truex’s lowest low of 2016 has to be shared between two moments. The first being right at the start of the season.
Martin Truex Jr was just 0.010 seconds away from winning the biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500. Not only that but with Truex going on to take wins in the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500, his loss at Daytona meant he was just 0.010 seconds away from winning the triple crown of NASCAR’s three most historic races.
His second ‘lowest low’ as you would expect, would be when he was eliminated from the championship hunt at Talladega. After his fantastic form heading into the chase, many were tipping Truex for a shot at winning the championship if he made it to Homestead.
This was not to be the case however after his engine blew up at Talladega after having won the pole position and having been running up front for the opening portion of the race. His two top 10 finishes in the next two races mean that he may well have had a shot at making it to the championship four if he had advanced into the round of eight; but Motorsport isn’t about ‘ifs’, so he’ll have to bounce back next year.
Martin Truex Jr proved last year that he can contend for a championship, however, he and the #78 team need to continue to improve the way they run races. They need to eliminate pit-stop mistakes, crew errors and anything that could stand in their way.
The #78 Furniture Row Toyota Camry was by far the most dominant car of the year when it hit it’s stride. No one has ever led as many laps in a single race in NASCAR history than Truex managed in Charlotte. This could be a sign of things to come.
If Truex and his team can fight through their bad luck in the next few years, the Cup series better worry, as Truex will be nigh-on unstoppable.
Featured image courtesy of NASCAR.com – http://static.nascar.com/content/dam/nascar/articles/2016/5/29/main/truex-jr-recap-main.jpg/jcr:content/renditions/original