By: Robbie Mays – @robbiemays | MRN.com on August 7, 2017 | 3:20 P.M. EST
“Started coming here before I was driving anything but go karts. Watching my dad race here a couple times and coming here as just a kid running through the garage trying to learn about race cars and then racing here in the Busch North Series myself kind of before I got my big break.” (Photo: Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr’s win in Sunday’s I Love New York 355 at Watkins Glen wasn’t just another statement to the competition that he’s ready to win his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship this year.
While the win, his fourth of the season, gave him another five playoff points and the sole lead for most victories in 2017, Truex will remember Sunday as the day he won at one of the venues he considers a home track and one that he’s longed for his entire career.
Hailing from nearby Mayetta, New Jersey, Truex joked in the media center that Watkins Glen, along with Pocono, Dover and New Hampshire are all what he considers home tracks. He now has victories at three of the four following Sunday’s win.
“It feels amazing. Been wanting to win here a long time. Been coming here a long time,” Truex said. “Started coming here before I was driving anything but go karts. Watching my dad race here a couple times and coming here as just a kid running through the garage trying to learn about race cars and then racing here in the Busch North Series myself kind of before I got my big break.”
He said that winning at a track in the Northeast where he cut his teeth racing is always special but he now has wins at both road courses currently on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
“These are the Northeast tracks where we grew up racing. This is where my family raced. This is where my dad raced. This is really the group of tracks that got me an opportunity to drive cars for a living.
“Really cool to check this one off the list as well as everybody wants to win on road courses because it’s kind of a feather in the cap type of deal,” Truex said. “Now to have one at each of the road courses is pretty special.”
Truex has accumulated 34 playoff points through 14 stage wins and four race wins during the first 22 races of 26 in the regular season. That’s huge considering the second highest points total belongs to Jimmie Johnson with 16 playoff points.
If Truex can continue his pace of race wins and stage wins through the final four races of the regular season, he could potentially have as many as 50 playoff points when we get to Chicagoland Speedway for the playoff opener in September.
Assuming he has the same luck once the playoffs begins, he could be poised to advance to the Championship race early in the going. But he also is careful to realize he’s not a guaranteed lock too early.
“I feel like with the way we run, coupled with the bonus points, we should essentially be a lock for Homestead. But at the same time, this is racing, and anything can happen,” Truex said. “If we have three horrible weekends in a row and one in round 2, I don’t know if it’ll be enough. I mean, it just depends on what everybody else does.”
At this point a year ago, Truex had only one win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – a dominant performance in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte where he led 392 of 400 laps. Now he has four wins this year and is closing on a series of tracks where he’s had success in the past.
He credits his recent success to the chemistry and teamwork his Furniture Row Racing team has developed over the years.
“We’ve been together four years now, and I think it’s just the evolution of our group and what we’ve been doing, the things we work on,” Truex said. “Last year was certainly a successful season but felt like we didn’t show how good we really were. We didn’t achieve the things that we thought we were capable of, and so this year I feel like we’ve done a better job.”
As confident as Truex is following Watkins Glen, he knows he has to stay aggressive during the stretch run to the championship.
“We’ve got to keep working hard. This sport is very tough. It changes week to week,” Truex said. “You never know what the next week is going to bring or three weeks from now, and our ultimate goal this year is to win our first championship together. We’re going to keep working very hard, not take these wins for granted but keep working hard to try to get to where we want to go.”
And if he does win that championship this year he can credit part of his triumph to Sunday’s win and the confidence gained winning at a track he’s been going to his entire life.
“All the tracks that you grow up going to are special to you. Each driver has their own, obviously, and for me I’m fortunate that I get to race in the Cup Series at some of those tracks, as well,” Truex said.
“A lot of guys don’t get to go back to the tracks they kind of cut their teeth on, so to speak. So it’s cool for me. It’s definitely a unique feeling, and I always get a little bit of a sense of extra pride coming to a couple of these tracks.”