2 – Number of times Martin Truex Jr. has made it to the Championship 4 in the new Playoffs format.
3 – Number of top-five finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
3 – Number of Coors Light poles Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.
4.7 – Martin Truex Jr.’s average finish during the first nine races of the 2017 Playoffs.
7 – Number of wins Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season; including three during the Playoffs – (Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky, Watkins Glen, Chicago, Charlotte-2, Kansas-2).
7 – Number of top-10 finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
9.7 – Martin Truex Jr.’s average finish during the entire 2017 season.
12.3 – Martin Truex Jr.’s average finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway
18 – Number of top-five finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.
19 – Number of stage wins Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.
25 – Number of top-10 finishes Martin Truex Jr. has posted during the 2017 season.
101.8 – Martin Truex Jr.’s career driver rating at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
111 – Total number of laps led at Homestead-Miami Speedway by Martin Truex Jr.
115.7 – Martin Truex Jr.’s 2017 driver rating (series-best).
119.81 – Martin Truex Jr.’s driver rating during the first nine races of the 2017 Playoffs.
2,175 – Laps led by Martin Truex Jr. in 2017.
The One Without A Title
“That means it’s my turn.”
That was Martin Truex Jr.’s response following the penultimate race of the season at Phoenix when he was reminded that he is the lone driver in the 2017 Championship 4 who does not have the title “Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion” after his name.
Brad Keselowski (2012), Kevin Harvick (2014) and Kyle Busch (2015) have all hoisted the coveted year-end prize above their heads on the frontstretch at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Truex Jr. had a shot as a member of the Championship 4 in 2015, but finished 12th in the race.
It has been a gradual climb to greatness for Martin Truex Jr. with Furniture Row Racing – but the journey has been grand for him. His seven wins in 2017 doubled his career total, bringing him to 14. He went winless in his first year with the team (2014), made one trip to Victory Lane in his second season and then broke out with four wins in 2016. (Truex’s other two wins came in 2007 with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and in 2013 with Michael Waltrip Racing.)
Now, he just needs the championship to reach the summit.
The One Without A Title, Team Edition
Not only is Martin Truex Jr. racing for his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title, so is Furniture Row Racing.
Their Championship 4 contemporaries all have titles under their belts with their respective drivers (Team Penske with Brad Keselowski – 2012, Stewart-Haas Racing with Kevin Harvick – 2014, Joe Gibbs Racing with Kyle Busch – 2015).
Furniture Row Racing started racing in the Monster Energy Series in 2005 and collected their first pole in 2008 with Joe Nemechek. They didn’t tally their first win until 2011 (with Regan Smith) and qualified for the Playoffs in 2013 – the first single-car team to do so.
Truex Jr. joined the then one-car operation based in Denver, Colorado, for the 2014 season. Cole Pearn then took over atop the pit box in 2015 with the No. 78 Toyota made it to the Championship 4 in his inaugural year with Truex Jr.
Their fourth-place finish in the season standings in 2015 was the best thus far for the team and they have been breaking team records for wins and laps led ever since.
The One Without A Title, Crew Chief Edition
There is one more person looking for a huge first championship this weekend – the crew chief of the No. 78 Toyota, Cole Pearn.
His Championship 4 contemporaries all have titles under their belts with their respective drivers (Paul Wolfe with Brad Keselowski – 2012, Rodney Childers with Kevin Harvick – 2014, Adam Stevens with Kyle Busch – 2015).
Cole Pearn took the reins with the Furniture Row Racing team in 2015 and all he has done since then is prove he’s one of the best in the business.
He tallied one win atop the pit box in his first year while guiding Martin Truex Jr. to the Championship 4 and a fourth-place finish in the standings. He then captured four wins and five poles in 2016, setting new team records in both categories.
And you already know the numbers he’s put on the board in 2017 – seven wins, 18 top fives and 25 top 10s.
Reversing Recent Fortune In Miami
In order for Martin Truex Jr. to win the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he’s going to have to reverse his recent fortune at the 1.5-mile track. His last three finishes there? 17, 12, and 36.
But if there’s anyone who can power to the front on a 1.5-mile track, it’s Martin Truex Jr. The driver of the No. 78 Toyota for Furniture Row Racing has recorded six wins at that distance in 2017 (Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky, Chicago, Charlotte and Kansas-2). When he drove into Victory Lane at the second Kansas race, it marked the first time in NASCAR history that a driver won four consecutive races on 1.5-mile tracks.
So, we’re saying there’s a chance Truex Jr. could drive to his first career win on the South Florida track – and therefore to his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Pretty Much Perfect On Paper
If you were forced to pick a favorite heading to Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend, you would probably choose Martin Truex Jr.
He leads the field, not just the Championship 4, in nearly every statistical category. Seven wins. 18 top fives. 25 top 10s. 2,175 laps led. An average finish of 9.7 (more than two positions better than Kyle Busch’s 11.8).
And a season-long driver rating that’s seven points better than his next closest Championship 4 competitor (115.7 compared to Busch’s 108.2).
Did I mention he has six wins this season on 1.5-mile tracks? Which just happens to be the length of the host track this weekend.
It’s hard to pick against those numbers!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!