FORT WORTH — NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contender Martin Truex Jr. is facing a number of hurdles if he intends to qualify for the Championship 4 next month.
Truex’s ninth-place finish at Kansas Speedway last Sunday in the opening race of the three-event Round of 8 left him in seventh place, 31 points behind Chase Elliott for the final transfer position. Realistically, Truex needs a win in either Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway or in the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Nov. 1 to be eligible for the championship at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 8.
For the record, Truex is a staggering zero-for-30 on TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile oval, including a 29th-place finish in the July race originally scheduled for March but moved because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, imagine the unique backdrop for Truex’s NASCAR Zoom media conference on Thursday — live while cruising on a lake, wearing a safety vest, in a pontoon boat. “We are on a little vacation with a couple of friends, and fishing a little bit,” Truex said. “Just enjoying the outdoors.”
The 2017 Cup champion, Truex insisted he has a good vibe for Sunday’s 334-lap/501-miler here. “Feeling like the last two seasons or whatever we’ve been off at Texas and have had some struggles,” said Truex, driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry. “We went there this spring (actually summer) and felt really good about things. I thought we had a shot at it, and we ended up getting crashed on a restart.
“Optimistic about it. I think (crew chief) James Small feels good about it. Really the next two weeks, I feel good about. We’re not in a great position points-wise. We need to make something happen, but I’m definitely feeling like we have that opportunity to do it and the potential to do it.
“I’m going to do the best job that I can do. I know that my team is working hard. I guess for that reason I’m not really stressed or worried or nervous. I think whatever is going to happen is going to happen. Worrying about today is not going to change Sunday. We’re ready to go. I think our team is fired-up and excited and hopefully ready to step it up to the next level.”
James Buescher returns to Truck Series: Former NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series champion James Buescher will compete in Sunday’s Speedycash.com 400 at TMS for Niece Motorsports. The Texas native has 10 starts at the track with five top-10s, and never has finished outside the top-20. Buescher won the championship in 2012 but has not started in the series since 2015. He has six career wins, five poles and 31 top-five finishes.
John Sturbin is a senior writer at RacinToday.com, based in Fort Worth. He can be contacted at [email protected].
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