DOVER — During Martin Truex Jr.’s nightmarish 2014 season, Dover International Speedway was some sort of a safe haven.
Truex earned two of his five top-10s at Dover as he missed NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup and slumped to a 24th place finish in points, the lowest of his career as a full-time Sprint Cup driver.
Now that he’s in his second season with his Furniture Row Racing team, things have changed. Truex has run up front in nearly every race this year and enters Dover second in points, while he has more than doubled his top-10s already with 11 so far.
So, based on his success at Dover last season, expectations are high as he comes to what he considers his home track.
Truex qualified second on Friday for Sunday’s Dover race. This will be the first time this season he’s starting on the front row.
“I kind of was looking back at that and thinking about that thinking, ‘OK, imagine what we can do there now,” said Truex, who hails from nearby Mayetta, N.J.
While Truex has been in competition for wins this year, he still hasn’t reached Victory Lane.
In fact, he hasn’t won since June 20, 2013 at Sonoma Raceway. Truex’s last victory on an oval track was his first career win here at Dover on June 4, 2007.
Truex was close to breaking that streak last Sunday when he led the most laps in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte but had to settle for fifth.
Not converting one of these good runs into a win has been a bit frustrating for Truex, but he’s more encouraged by the turnaround his team has shown from last season.
“I guess it just depends on how you look at it,” Truex said. “I think for us it is — when you look at it from the side, ‘Well we probably should have won or had a really good chance to win the last two races,’ it is a little bit frustrating because, doing this as long as I have, you understand how hard it is to put yourself in those positions. You never know when your next opportunity is going to come.
“But at the same time, for us, to come from where we did last year, to be in those positions, to just be running the way we are. Charlotte is one of my worst race tracks. I’ve always felt that way. Last week, to lead the most laps and really again be the car to beat was an amazing feeling for me. I can’t tell you the confidence it gave me after the race.”
The way things are going now, Truex is as confident as he’s been in a long time.
“I don’t think there is anywhere we can go and not be competitive,” Truex said. “Martinsville is one of my worst tracks and we ran sixth there. It’s just a credit to the team and what they’re doing and yeah, I feel like we can go anywhere and have a shot at winning right now.”
Even if he doesn’t manage to get a win prior to the Chase, Truex Jr. has set himself up in a good position to qualify on points if there is less than 16 different race winners which looks likely at this point.
He hopes the Furniture Row team can keep this up all the way until when it matters when the Chase starts in September.
“I think for us it’s important to not lose focus of what we have been able to accomplish so far, what this team is capable of and to just try to keep learning and getting better,” Truex said. “So we can close the deal and win some races and hopefully at the end of the year be fighting for a championship.”