With his fractured right wrist in a new cast, Martin Truex Jr. is ready to grit his teeth again this weekend at Richmond International Raceway with his Chase hopes on the line once more.
Truex held on to the second Wild Card spot that transfers into the Chase by virtue of a painful but rewarding third-place result last weekend at Atlanta. Even so, he only holds a five-point edge over Ryan Newman for that Wild Card.
And with both having one win each this regular season – Truex at Sonoma, Newman at Indianapolis – the two drivers will be a focal point in tomorrow night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 that will determine who goes on to race for a Sprint Cup this fall.
But when asked if a part of him only feels like he has to come out ahead of Newman to make the Chase, Truex replied in the negative.
“That’s not a guarantee either,” said Truex on Thursday. “Somebody could fall out of the Top 10, be ahead of us, take that spot. We need to go out there and do what we can. The best way to go out would be to go out and win the thing.”
Truex had an opportunity to win at Atlanta, but was unable to get past eventual race winner Kyle Busch after a restart with 21 laps to go. Had the battle gone to Truex, his Chase chances would’ve been in much better shape going into tomorrow.
Another near-miss that Truex is thinking about as he ponders over his 2013 campaign is Texas. Back in April at “The Great American Speedway,” he led 142 laps and was out front going into the final pit stops of the night.
But Kyle Busch was able to beat him off pit road, and then pulled away from Truex in the race’s closing laps to win. It still pains him.
“That’s the one I thought about this week,” Truex admitted. “Damn, if we could just have Texas back, if we could have won that race – it wasn’t that difficult, should have just done it.”
“That’s the way it is in this sport. It’s so difficult, so tough. You’re always thinking back. I can count up hundreds of points in my head that we’ve given away this year, [and] very easily could have gone a different way.”
But for Truex and the rest of the Chase hopefuls, Richmond represents a chance for redemption. Get in the Chase and the anxiety will give way to clarity: Ten races, one champion – may the best driver win.
“Our team is ready to go,” Truex insisted. “For us, it’s important to focus on doing our jobs, trying to go out front, do the best job we can, not let what others dictate how we call the race.
“We have a good plan going in. I feel good about our chances and hopefully, it will happen.”