Martin Truex Jr. hopes to turn season around with Watkins Glen win

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Martin Truex Jr.’s first season with Furniture Row Racing started with an engine failure in the Daytona 500.

Truthfully, it hasn’t gone much better since.

The New Jersey native appeared to be building some needed momentum with back-to-back Top 10 finishes at Dover and Pocono in June.

But he hasn’t garnered such a result in the seven races that have followed.

“It’s just been really tough for us to gain any kind of consistency, not only with our finishes but with our race cars,” said Truex today in a NASCAR teleconference.

“It seems like we’ve really struggled a lot just to find any kind of balance with our cars, and to where we could go throughout a weekend and have something that we could work with. So we’ve kind of been searching.”

But thanks to NASCAR’s new Chase format, a win Sunday at Watkins Glen International would be enough to save the season for Truex Jr. and his No. 78 FRR team.

And Truex can be considered a dark horse in the Cheez-It 355. He’s collected three Top-5s and five Top-10s in eight Cup starts at the Glen. He’s also earned Top-5s in two of the last three.

Regarded as one of the better road racers in the Cup garage, Truex said that he’s enjoyed the challenge of road courses from his early days in go-karts. But he also noted that luck has played a role in his success with this discipline.

“There’s so much that goes into being a good road course driver or having a good car on a road course,” he said. “It takes a lot of things. I’ve been fortunate over the years to have good race cars and teams that understand road racing, and obviously have enjoyed it and have had decent success at it.”

A second Cup road race win (Sonoma, 2013, Michael Waltrip Racing) effectively locks Truex into the post-season. But he is realistic about how FRR would fare in the Chase.

At this point, a victory would not be about “sneaking” into the Chase but simply about raising morale after what’s been a rough season so far.

“It’s about going out and getting a win to boost our confidence as a team, to move us forward, to help us think, okay, we’re making progress,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we all want to win races, and if we would be able to do that, I think that would be bigger just to win than it would be winning just to make the Chase.

“You don’t want to just make the Chase to get knocked out in the first four rounds. We’re just racing each week, taking each week like it’s a new week and going out there and trying to do the best job we can and move our team forward.”

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.