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.”

IndyCar: Turn 5 gives drivers fits in Friday’s second practice at Barber Motorsports Park

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You’ve heard of the Fast Six in IndyCar, right?

Well, Friday’s second practice session for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama was the Frustrating Five – Turn 5, that is.

It almost might be easier to list those drivers that were not bitten by the cantankerous turn on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park layout in Birmingham, Alabama.

Close to 10 drivers in the 23-driver field suffered issues in the turn, ranging from running off the grass and back on, to getting stuck and having to be towed out, to suffering damage.

But by the time the one-hour session was over, Josef Newgarden took a big step towards defending his win from last year’s race there, being fastest in Friday’s second of two practice sessions.

Newgarden covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in a speed of 122.786 mph at a best lap time of 1:07.4345 minutes.

Spencer Pigot was second (125.599 mph/1:07.5372), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (122.129 mph/1:07.7971), Will Power (122.107 mph/1:07.8092) and last week’s winner at Long Beach, Alexander Rossi (122.065 mph/1:07.8326).

Sixth through 10th-fastest were Scott Dixon (122.044 mph/1:07.8445), Ryan Hunter-Reay (121.975 mph/1:07.8829), Takuma Sato (121.652 mph/1:08.0628), Marco Andretti (121.579 mph/1:08.1040) and Graham Rahal (121.572 mph/1:08.1076).

Now, speaking of all the incidents, here’s a list.

INCIDENTS:

* Right after rookie Matheus Leist spun early in the session in Turn 5, fellow rookie Zach Veach spun with about 45 minutes left in the session in Turn 5. Graham Rahal had to take evasive action to miss Veach.

But that wasn’t all, as Sebastien Bourdais followed in almost the same spot with a spin of his own roughly a minute later, and then Gabby Chaves also had his problems in the same turn, going into the grass but avoiding the gravel.

* Simon Pagenaud joined his Penske Racing teammate Josef Newgarden in the Turn 5 gravel. Newgarden spun into the gravel in the first practice session.

* Rookie Rene Binder, who has struggled in his inaugural season, continued to have issues, running into the wall and causing damage to the front end, needing a tow truck to get him righted.

It appeared Binder snapped part of the front suspension in the incident.

* Turn 5 saw James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan run off-track late in the session, but they were able to continue.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The third and final practice of the weekend will take place Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET, to be televised live on CNBC (with an encore performance at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, the weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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