Instead of going faster, Martin Truex Jr. wants to see speeds decrease at Michigan

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Race car drivers are supposed to like to go fast. In most instances, the faster, the better.

But NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Martin Truex Jr. isn’t of that mindset – at least when it comes to Michigan International Speedway.

He’s hoping that NASCAR’s fastest non-restrictor plate oval starts to wear down and ultimately slow down in the process.

“I am not sure about Michigan,” Truex said in a team media release. “Since the track was repaved (prior to the 2012 season) it changed the style of racing there. The track is just too fast right now.”

Indeed, in the first Cup event after the repaving, Marcos Ambrose didn’t just break the former track record (194.232 mph by Ryan Newman in 2005), he shattered it by more than 9 mph (203.241 mph) during qualifying in June 2012.

Ambrose’s mark at the two-mile oval stood for a little over a year until Joey Logano eclipsed it with a qualifying run last August of 203.949 mph.

At the same time, drivers are also coming close to 220 mph on the front and back straightaways.

“I am hoping the new pavement is wearing out a little to slow us down,” Truex said. “I enjoyed the old asphalt at Michigan where you could run all over the place.”

Truex’s hopes may come true. The area around MIS went through a brutal winter and it’s likely the track did experience some weathering that potentially will slow cars down there this weekend. To what extent they’ll slow down remains to be seen.

“But give credit to the track for making improvements with the repave,” Truex said. “We’re professionals and it’s our job to deal with the track conditions.”

Truex has struggled this season, his first with Furniture Row Racing after being forced out at Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of last season because there wasn’t enough sponsorship for 2014.

But despite some of the gloom he’s had to endure thus far this season, Truex is seeing some light: he has a pair of top-10 finishes in his last two starts (sixth at Dover and ninth at Pocono).

“I feel our Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet will be good at Michigan due to our recent gain in speed,” Truex said. “We have some momentum right now and need to build on that. Things are much brighter with our Furniture Row team than they were earlier in the season.”

Truex has just two wins in his Sprint Cup career, but MIS has afforded him several opportunities to take another checkered flag. He had back-to-back runner-up finishes in spring and summer of 2007, and was third in this weekend’s race last season.

If and when he earns his third Cup win, Truex wouldn’t mind if it was at MIS.

“We had top-10 cars all year but we were not able to finish races,” Truex said. “The last two weeks we finished the races and got some decent results. We’re gaining but still have a ways to get to where we want to be.

“We still need to get that victory to make the Chase. And the progress we’ve made lately gives us more optimism to nail down that win.”

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The road to the 2023 Daytona 500 is not paved for Travis Pastrana, he’ll attempt the DIRTcar Nationals

Pastrana DIRTcar Nationals
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.

In mid-January, it was announced Pastrana will attempt to qualify a third car from 23XI Racing that fields fulltime entries for Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Sponsorship will come from Black Rifle Coffee, who approached him during the offseason to ask what kind of “really cool stuff” he would like to do. Pastrana replied, “the Daytona 500” with a characteristic laugh in his voice.

“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”

But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.

After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.

Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”

The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.

And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.

While Pastrana is accustomed pitching his car sideways on a combination of left and right turns in a rally car – he won the Nitro Rallycross race at ERX Motorsports Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota last October and became the first two-time winner in the 2022/23 season at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona in November – the DIRTcar Nationals will be an entirely different proposition.

It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.

“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”

Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.

Travis Pastrana will race one of Steve Arpin’s dirt modifieds during Florida Speedweeks as he prepares for the 2023 Daytona 500. – Jacy Norgaard, World Racing Group

The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.

“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”

And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.

“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.