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.”

Three in position to capture World Rally Championship title at Rally Australia

Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Defending champion Sebastien Ogier goes into this weekend’s Rally Australia with a chance to clinch his sixth World Rally Championship in a row. Thierry Neuville, a runner-up four times but never a champion, hopes to change the world order.

Neuville led the series for much of the season but Ogier’s win in Britain and a second place in Spain has given the Frenchman 204 points, three ahead of Neuville, heading into the final rally of the championship.

“We are not the best friends but we are rivals and respect each other for our performances,” Neuville said Wednesday. “I’ve been second many times in the championship now, we are so close to the main goal.”

“If we need to take more risks because we need to pass Sebastien we’re going to try,” the Belgian driver added, “we’ll take the maximum risks.”

Ogier says the feeling is mutual when it comes to his main rival.

“We are different, definitely, but most important we’re in a great fight together and respect each other for that,” Ogier said. “It’s about trying to beat each other and do it with respect.”

Ott Tanak of Estonia sits 23 points behind and with 30 points for a win in Australia, and other results going his way, he could also capture the world title.

Ogier will be hoping for some Friday morning rain to settle the dust and gravel before he sets off first on what will be more than 300 kilometers (180 miles) of timed racing through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast, about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.

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