NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 24 Martin Truex Jr.

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Martin Truex Jr.

Season finish: 24th

2014 Season Stats: 0 Wins, 1 Top-5, 5 Top-10s, 0 Poles.

What went right: Truex’s first year with Furniture Row Racing was largely disappointing, but the 78 camp got a much-needed boost in confidence late in the year with solid back-to-back runs at Dover (seventh) and Kansas (fourth) during the Chase. For a group that struggled mightily in 2014, it had to feel good to put those up in the midst of the championship stretch.

What went wrong: After getting thrown out of the 2013 Chase in the wake of Michael Waltrip Racing’s race manipulation incident at Richmond, Truex came to FRR with something to prove. And coming off making that same Chase with Kurt Busch, FRR wanted to show it could cement itself as a team that can punch above its weight. But instead of producing solid results, the team endured through a middling campaign: One Top-5, a single lap led, and a mid-pack average finish of 20.2.

Of course, all of that pales in comparison to what Truex has had to endure off the track. During the summer, his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and continues to undergo treatment for the disease.

2015 Prospectus: With Todd Berrier going to Joe Gibbs Racing to take over as its director of inspections, Truex gets a new crew chief in 2015 with his former lead race engineer, Cole Pearn. An interesting note on Pearn: In the early 2000s, he competed as a driver himself in Canada’s CASCAR stock car series (the predecessor to the current NASCAR Canadian Tire Series). That experience, along with his engineering skills, might help him mesh quicker with Truex – which in turn could lead to improved performance next year.

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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