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.

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.