Sunday, June 07, 2015

Pocono And The Seesaw Of Martin Truex Jr

He's not a first-time winner, but Martin Truex Jr's win at Pocono carries the flavor of being a debut win.   A career that has been going for over ten years is an odd way to become something of an overnight sensation, but racing has a way of working out that way.

That NASCAR has finally seen a small team break through, and do so by leading the most laps for four straight races, is a head-shaking development that for now leaves one wondering if it becomes a trend the sport has not seen for over ten years.   Certainly the reality of teams winning where their engines are controlled by another team instead of being built in-house was on display yet again, a striking change from years past when customer cars that won would see their engine supply cut or cut off by their supplier, as happened to Bob Whitcomb and Joe Gibbs when they ran Hendrick Motorsports engines in the 1990s and began outwinning Hendrick's own cars.

Where the New Jersey native first began establishing something was in the old Busch North tour, where he ran for three and change seasons, 2000-3.   He won five races in his family-owned #56 Chevrolet and had some good dicing with Busch North ace Brad Leighton in a few races.   After four seasons he moved south.   He established a friendship with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and was signed to drive one of Junior's Busch Series cars, winning two titles and graduating to DEI's Winston Cup effort, where he won the Mason-Dixon 400 at Dover.   Though he placed in the top ten with some frequency he wasn't following up the Dover win, and four seasons with Michael Waltrip's Toyota effort saw a surprising Sears Point win, but overall Truex was getting lost in the Winston Cup shuffle.

When Waltrip in effect disbanded the #56, Truex was able to sign with the #78 Furniture Row team and bring his pit crew with him for 2014, a car that had been driven to competitive respect by Kurt Busch as he strove to reestablish a NASCAR career amid running off-track and on-track controversy.   Mediocre results for the #78 under Truex seemed to confirm there was nothing he could offer competitively to the small outfit, but that has changed.

The rumor has a second team being established here, and suddenly it's not a reach to say this team is on to something.  

Truex's Pocono win climaxed a curious weekend there as complaints about a serious issue of buckling asphalt in the Tunnel Turn opened the weekend, yet a plethora of late crashes all occurred in Turn One.   Some of the restarts saw some three-abreast action, and it proved a curiously unfulfilling weekend for Hendrick Motorsports as well as Stewart-Haas Racing; Kevin Harvick was hyped as the overwhelming favorite going in, and never had anything for Truex once things got going.  

The weekend was also a continuation of a curious meeting at Dover between Brian France and several drivers over numerous issues, which got addressed by Jimmie Johnson and also by France.   So far nothing of substance has come out of such meetings, but it is certainly interesting to see such back-and-forth.

So it goes with the Michigan 400 coming up.

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