Martin Truex Jr. Looking Forward To Bristol Elimination Race Despite Being Below Cutlineby Hunter Thomas September 15, 2023 0 comments
BRISTOL, Tenn. – The good news for Martin Truex Jr. is that he will start fifth in Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The concerning news is if there is an error or a crash, Truex may not advance to the Round of 12 of the NASCAR Playoffs.
Truex, who is 13th in the standings, enters Bristol seven points below the cutline of the NASCAR Playoffs’ next round. Just three races ago, Truex and his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota team were celebrating as the 2023 Regular Season champions. Now, after a disappointing 18th at Darlington Raceway due to a loose wheel and crash at Kansas Speedway just three laps into the race, he’s now going to have to fight for his season at Bristol.
“It’s a terrible spot to be in, last week, we didn’t even get a chance to race, which was disappointing,” Truex said. “I felt like it was probably the best car I had on a mile-and-a-half all year long. I was really excited about it after coming off a tough Darlington race, and then two laps in, you feel like you’re in trouble with a flat tire and it turns out you ran something over. It’s terrible bad luck. I don’t know what you do about it. You just move on and do the best you can tomorrow night. Obviously, it’s a bad spot to be in.”
Despite the unfortunate chain of events over the last two weekends, Truex and his team are not fazed. They were Regular Season champions for a reason, and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates have been fast throughout the Playoffs. Truex believes that teamwork will help catapult his team above the cutline and into the Round of 12.
“I think just working together for a while helps,” Truex said. “We feel confident in one another and our abilities. I’ve got a great team. I know what they are capable of. For me, you can’t change what happened last week or the week before – you just learn from it and move on and try not to let it affect this week. Tomorrow night is a big race. This hasn’t been our best place, by any means, but I look forward to the challenge. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. We just have to do our best. Hopefully, it shakes out and we can start round two in a good spot again.”
Bristol hasn’t been his best track, but it also hasn’t been his worst. In last year’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race, Truex finished last due to steering issues, but it was only his fifth DNF in 32 races at the track. On the flips side, Truex has earned 11 top-15 finishes. He has an average finish of 20.8 at Bristol.
“I think it has been a lot of different issues over the years,” Truex said about his past performances at Bristol. “We’ve run well here at times. We’ve certainly struggled at times, but I think everybody has. This place is tricky with the spray, and the groove moving around. We won’t race where we practice. It’s a little bit of a challenge there, but all of the times we’ve run here it’s always been a flat tire or a loose wheel. I can’t even use both hands to count all of the times that has happened.”
A few of Truex’s fellow Playoff competitors also qualified well, too. Christopher Bell (10th) won the pole. Michael McDowell (16th) will start alongside of Truex in fourth. Bubba Wallace (14th) qualified ninth.
The Bass Pro Shops Night Race will get underway at 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. NASCAR moved the race time up due to potential weather issues. Live coverage will broadcast on USA.
Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com