By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
*Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for 24 drivers. We will release one driver preview per day over a 24-day stretch.
Years in Cup: 11
Career Wins: 7
Biggest Accomplishment: 4 wins in 2016
A stellar 2016 season saw Martin Truex Jr. tie a career best with eight top-five finishes and set career bests with four wins, five poles and 1,809 laps led. The four wins included two of the sport’s crown jewels, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and the Southern 500 at Darlington, and two of the first three races in the playoffs.
It was a dismal finish to the season as Truex and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team recorded an average finish of 21.4 over the season’s final seven races, including DNFs at Phoenix and Homestead that resulted in an 11th-place finish in the championship standings.
“I don’t think we’re over it yet and that’s a good thing because we’re hungry and we’re going to go out and try to get it done this year,” Truex responded when asked how he had gotten over not winning the 2016 title during last week’s NASCAR Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center.
“We worked hard last year and had a lot of great moments and feel like it slipped away from us at a bad time. We’re out for revenge; I guess you could say this year. We’re working hard and we’re motivated to go out and do a better job and hopefully win our first championship.”
This season will mark Truex’s fourth with Furniture Row and third with crew chief Cole Pearn.
“Since he’s been given the crew chief position on the 78 car, we’ve just gelled and had this chemistry that’s worked really well for us. Cole has been a huge part of getting my career to where it’s at. He’s so motivated and so determined to be the best there is and that’s what it takes in this sport so I’m very lucky to have him as a crew chief and hopefully I’m holding up my end of the deal.”
Last season, the Denver, Colo. based team switched manufacturers to Toyota and formed a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. This season the team is adding a second car, the No. 77, to be driven by Cup Series rookie Erik Jones.
“I don’t know how much things will change. I think we’re all optimistic that it won’t change a whole lot. That’s been the goal,” Truex said of adding the second car. “(Crew chief) Cole (Pearn) and our guys have been a big part of the process of finding the people for the No. 77 team in hopes that it will keep the overall mindset and work ethic the same as what we’ve had. I don’t know that it will change a whole lot, at least going in we’re hoping it doesn’t. We’re hoping it just adds positives to our program and we have more good people to lean on and more things to build off of to continue to move our team forward.”
The quest for the championship begins later this month with the Daytona 500, where Truex finished second to Denny Hamlin by just inches in 2016.