By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
CONCORD, N.C. – The new aerodynamic package has been a challenge, even for 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Martin Truex Jr.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has had varying levels of success in the alternating horsepower and aero duct combinations. Although Truex won at Richmond Raceway and Dover International Speedway, those were his only top-10 finishes in the past six races.
The first six races of the season saw Truex earn two top-five and five top-10 finishes. The aerodynamic and horsepower package began to alternate each week after Auto Club Speedway, the fifth race of the season.
“It’s been a challenge and it’s so different,” Truex admitted about the reduced horsepower. “The whole approach to the weekend from a driver’s standpoint the way you drive these cars, the way you manage traffic, all the things that we have to do right now is a lot different from last year and the last couple seasons.
“It’s been a challenge just to figure it out. At the end of the day, it is what it is and we get paid to win races and try to put ourselves in position to win a championship. We’re just constantly searching and at the same time, that’s what makes this sport so fun and challenging is that it’s always changing.”
In the second practice Truex was eighth on the speed charts. His No. 19 Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER / USO Toyota Camry will start 14th. He was 10th fastest in Thursday’s practice.
Charlotte Motor Speedway reapplied the PJ1 ‘Trackbite’ to the middle and outside grooves before the second practice, in preparation for the Coca-Cola 600. At Bristol Motor Speedway earlier this year, the substance lasted throughout the entire race weekend, and helped increase the competitive racing. That weekend Truex finished 17th.
In previous years, the PJ1 substance has not last throughout the entire race, let alone race weekend. As the substance has worn off previously, the racing surface has changed the ‘playing field,’ something uncommon in other sports.
“I tell people all the time, you watch other sports and it’s always the same,” Truex explained. “You go to a different stadium, but it’s still the same field or size field. If you’re good at baseball, you’re good at baseball. If you’re good at football, you’re good at football. If you’re good at soccer, you’re good at soccer.”
The combination of high temperatures, PJ1, and the tapered 550 horsepower, high downforce package will create a unique challenge this race weekend.
Truex explained his frustration with the often-changing variables.
“In racing, there’s a lot of different things you have to be good at and they get changed on you constantly, which is frustrating, especially when you have something really figured out like the low downforce stuff. we were really dialed in. I really liked that package and it suited my style really well and this has just been a huge learning curve. Just trying to figure it out, work hard and keep chipping away at it.”
With the low downforce package that Truex referred to, he dominated the 2016 Coca-Cola 600, leading a record-breaking 392 of 400 laps.