HAMPTON, Ga. — No more Mr. Nice Guy.
Team owner Michael Waltrip promised that fans will see a different Martin Truex Jr. once the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup starts two weeks from now at Chicagoland Speedway.
“We’ve had to be conservative over the last few weeks to get into this Chase,” Waltrip said Friday at an announcement of a multiyear contract extension for Truex and his primary sponsor, NAPA Auto Parts. “We’re not going to be that way when the Chase starts.
“Tony (Stewart) proved last year that you can make some special things happen in that 10-week run.”
Founded in 2007, MWR has never been part of a previous Chase, but the organization is all but certain to land both Truex (fifth in the standings) and Clint Bowyer (sixth) in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. Both drivers can clinch Chase spots in Sunday’s Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
If Truex finishes 14th or better, he’s in. Bowyer can clinch with a finish of 11th. Contract in hand, Truex thinks he can be a factor in the Chase.
“We’re right there,” Truex said. “We’ve been close. We’ve been capable of winning races all year long. We just haven’t finished the deal. We’ve run second a bunch of times, and and we’ve had the car to beat two or three races, and we didn’t do everything right.”
Having NAPA locked in for a long-term commitment as the only primary sponsor on the No. 56 Toyota is definitely a positive for Truex’s program.
“Maybe this will help,” he said. “It will be great for the guys on the team to not have to worry about where their job is going to be next year, and we’re very excited about that and are looking forward to what we can do together.”
Truex ran only three laps in Friday’s first practice — in qualifying trim — but put the No. 56 Camry on top of the speed chart at 185.220 mph.