Pocono Preview: Truex tries to tame ‘Tricky Triangle’ following dominant Charlotte performance

Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr. did more than just win last Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He dominated it.

The No. 78 driver from single-car Furniture Row Racing led a track-record 392 laps and an all-time NASCAR-record 588 miles on his way to his first victory of the season in one of the sport’s crown-jewel races.

Truex’s triumph ended an early season of bad luck where he lost the Daytona 500 by a mere 0.010 seconds and failed to win two races in which he led the most laps – Texas and Kansas.

“To win a race, the Coke 600 is one of the races everybody wants to win, it’s so huge,” Truex said. “We came close to the Daytona 500, now to be sitting here, it’s just unbelievable. These are the races that define drivers’ careers, and it’s really a neat opportunity for me.”

Truex will try to visit Victory Lane for the second straight week in Sunday’s Axalta ‘We Paint Winners’ 400 at Pocono Raceway – a contest he won last year to jumpstart his run to the Championship 4 Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. In 20 career starts at the Tricky Triangle, he has one win, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes.

“I love racing (at Pocono),” Truex said. “It’s a really fun unique racetrack and we tested there a couple months ago and thought it went pretty good. The fall race or the second race there last year we had a pretty good run and felt like we had a shot at winning. Kind of got messed up on a fuel mileage deal. Hopefully we’ll go back there and repeat.”

The entire Furniture Row Racing team has expressed higher ambitions than winning a few more races. Now with a victory and a series-high 809 laps led, it believes a championship is within reach.

“This is definitely the best position I’ve ever been in in my Sprint Cup career by far, by a longshot,” Truex said. “The laps we led last year, making the final four of the Chase and having a shot at going to Homestead to win a championship, that’s almost as good as it gets, and now, here we are doing the same thing. I feel like we’re better in every department this year than we were last year in every area.

“Our goal obviously was to get to victory lane. We did that. Now we can focus on hopefully getting a few more (wins), getting a good seed in the Chase, and ultimately going back to Homestead with a shot at a championship and doing a better job than we did last year, so that’s our goal, that’s our focus.”

NASCAR XFINITY Series set for Pocono debut

For the first time since its formation in 1982, the NASCAR XFINITY Series will compete at Pocono Raceway.

Elliott Sadler (Getty Images)

Elliott Sadler (Getty Images)

The young drivers from the series where names are made, along with some NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars sprinkled in, will take their turn at navigating the sport’s most intricate track in Saturday’s Pocono Green 250 (1 p.m. ET on FOX).

Pocono is the only course on the circuit with three turns – each inspired by separate tracks. Turn 1, featuring 14-degree banking is modeled after Trenton Speedway. Turn 2 has eight degree banking like Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The third turn, developed from the Milwaukee Mile, contains six-degree banking.

Furthermore, the Pennsylvania track’s three straightaways of varying lengths combine to form a triangle. The frontstetch spans 3,470 feet and connects to the 3,055-foot backstretch and 1,780-foot frontstretch to create a 2.5-mile course.

“I’m looking forward to going back to Pocono,” said Elliott Sadler, who joins Joey Logano and Kyle Busch as the only drivers in the field who have won there. “We were able to win the inaugural [NASCAR Camping World] Truck Series race there back in 2010 and I know we’re capable of going there and doing the same thing this weekend in the XFINITY Series. This track can be tough to get your arms around because all three corners are very different. We have a chance to test on Thursday which is always a big help when we are going somewhere new as a series. I know we have a lot of fans in that area and we’re going to come up and put on a great show for everyone.”

Race Weekend Guide
 
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Race: Axalta ‘We Paint Winners’ 400

Place: Pocono Raceway

Date and Time: Sunday, June 5 at 1 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400 miles (160 laps)

What To Watch For: Matt Kenseth goes for his second consecutive Pocono win. … Active Pocono wins leader Denny Hamlin tries for his fifth victory at the Tricky Triangle. He has not visited Victory Lane at the 2.5-mile track since 2010. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. eyes his first win of the season. The No. 88 Chevrolet driver swept the Pocono races in 2014. … Kyle Busch shoots for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Pocono. He has captured a checkered flag at every active NASCAR track (21 of 23), except for Charlotte and the Tricky Triangle.

NASCAR XFINITY Series

Race: Pocono Green 250

Place: Pocono Raceway

Date and Time: Saturday, June 4 at 1 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 250 miles (100 laps)

What To Watch For: Daniel Suárez attempts to extend his 14-point standings lead and grab his first NASCAR national series victory. … Erik Jones, who boasts two wins this season, tries to find some consistency after logging his second DNF of the season at Charlotte. … Alex Bowman takes the wheel of the No. 88 for the second time this season. He finished third in his first start of the year at Dover. … NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars Kyle Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Paul Menard, Joey Logano, Josh Wise and Aric Almirola are all scheduled to compete in the Pocono Green 250.

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