After a couple of so-so years, Truex says, ‘We’re back’

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 23: Martin Truex Jr (#19 Joe Gibbs Racing Bass Pro Shops Toyota) looks on during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 on June 23, 2023, at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, TN. (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With his victory in the series’ last race – at Sonoma, Calif. – two weeks ago, Martin Truex Jr. has taken over the NASCAR Cup Series championship lead for the first time since 2021. He’s earned a pair of regular season wins in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (at Dover, Del. and Sonoma) and also won the exhibition Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum to kick off the season in February.

“Honestly, just feeling really great about the team and what we’ve been able to do this year,’’ Truex said. “I feel like we’re back. Two wins and a lot of time running up front and leading laps, that’s where we need to be and deserve to be. After last year, it’s a good feeling to be back.’’

Truex has finished Top-10 in half the season’s 16 races, including five of the last six. He’s finished Top-3 in the previous three races. And only two drivers – William Byron and Kyle Larson – have led more laps (434). His five Top-5s already exceeds the total (four) from 2022.

It’s an upswing Truex is enjoying. And expectations are high – including this weekend. Last year at Nashville, he won both stages and led 82 laps, but finished 22nd.

“Everybody in the garage wants to be there, that’s where we want to be and anytime any team is in the position you feel like you’re doing great things,’’ Truex said. “This is a really difficult sport. It’s hard to win these races. It’s hard to be consistent at all these different race tracks. My team’s doing a great job. I’m just trying to be smart about things, and do what I know how to do which is be consistent, be smart, get our wins when we can and be in position.

“So far, so good.’