Martin Truex Jr. admits he’s in a ‘terrible spot’

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 15: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 15, 2023 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

If Martin Truex Jr. doesn’t advance to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, he’ll be the first regular-season champion to fail to do so.

But Truex faces an uphill battle after finishing 36th last Sunday at Kansas Speedway, thanks to a cut tire and a hard crash into the Turn 3 wall on Lap 4.

The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota is 13th in the Playoff standings, seven points behind Kevin Harvick in 12th. After Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol, the field will be trimmed to 12 drivers.

Unfortunately, Bristol hasn’t been a strong track for Truex, who has posted just two top fives and four top 10s in 32 career starts at Thunder Valley.

“It’s a terrible spot to be in,” Truex said. “Last week, we didn’t even get a chance to race, which was disappointing. I felt like it was probably the best car I had on a mile-and-a-half all year long. I was really excited about it after coming off a tough Darlington race, and then two laps in, you feel like you’re in trouble with a flat tire and it turns out you ran something over.

“It’s terrible bad luck. I don’t know what you do about it. You just move on and do the best you can (Saturday) night. Obviously, it’s a bad spot to be in.”

Truex’s two top fives came in 2011 and 2012 when he finished second and third in consecutive races. Since then, he has rarely been a threat to win.

“We’ve run well here at times,” Truex said. “We’ve certainly struggled at times, but I think everybody has. This place is tricky with the spray (traction compound), and the groove moving around. We won’t race where we practice. It’s a little bit of a challenge there, but all of the times we’ve run here, it’s always been a flat tire or a loose wheel.

“I can’t even use both hands to count all of the times that has happened. It’s just been a tough place. Hopefully, no bad luck (Saturday) night, and we can go just have a smooth race and hopefully have the performance to get the job done.”

Truex will roll off fifth Saturday night.