Martin Truex Jr. has ample reason for optimism with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series arriving at Richmond Raceway for the second race of the Playoffs.
First of all, Truex won last Sunday’s opener at Las Vegas, breaking a string of inconsistent races that seemingly had stalled the momentum built earlier in the season, when the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota won four times in eight events.
Second, Truex is the most recent winner at Richmond, where he won on a short track for the first time on April 13. And if Truex and his team are finding form as the Playoffs begin, it’s not the first time. In both 2016 and his championship season in 2017, Truex won the Playoff opener when it was held at Chicagoland Speedway.
So if the victory at Las Vegas was not a major surprise, it was nevertheless welcome.
“Well, I think first of all, it was good timing,” Truex said on Friday at Richmond, site of Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “We had five or six races in a row that we felt like we were doing the right things, and our cars were fast and we felt like we were performing well, and we were not getting really good finishes. We had a lot of stuff happen.
“So it’s nice when those things kind of go away and you can say, ‘OK, yeah we were doing the right things.’ It’s a good confidence booster. It came at a good time. I think the bonus points are really critical. We didn’t finish where we wanted to in the regular season standings.
“We lost a few spots through that stretch there of things happening to us, so bonus points were huge. Just good timing to start the Playoffs just for the confidence for the whole group, not just me or (crew chief) Cole (Pearn), but for the whole group.”
Apparently, that confidence carried over into Friday’s Cup practice. Truex topped the speed chart in Happy Hour with a lap at 121.885 mph.
Truex will start 8th Saturday night.