As Martin Truex Jr. heads to Phoenix International Raceway following an impressive victory in Las Vegas, the Furniture Row Racing driver had many things on his mind, including his growing fondness for NASCAR’s new stage-racing format.
Truex’s overall victory in Las Vegas also included wins in the first two stages of the 267-lap race, earning him the honor of being the first NASCAR driver to sweep all three stages.
“I think stage racing has been really fun so far,” said Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota Camry in Sunday’s Camping World 500 NASCAR Cup Series race. “I was a proponent of it before the season started, but we all didn’t really know how it was going to play out.
“The coolest part about stage racing is if you run really well, you get rewarded even if you have a bad finish due to a wreck or a parts failure. Stage racing really would have helped us last year.”
Truex and the No. 78 Denver, Colo.-based team are looking to continue their momentum at the 1-mile Phoenix flat track.
“We’re starting off the season strong, putting ourselves in position to win races and that’s really the key,” explained Truex, who has won four times in the last 15 Cup races. “We need to continue to run up front, lead laps and be there when it counts. That’s what we did in Las Vegas.”
But to have a similar performance in Phoenix, Truex is well aware of the difficulties the Phoenix oval presents.
“Phoenix is definitely difficult, it has a short track mentality but drives like somewhat of a speedway,” noted Truex. “It has high-speed entries and flat corners and it’s really slippery since the track was repaved. It’s just hard to get a hold of and real difficult to make the car handle.
“It’s always more difficult when you get on those long runs on Sunday at Phoenix because the track is a lot slicker than it has been throughout the weekend. Should be another fun race.”
In the first three Cup races of the season, Truex has produced strong performances. He was leading the Daytona 500 with two laps to go, but fell back to 13th after running out of fuel, ran in the top five in Atlanta until a clutch issue developed and settled for an eighth-place finish. His sweeping victory Sunday in Las Vegas included winning the first two stages and becoming the first driver to win all three stages.
“We want to continue our momentum,” said Truex. “I look for our No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota to have another strong showing. The guys at the shop in Denver and at the track are doing a phenomenal job.”