Martin Truex, Jr. Tries To Dig Into Points Gap At Kentucky

Martin Truex, Jr. saw his chance to win the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway go away with a pit road penalty. Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

A 1.5-mile track is coming at the perfect time for Martin Truex, Jr.

After reeling off five consecutive top-six finishes, Truex has produced showings of 37th and 34th in his last two races. Still, he ranks second in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, only 18 points behind Kyle Larson.

Leading the series with a 4.2 average finish at 1.5-mile tracks this season – including wins at Las Vegas and Kansas – Truex will try to triumph at 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway in Saturday’s Quaker State 400.

“We’ve hit an unlucky streak the past two weeks and that’s going to happen in a 36-race schedule,” Truex said. “But we’re feeling good about Kentucky. We sure like the mile-and-a-half tracks and I felt we had a good chance of winning there last year. But a controversial call for a pit road violation knocked us out of contention.”

NASCAR’s stage racing enhancements have treated Truex well. He leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with 11 stage wins and 21 playoff points. Statistically, Truex has outperformed Larson this season. He paces the series in average running position (8.7), driver rating (109.1), laps led (963) and fastest laps (542).

In six career starts at Kentucky, Truex claims three top-10 finishes. He led 46 laps and finished 10th in last year’s race.

“I have some good runs at Kentucky Speedway,” said Truex, who has two wins, five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes this season. “Like any racetrack, you have to find the right balance for all four turns and Kentucky has some unique corners. But with our past history at the mile-and-a-half tracks I am confident that (Crew Chief) Cole (Pearn) and his engineering team will once again figure it out.”

Byron Goes For Third Straight Win

Going into the NASCAR Xfinity Series season, people knew William Byron could wheel a race car.

He dominated the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with a Sunoco Rookie record seven wins last year.

Still, very few foresaw how quickly he’d adapt in his first season in the series where names are made. Byron has elevated his performance as the 2017 campaign hit its midway point with two consecutive victories and three straight top-two finishes.

The 19-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina, native will go for a third consecutive victory in Friday’s Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway. Only seven drivers in NASCAR Xfinity Series history have won three straight races. Byron would become the first rookie to achieve the feat.

“I’ve been extremely blessed, you have to have good fortune to win these races,” Byron said. “The other thing is just the confidence that it brings when you do win. You go to the track and you know how to win, what it feels like in those end situations when you’re on the front row or whatever on a restart. Once you get that feeling in your mind and your team gets it, it kind of builds that momentum and you try to keep that as much as you can, you try to keep everything positive.”

Byron sits second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings, 59 points behind his JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler, but ranks first with 11 playoff points.

“I’m really excited about Kentucky,” Byron said. “Knowing that it is a repave, we will have to approach it with a similar mindset that we had at Texas. We had a solid car there and I think we can do the same thing at Kentucky. Hopefully we can get another win and keep the momentum rolling.”

Race Weekend Guide

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Race: Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts
Place: Kentucky Speedway
Date & Time: Saturday, July 8 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Tune-In: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 80), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 160), Final Stage (Ends on lap 267)
What To Watch For: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. goes for second straight win. … Brad Keselowski tries to add to his Kentucky track wins record with a fourth victory. … Kyle Busch vies for his third Kentucky checkered flag and first of the season. … Kyle Larson attempts to extend his 18-point standings lead over second-place Martin Truex, Jr.

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Race: Alsco 300
Place: Kentucky Speedway
Date & Time: Friday, July 7 at 8 p.m. ET
Tune-In: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)
What To Watch For: The Alsco 300 provides a tune-up for NASCAR’s playoffs since Kentucky Speedway is the site of the postseason’s first race. … Kyle Busch is two victories away from 175 NASCAR national series wins. … Elliott Sadler goes for two straight Kentucky victories after winning there last fall. He’ll try to extend his 59-point standings lead over William Byron.

 

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