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Truex looking forward to MIS race — and the fish

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Furniture Row Racing NASCAR driver Martin Truex, Jr. bites off the excess line as he changes a lure while fishing at Milliken State Park and Harbor in Detroit.

Detroit — Martin Truex Jr. was in his element Wednesday afternoon, taking a day off from the grind of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season to go fishing on the Detroit River.

 

Truex had never fished on the Detroit River before, but he has several times in his adopted state of Michigan, including this past June in Traverse City prior to the race at Michigan International Speedway.

Truex, 36, was in town to promote the Pure Michigan 400, set for Aug. 26-28 at MIS’s two-mile superspeedway. He was with track president Roger Curtis, Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Deputy Director Bill O’Neil at Milliken State Park for a demonstration teaching proper fishing techniques to local children.

While Truex’s passion is racing, he fishes as much as possible during the summer, catching smallmouth bass in Traverse City, then fishing for a couple of days in British Columbia during a rare week off last week before spending five days in Anguilla with his longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex from Brighton.

“I’m ready to go fishing right now,” said Truex, a New Jersey native and Philadelphia Flyers fan still smarting from their loss to the Red Wings in the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals. “I have a friend that lives just north of Traverse City and we caught 50, 60, 70 smallmouth bass a day (back in June).”

Truex is enjoying a strong season while competing in the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota. He has led a series’ high 1,006 laps and has 10 top-10 finishes, but is looking for more wins. His lone victory came in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte over Memorial Day weekend when he dominated and led 392 of 400 laps.

“We have the potential to be great,” said Truex, who will be competing at Bristol Saturday night. “I feel like we honestly should have more wins than anybody else on the circuit. We’ve led the most laps. I feel like we’ve been the dominant car in a lot of races, which has been awesome. But at the same time it hurts to let them (wins) slip away because they are so hard to get.

“I think the way we’ve been performing lately has been really good. We just need to shake the bad luck, make sure we’re ready when the Chase comes around. Last week, we got spun around going for the lead. Week before, we had the lead and had a flat tire because of a freaky lug nut deal. I’d hope to think that eventually this bad luck is going to change and hopefully it’s in time for The Chase because I think we’ll have the performance to go along with what we’ve been doing and hopefully get some more wins.”

Truex advanced to the Final Four in The Chase last year. He already is locked into the 16-car field with his win at Charlotte.

The Furniture Row team is in a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, which showcases 2015 Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch, who has four wins and 987 laps led.

In the latest race at Watkins Glen, Truex was second and chasing down Denny Hamlin for a potential pass and win on the final turn when Rochester Hills native and Penske driver Brad Keselowski tapped his back bumper and spun him. Truex finished seventh and drove into the back end of Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford multiple times on the cool-down lap to show him how he felt.

“I kind of had the 11 (Hamlin) handling a little bit off line coming out of 10 and going into 11 and thought maybe I could square him up and get a little run on the inside of him,” Truex said. “I don’t know if I would have beat him. I might have been able to get next to him, and of course, we didn’t get to see that. Brad seemed like he felt bad about it.”

When asked if that type of racing is expected at road courses like Watkins Glen, Truex replied: “Not really. If you run into somebody, you run into him, and it doesn’t matter if you’re at a stop light over here, if you’re on a racetrack at Watkins Glen or at a racetrack at Michigan. Everybody’s got brakes so typically you try not to run into the guy in front of you and spin him out. I just think he misjudged it.”

Of his postrace payback, Truex said: “I was mad. That’s why they call it a cool-down lap, cool down the driver and the engines.”

By the way, Keselowski is atop the standings with four wins despite leading just 381 laps.

Truex finished 12th at MIS in June after qualifying second, spinning early in the race and having to battle back to the front. Joey Logano won the race, leading 138 laps.

NASCAR had put in new rules to the aerodynamic package to further reduce downforce and sideforce to allow cars to get better runs for passing opportunities. Truex said the rules for next week’s race will be similar to where the spoiler was shortened an inch from 3.5 inches to 2.5 and the splitter reduced from five inches to two, leading to 1,500 pounds of downforce from 2,700 last year and 2,000 at the start of this season.

“It’s going to be close to the same, just a few tweaks,” Truex said. “I’m not sure exactly. I just know what we’re trying to accomplish is make the cars just a little more balanced, but the basic downforce should be really close to the same so it won’t be a big change.

“There will be more change in the way we have to set the cars up with the shocks and the springs and the weights and all the things we can do, but I expect similar speeds and similar racing in traffic. I think they use Michigan because it’s a good place to test aero(dynamics)-wise just because it’s so big and it’s so fast and smooth and you get really good feedback on all those aero things. I love going fast so I love Michigan.”

Truex said the Furniture Row team will be a two-car team next year with 20-year-old Erik Jones, a graduate of Swartz Creek, coming on board.

When asked if Jones will be in a similar situation to rookie Chase Elliott, who joined Hendrick Motorsports this year, taking the seat of the No. 24 car which had been driven by the legendary Jeff Gordon, Truex said: “I think he’s (Jones) in a much better place, just because of the people around him, the way our cars are running right now, the way the Toyota camp and the Gibbs guys are running. I think that he’s going to step right into a car that’s capable of winning right away.”

Elliott sits 13th in points but is without a win.

 

Pure Michigan 400

Where: Michigan International Speedway (two-mile oval), Brooklyn

When: Aug. 26-28

Notable: Team Penske driver Joey Logano won the pole and the race in June, leading 138 of the 200 laps. Logano’s teammate, Rochester Hills native Brad Keselowski, sits atop the standings with four wins, but is still in search of his first series win at MIS.

Tickets: mispeedway.com