Martin Truex Jr. is one of the hottest drivers in NASCAR’s Cup Series entering this week’s running of the Firekeepers 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Truex had three straight podium finishes — a win and two third-place finishes — heading into Sunday’s Pocono 400, where he finished sixth.
“I think really it’s just the continuation of last year and what we did, just continuing to work together and grow and build on past success,” said Truex, who won a career-high four races last season. “In NASCAR I feel like you learn things every single time you come to these race tracks and you just continue to grow and build that confidence at each and every track we go to.
“We’ve been fast all year long and the last three weeks (before Pocono) we’ve been able to put together really good finishes and just being consistent and we just hope to continue that.”
Truex actually qualified well in his Toyota Camry at Pocono, second to Kyle Busch, but started in the back of the field after changing engines before the race. He then made his way to third place by the end of Stage 2, 100 laps around the 2 1/2 mile tri-oval.
Truex, who turns 37 later this month, has come a long way in a short time with Furniture Row Racing, where he joined in 2014 when he finished 24th in points and led just one lap.
Since that first season, Truex has won seven times, finishing fourth in points in 2015.
Truex has enjoyed the best results of his career since the FRR team switched from Chevrolets to Toyotas last season. He won three times in a five-race stretch last season before a bad stretch during The Chase placed him 11th in the standings.
Truex already has a pair of victories this season — Las Vegas and Kansas — and said the new 2018 Toyota Camry has been fast and competitive.
“The 2018 Toyota Camry is exciting for a lot of reasons,” Truexm said. “No. 1, it was designed side-by-side with the new street car and it’s the first time that it has ever been done. When you buy a 2018 Camry you’re getting essentially the same car that we’re racing, the same styling, the same look. Typically in the past the race car would get designed after the street car was done so it’s definitely a new thing and it’s exciting for Toyota and I think the street car looks great.
“As far as on the race track, it’s been showing good speed this year. We’ve won two races in it and our whole entire Toyota camp each and every week is getting stronger and getting closer to winning more races so that’s a good thing.”
Truex has run well at MIS, including a pair of third-place finishes in 2015. He ran up front with the lower downforce package at the two-mile superspeedway last year, the same package that will in place this weekend.
“The package that we ran there last year is what we’re running this year,” Truex said. “Michigan was one of the tracks last year where we tested out the new lower downforce so we’ll have the same thing we had last year. We ran really well, really strong at Michigan. We were leading, then got spun out in lap traffic.
“Michigan is a unique track. It’s so big and so fast that aero comes into play and the lower downforce last year was a real challenge, a real handful and I expect it will be more of the same this year. Every time we’ve gone back to that track since the repave which was six or seven years ago now, the track continues to get better with age, becomes more fun and the grooves become wider so I’m looking forward to see what it brings this year.”
Truex has a teammate this year in 21-year-old Michigan native Erik Jones who is in his first year competing fulltime in the Monster Energy Cup series.
“He’s been a great teammate and is a really good kid and he’s obviously very talented, just trying to get his feet wet in the Monster Energy series,” Truex said of Jones. “He’s doing a great job and he’s found great speed at times. They just haven’t had that consistency yet, but that’s part of being a rookie and learning together as a team. I feel they’ll get stronger as the season goes on.”
Truex proved correct with Jones earning a podium finish at Pocono, finishing a season-high third for his third top-10 finish of the year.
“It’s been really fun to work with him,” Truex said. “I would say we have similar personalities. We’re both kind of quiet and kind of go about our business and do our own thing. He’s been fun to work with him and I enjoy being teammates with him.”
Truex’s longtime girlfriend is Brighton native Sherry Pollex, and Truex loves spending the entire week in Michigan, making sure to get some fishing in.
“I’ll be there Sunday night and we’ll spend the whole week up there, kind of like we always do before the race,” Truex said. “It’s such a beautiful part of the country up there and the weather’s great this time of year and the fishing is second to none so I’m excited to get up there.”
When: 3 p.m. Sunday, June 18, Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn
Support races: ARCA Corrigan Oil 200, 8 p.m. Friday; Xfinity Irish Hills 250, 1:30 p.m. Saturday
TV: All races on FS1
Defending champion: Joey Logano