The 2013 season was a difficult one for Martin Truex, Jr.
Driving for Michael Waltrip Racing, Truex won on the road course at Sonoma and appeared to have qualified for the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, before allegations of race manipulation in the regular-season finale at Richmond prompted NASCAR to remove him from the title hunt as part of an organization-wide MWR penalty.
Sponsor NAPA Auto Parts bolted at season’s end and Truex found himself out of a ride, less than three months before the start of the 2014 campaign. Fortunately, he was able to find a new position with Furniture Row Racing, which qualified for the Chase a year ago with Kurt Busch at the wheel.
Now, Truex is focused firmly on the future, determined to bounce back from a season he will remember with little fondness.
“Racing is a tough sport,” said Truex to reporters this week. “There are going to be a lot of ups and downs… and most likely a lot more downs than ups. This is a tough business and you are racing against 42 guys every weekend. You don’t win 50% of the time (like in other sports). If you win one percent of the time at this level, it’s pretty damn good. It’s difficult and it takes a toll on your mentality. You have to be strong-willed, know what you stand for and know why you are doing what you are doing.
“Last year was tough for me, he said, “but I feel like we moved on from it pretty quick and things are still going pretty good for me. I am obviously very appreciative of this opportunity (With FRR) and very fortunate that I was able to land in the great position I am in right now. Honestly, I am blessed to be here and looking forward to the opportunity.
“Going to a new team is always something that you’re nervous about,” he admitted. “But then, as you start to know the team, do some testing (and) go through all the things getting prepared for the new season, it starts to become really exciting. There’s a lot of anticipation… looking forward to the start of the season and trying to see where you stack up, what kind of things you’re going to need to work on to get better at and all that. It’s been a really good experience so far.”
Truex made a number of trips to Colorado during the offseason and was “really impressed with the things they have, the stuff they’re doing and the things they are working on. Some of the stuff they did last year was really impressive. (I’m) looking forward to hopefully taking that team to the next level, going to Victory Lane and going back to the Chase again.”
In fact, the Long Island native said the timing was perfect for him to join a new team.
“If you ever had to pick a time to switch teams, you would want to do it when there were big rules changes, so you start off on an even playing field with everyone. We’re going to have to learn a lot of things about this race car with the new setups with the ride height changes and things, (and it’s) definitely a good time to be starting with a new group.
“It’s obviously a single car team, but they have the RCR (technical alliance) and that teammate mentality,” he said. “If we are off or struggling with (something), we can go to them for help. It’s got the benefits of a single car team, where we can move fast and make changes quick, build our own parts and not have to wait to get them finished to put on the car. But at the same time, if we get out in left field, we have that catch fence to help us with RCR.
“There are benefits to being a single-car deal, and we will just have to see how it goes. It is going to be different for me because I have not been in a situation like this before, so it’s going to be interesting and it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a new challenge and I always look forward to those.”
Truex revealed that there have been no major challenges in his transition to FRR, just “a lot of the little things.
“How do you like your seat? How do you like your shifter? How do you like your brake pedal to feel? What kind of steering box do you like at certain tracks? There are so many little things that you take for granted when you are with the same team for four or five years. You go through those things the first year, then forget all about them.
“You forget that other teams do things differently,” he said. “Going through all those little things that I like a certain way has probably been the biggest challenge. I’m sure there’s going to be other things that come up along the way that we’re going to have to figure out together. It takes a little bit of time to figure it all out
Truex said it won’t take long to determine where he and Furniture Row Racing stand, compared to the competition this season.
“I think by California, you really get a feel for where you stand,” he said. “We go to Vegas, which is a mile and a half, but it’s very bumpy. It’s a little bit different (and) it’s got newer asphalt. Then we go to California, which is an old, worn-out type of asphalt. (It’s a) really slick race track where you need a lot of downforce. We go to Bristol – a short track with high banks -- and a superspeedway here at Daytona. So there’s a good mix of tracks.
“I think pretty early in the season, we’ll kind of know the things that we’re going to need to work on. It doesn’t take long.”