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NASCAR Cup Martinsville II

Truex on 'tough' playoffs: "Nothing has really gone right"

It's been a difficult playoffs for Martin Truex Jr., who faces possible elimination yet again this weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Menards/Dutch Boy Ford Mustang and Martin Truex Jr, Joe Gibbs Racing, Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry

Truex  won the regular season championship and entered the postseason as a real favorite for the championship. However, just about everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Finishes of 18th, 36th, and 19th in the opening round nearly saw him among the first four eliminated. However, the bonus points he had obtained during the first 26 races saved his title hopes.

The second round wasn't much better with finishes of 17th, 18th, and 20th. He was the last driver to transfer out of the Round of 12.

That brings us to the Round of 8, which Truex opened with a ninth-place finish at Vegas. It was his first top-ten since August, but it too was a race filled with frustration after an early call to stay out set him on an alternate strategy that cost him a lot of track position.

The misfortune continued at Homestead, trapped deep in the pack due to an untimely caution and then suffering an engine failure. He enters Martinsville 17pts below the cut-line, facing a difficult uphill climb.

Martin Truex Jr, Joe Gibbs Racing, Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry

Photo by: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP / Motorsport Images

Martin Truex Jr, Joe Gibbs Racing, Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry

"It’s been really tough, and nothing has really gone right," said Truex during media availability at the track. "I thought we were sitting in a really good position last week. Things were going pretty well, and then we pit and the bottom falls out. Lose two laps, we get them back, get back on the lead lap and then the things blows up. It’s been an uphill battle. We really haven’t had much to be excited about other than the guys preparing fast cars to bring to the track the last few weeks. We will reset. We are ready to go again. This is a new week and a new opportunity, and we’ve been in this position before. Let’s just go see what we can do tomorrow.”

Pitroad has been a constant issue for the No. 19 team, but they've also faced plenty of bad luck beyond that. JGR made the decision to replace both the jackman and rear tire changer for the final two races of the year. Truex is hopeful that the change will have a positive impact on the team.

“I wasn’t really that involved other than knowing our pit stops have been pretty bad here lately," said Truex. "I feel good about it. They said practice went good this week, and every is pretty fired up about that and they are feeling good, so we will see tomorrow how it plays out.”

Truex talked about the significance of qualifying at a short-track like Martinsville, saying: “It’s very important. All of the short tracks, qualifying has been huge from starting up front and having a good pit stall. You need both of those here to be successful. Track position is going to be everything.”

The 2017 NASCAR Cup champion was fast in practice, and went on to take pole position for the 500-lap race. It's exactly what he needed to do. His team-mate Denny Hamlin was fast as well, and both drivers are facing the same situation this weekend. Despite that, Truex doesn't believe it changes the dynamic at all between the JGR drivers.

“Nothing really changes," said Truex. "We race just like we do every other week. We will go with what got us here. Being in the Playoffs as team-mates for so many years, we have that experience, and we know what got us here and things that make us strong as a group. Then you go on Sunday and race. You don’t hide things, you don’t try to do anything different. At least that has been my experience in the past on how we’ve handled it, and so far, nothing that I’ve seen has been different.”

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