Martin Truex Jr’s Safety Net Keeping Championship Hopes Alive Despite Horrendous Form Could Force NASCAR’s Hand

Published 10/13/2023, 8:25 PM EDT

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USA Today via Reuters

As the South Point 400 looms ahead, all eyes are on the high-stakes drama of the NASCAR playoffs. Hometown hero Kyle Busch, a Nevada native, is the crowd’s darling, but for the eight playoff contenders, the pressure is sky-high. But amidst the stakes, there was one man with a point to prove.

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Martin Truex Jr., whose post-season performance had been a carnival of calamities, must diverge from his regular-season earnings. No longer can he rely on the playoff format’s safety net to propel him toward the championship. The question looms large: Can the JGR veteran shed his training wheels and burn rubber on the asphalt to cross the finish line ahead of his rivals?

Can Martin Truex Jr. make the leap without a safety net?

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Earlier in the year, Truex had reaped a windfall of playoff points, amassing 15 for his three race victories and another six for winning six stages. An additional 15 points flowed into his account after clinching the regular-season title. Those playoff points were the life jacket he needed as the turbulent seas of the playoffs tossed him about.

Throughout the playoffs, Truex had been teetering on the edge, barely managing to slip through the cutline in each elimination race. But as the playoffs went through a reset, he found himself towards the top, thanks to his hard-earned cushion of playoff points.

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In the last playoff round, Truex’s true plight shined through, finishing a discouraging 17th in the round of 12, when taking eliminated drivers into consideration. This was a stark contrast to his regular-season form, whereas now victories had eluded him, and his last top-10 finish was at Watkins Glen, which seemed eons ago. In the postseason, his best result was a disappointing 17th place at Texas, making him the first driver to advance to the round of 8 with no top-10 finishes.

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The debate over the significance of the regular season and the safety net it provided to Truex had ignited a passionate discussion. During the latest ‘Dirty Mo Media’ episode, Travis Rockhold and Dalton Greco delved into the matter, questioning the role of the regular season in a driver’s playoff success. Greco remained skeptical, while Rockhold underscored the importance of the regular season, arguing that if Truex managed to secure the championship, the format would inevitably be seen as a crucial factor in his victory.

I think we don’t make a big emphasis on how important the regular season truly is. It’s pretty important, but going during the regular season, they didn’t really talk about it that much.”

Leveraging past victories for future triumphs

Truex, for his part, was quick to clarify that he hadn’t created the system; he had simply leveraged it to his advantage. His team had put in the hard work necessary to accumulate those playoff points, and it was now up to them to make the most of their strategic planning. The regular season’s rewards were well-deserved, offering a buffer against the harsh realities of postseason racing.

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“I didn’t create the system. We used it to our advantage. That won’t get us through the next one [Vegas]. The next one, you’ve got to be running up front.” However, this is no hard feat for Truex considering he already has been victorious here twice before.

Teammate Denny Hamlin also weighed in on the matter, emphasizing the value of effort and consistency. “They got through because of the hard work they put in during the regular season,” the No. 11 declared, “They get rewarded for it, as they should. It buys you some insurance, right? Certainly, they didn’t plan on having the finishes they did. Some of it was unfortunate circumstances. Some of it, just didn’t hit it that day, right? But they earned that position to live another day.”

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As the next set of races approaches, with the outcome of three of them determining the finalists for the championship, the pressure is mounting on Truex and his team. And the New Jersey native knows that he can’t rely on the regular-season training wheels any longer.

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Written by:

Rashi Shetty

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Rashi Shetty is a NASCAR Author at EssentiallySports. Her passion for the world of motorsport extends beyond the thrill of on-track racing, as she finds the behind-the-scenes aspects of car development and sportsmanship equally captivating. Her favorite motorsports moment of 2023 is the NASCAR Garage 56 entry at Le Mans, which she covered extensively at the time.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta

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