Friday, July 06, 2007

Knowing you can win? Yeah, you gotta like that feeling

The only No. 1 that Martin Truex Jr. pays attention to is the one on the side of his race car.

He’ll leave it to others to speculate how the pecking order at Dale Earnhardt Inc. might be shuffled now that teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. has decided to leave next year.

"I never really thought about it," Truex said.

"All I ever wanted to do was win and do the job that these guys deserve – get them wins and run up front each week."

It’s hard not to wonder, though, if Truex hasn’t gone through some kind of transformation in recent weeks.

When Earnhardt Jr. announced his departure in May, Truex was 20th in the Nextel Cup standings. Going into tonight’s Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway, he’s ninth.

"It just feels good that we're performing the way we should," Truex said. "That’s the bottom line. We’re having a blast coming to the race track every weekend."

He should be.

After finishing 11th at Darlington and 16th at Charlotte, Truex got his first Nextel Cup victory at Dover, leading 216 laps in a dominant performance.

He then finished third at Pocono, second at Michigan and, after a 24th on the road course at Sonoma, third last weekend at New Hampshire.

"Once you get on a roll, it just keeps coming," Truex said.

"You keep running well and everybody's having fun. It just gets so much easier, I can’t even tell you. I just really look forward to each race every weekend and hopefully we just keep doing what we've been doing."

The victory at Dover was particularly gratifying, of course. After winning 13 races and a pair of championships in the Busch Series, Truex went until October in his rookie season in Nextel Cup last year without a top five.

He was fifth at Talladega and then runner-up at Homestead last fall, but until the victory at Dover he hadn’t been back in the top five. Since then, though, he’s been out of it only once.

"I think the biggest thing winning does for you is get rid of all the doubt that anyone has ever had," Truex said.

"All of the questions that anyone has ever had about ‘Can we do this? When will it happen?’ You don't worry about that anymore. You know you can win and you just have to figure out how you're going to do it again. That’s almost as tough but you don't really worry about it quite as much.

"Once you get it once you want it more, obviously. But you know how to do it, you've been there, you've done it before. Everybody on the race team, their confidence is up knowing that they can get it done. They can do the job as good as anybody out here. That goes a long way."

6 comments:

Monkeesfan said...

What seems to have happened is that Junior's announcement a few weeks back has loosened everyone at DEI up - now they know what's going on so now they're focused better on the racing end of the operation. It happens with race teams and sports teams in general from time to time.

Monkeesfan said...

BTW David, a little follow-up to your piece on qualifying after the Daytona washout.

David McKnight said...

David--

Speaking of new lineups in the race car rosters, guess who is coming as a special guest to the North Carolina Press Association's annual convention in Charlotte July 26-28?

King Richard, that's who. But David, what sorts of expertise will Richard Petty offer the newspaper folks coming to the Queen City from all across North Carolina?

Pick one:

A. How to get your reporters back to the office on a bee-line after a local government meeting without stopping off for barbecue or a burger and onion rings.

B. How to make your front page look more "balanced" and "eye-catching" so it will, er--flag the attention of the reader.

C. How to entice editors to come off the golf course long enough to find out what life is really like in the pits around the City Desk.

D. How to motivate your delivery people to get the morning newspapers into the racks and on to the front porch steps without breaking the speed limit or nudging the milkman off his preferred route.

Maybe the New York Times will invite King Richard up to speak at their new digs in Manhattan. Richard can adjust their motto from "All the News That's Fit to Print" to "All the Rear View Mirrors That'll Fit on the Masthead."

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