2013 Ride: No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota Camry
2013 Primary Sponsor: NAPA Auto Parts
2013 Owners: Michael Waltrip, Robert Kauffman
2013 Crew Chief: Chad Johnston
2013 Stats: 36 starts, 1 win, 7 top 5s, 15 top 10s, 16th in points.
Average Finish: 15.1.
High Point: Truex claiming his second Sprint Cup victory at Sonoma in June does stand out, knowing that he had been trying to get back to Victory Lane for over six years. The way he earned that victory stands out as well. It was Truex’s most dominant run of 2013, leading 51 of 110 laps. For those of you wondering, it is more dominant than Texas in April because Truex led a higher percentage of the laps at Sonoma (46 percent to Texas’ 42 percent). However, it was only one part of his best portion of the season.
Truex’s victory was sandwiched by a strong third-place finish at Michigan and a seventh in the rain-delayed 400-miler at Kentucky. Those three races boosted Truex from 17th to eighth in points and had MWR thinking that they could get both of their full-time drivers into the Chase for the first time all season. Unfortunately, the Daytona crash brought that run to a screeching halt.
Low Point: Well, this is probably the easiest thing to write for any of the driver reviews here at Frontstretch. The low point of Truex’s season (and possibly, his Sprint Cup career to this point) was when he was penalized 50 points and booted out of the Chase due to his team’s manipulation of the finish at Richmond. That set off the chain reaction that cost MWR their full-time primary sponsorship from NAPA Auto Parts and Truex his full-time ride. If I were Martin Truex, Jr. after Richmond, I would have been a very angry individual. However, Truex handled the situation with a lot of class and I believe that he has gotten the benefit of the doubt from the situation.
2013 Summary: Truex’s season was an up-and-down affair. He would have a couple of excellent runs, then have was a mediocre run. With the points being as close as they were for a good chunk of the season, Truex swung between eighth and 17th for much of the season.
Getting that victory at Sonoma gave Truex the all-important bonus points for the Chase. However, it didn’t really jump start Truex’s season. Sure, he followed up the win with a seventh at Kentucky that moved him up to eighth in points (the high water mark of the season). However, the Coke Zero 400 brought a wreck and a 41st-place finish. That dropped him out of the top-10. The third-place finish at Watkins Glen briefly moved Truex back into the top-10, but a mid-pack run knocked him back out again. Crashing again at Bristol made him dependent on the Wild Card.
The big penalty after Richmond did trigger a bit of a swoon, but not as big of one as you would think. After Richmond, Truex had an average finish of 16.8 in the first five races of the Chase. This was only marginally worse than what Truex delivered for season. The last five races saw Truex earn a fourth-place finish at Homestead along with two additional top-10’s for an average finish of tenth.
Team Ranking: 2nd of 3. Truex’s penalty did not actually change his ranking. Had MWR not intervened and Truex legitimately got into the Chase, he would have finished 11th in points, matching his career-best (accomplished twice, most recently in 2012). Ryan Newman, who replaced him in the Chase, also finished 11th. However, Truex earned 23 more points in the Chase than Newman did.
2014 Outlook: Michael Waltrip Racing’s manipulation of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway completely screwed up what would have been a great situation for Truex. He was going to be back in the No. 56 full-time in 2014 with full sponsorship from NAPA Auto Parts. However, the events of Richmond led to NAPA Auto Parts choosing to void their contract and leave the team at the end of the 2013 season. The team, which will switch from No. 56 to No. 66, will not race full-time in 2014. Instead, Waltrip and Jeff Burton will share the car for an unknown number of races.
Truex was allowed to look around for other rides before the season and eventually signed on to drive the Furniture Row No. 78 Chevrolet for next season. The move is seen as a lateral move for Truex. It is unclear whether the No. 78 team will be able to maintain the same level of performance with Truex that they had with Kurt Busch. However, the team’s Achilles heel was cured when Truex’s pit crew from MWR was signed to move to Furniture Row along with Truex. That will help a bunch.
2011 Frontstretch.com Grade: C.
2012 Grade: B.
2013 Grade: B-.
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