Martin “Don’t Call Me Junior” Truex Jr.
2006 Ride: No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet
2006 Owner: Teresa Earnhardt
2006 Crew Chief: Kevin “Bono” Manion
2006 Stats: 36 races, zero wins, two top fives, five top 10s, 19th in points.
High Point: After an up-and-down rookie season, Truex saved his best for last. At Homestead in November, Truex led 27 laps and came home a career-best second in the final race of the Nextel Cup season, falling just short of a victory when Greg Biffle took the checkered flag at the track for the third straight year. Truex’s year was also highlighted by a third-place finish in the International Race of Champions, where he registered a win, three top fives and four top 10s in four starts.
Low Point: As is often the case for any Nextel Cup rookie, Truex’s season was scattered with low points, but a run of three bad finishes was the lowest of the low. From race No. 31 in Charlotte through race No. 33 in Atlanta, Truex had three consecutive finishes of 31st or worse due to on-track incidents. It was the worst string of luck for the No. 1 team in a season where DNFs and mechanical failures came back to bite them far more often than when they dominated the Busch Series.
Summary: Truex came into the season with high hopes for a run at the Rookie of the Year title. With six top-20 finishes in the first seven races, that goal seemed well within reach. Unfortunately, Denny Hamlin‘s season took off like a rocket ship while Truex stayed grounded, causing the New Jersey native to quickly fall behind in the rookie race. While he ended up with a year that most rookies would consider acceptable, it eventually paled in comparison to both Hamlin and Clint Bowyer, making the final results sheet a disappointment for a team that was coming off two consecutive Busch Series championships. On the bright side, Truex did score two top-five finishes, including his season-ending second place at Homestead, and finished the season as one of three rookies 20th or better in points. When all was said and done, Truex had 15 results that ranged from 11th to 19th place; he just couldn’t seem to bump the performance up enough to finish consistently within the top 10. Still, the team could point to slow but steady improvement; during the playoffs, Truex clearly ran stronger and found himself more competitive than at any time all year.
2007 Outlook: With a first-year team learning the rigors of Cup racing, it was expected that there would be some struggles at the No. 1 shop. With his second-place finish at Homestead and DEI’s success on intermediate tracks in 2006, things look promising for Truex to make a serious bid for the Chase in his sophomore season.