2011 Ride: No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
2011 Primary Sponsor: NAPA Auto Parts
2011 Owner: Michael Waltrip
2011 Crew Chiefs: Pat Tryson, Chad Johnston, Scott Miller
2011 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 12 top 10s, 3 DNFs, 18th in points
High Point: It was without a doubt an up and down season for Truex and the No. 56 MWR team. The organization struggled to maintain any consistency, more often than not failing to string together consecutive solid runs. For the first three-quarters of the season, Truex managed back-to-back top 10 finishes only once, but built momentum over the final two and should be a contender in 2012. Over the final five races, Truex finished in the top 10 four times and completed all but one lap. The solid finish to 2011 was capped off with a solid but overshadowed third-place finish at Homestead after qualifying second.
Truex was solid in qualifying in 2011, starting in the top 10 13 times. His lone pole came at Dover in October. Despite finishing 30th in that race, Truex’s pole was a precursor of what was to come in just a few weeks for the No. 56 team.
Low Point: An inconsistent season was marred by two particularly bad stretches for Truex. The first stretch came early in the season after Truex had just capped off a sixth-place finish at Las Vegas and sat seventh in points. It was the highest points position the team saw all year, but quickly dissolved when Truex managed a best finish of 13th over the next six races. That stretch included DNFs at Martinsville and Texas, two of his three DNFs on the season.
The second stretch came after the No. 56 team’s season-best second-place finish at Bristol in August. Over the next six races, Truex had a best finish of 16th at New Hampshire. While any Chase hopes were gone at that point, a stretch of four top-10s over the next five races rallied the team to end the season.
Summary: The 2011 season for Truex resembled that of his favorite sports team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Truex had great expectations to start the season and started off solid, moving to seventh in points through three races, but inconsistency ultimately did the New Jersey native in as the season progressed. While the team showed its potential on multiple occasions, earning one pole and some top-five finishes, it was not enough to overcome three DNFs and scores of finishes outside of the top 10.
Team Ranking: First of two. It was a “needs improvement” type of year for Truex, but considering teammate David Reutimann lost his job accumulating just a single top-five result, the No. 56 Toyota was considered “top dawg” within the Michael Waltrip Racing shop.
2012 Outlook: The MWR organization as a whole is expected to take the next step in 2012 with the additions of Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin. For Truex, anything short of a Chase appearance would be considered a disappointment. The team showed the potential to do just that in 2011, but will have to avoid the problems that plagued the team throughout the season.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: C
2007 Grade: B+
2008 Grade: C
2009 Grade: C-
2010 Grade: B-
2011 Grade: C
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