When we talk about the best road course racers in NASCAR, there are definitely a few names that come to mind. You would probably say Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger. Martin Truex Jr. has been a very underrated road racer his entire career and his statistics prove that. After his win at Sonoma this past weekend, that makes it two consecutive road course victories after winning at Watkins Glen last season.
Can he be considered the best road course racer in NASCAR or does somebody else still have that reign? Is it because Cole Pearn is on the pit box or is it because Truex is that good on these types of tracks?
His career definitely tells us that he is just that good and the statistics back that up in every series he has driven in.
The talk this season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has been the big three or four (Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Truex and even Clint Bowyer). One team that has struggled to find much success in 2018 on a consistent basis is Hendrick Motorsports.
This past weekend at Sonoma was a bright spot for the team after having three cars finish inside the top-11. Chase Elliott scored another top-five finish and showed speed all day, Alex Bowman had a solid ninth-place finish and Jimmie Johnson ended up 11th. How close are they to winning a race? Can one of them break through and lock themselves into this year’s playoffs or will all of them have to point their way in?
Q: Is Martin Truex Jr. in the conversation as the best road course racer in NASCAR? Nancy W., Austin, TX
A: I have a simple answer for this one: yes. Truex has shown throughout his career, and the last few seasons, that he definitely should be in the conversation as best road course racer in the sport.
His road course success did not just begin once Cole Pearn and him united in 2015. Truex has a few wins on a road course before his days in the No. 78.
Let’s go back to 2013 with Michael Waltrip Racing in the No. 56 car. Truex won the Sonoma race, which was his first career road course win at the time in the Cup Series, and it broke a long winless streak for him as well.
If you go back to his days in the XFINITY Series from 2003-2006, he had a ton of success. In 2005, he won the first race at the famed Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez course in Mexico City. Later that year, he finished fifth at Watkins Glen. The next year, he had a solid run at Sonoma in his rookie year in the Cup Series and also had another top-10 finish in the XFINITY car at Watkins Glen.
Before his days in the XFINITY Series, he was a threat at road courses in the K&N Pro Series East. He scored a top-five finish in 2001 at Watkins Glen and, the following season, scored a top 10 at Lime Rock Park.
The argument can definitely be made that he is the best road course racer in NASCAR right now. If we look at the last three years alone at road courses, Truex has two wins now, one at Watkins Glen and now one at Sonoma. In the races where he did not get the finish he deserved, he was running inside the top five such as last year at Sonoma when the team had an engine issue.
The one fact that has been proven throughout the last few years, though, has been how much these drivers have improved on road courses. Kyle Busch said it best that you cannot just drive through the field easily anymore if you are a good road racer. Everyone is so even now when it comes to skills on the road courses that it makes it challenging.
Going into Watkins Glen in August, we will talk about favorites like Busch and Allmendinger, but Truex has to be at the top of the list. I would not be surprised at all if he swept both road course races this year, something that has not been done in the Cup Series since 2008 when Kyle Busch accomplished that feat. The defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champ has a ton left and, even with three career road course wins to his resumé now in the Cup Series, I see many more wins for him at these type of tracks in the future.
Winners in Wine Country 🍷
All-or-nothing pit strategy for track position once again pays off for @MartinTruex_Jr and the @furniturerow Racing team. #NASCAR #WeAreFurnitureRow pic.twitter.com/WvFxo0wGa4
— Furniture Row Racing (@FRRacingTeam) June 26, 2018
Q: Which Hendrick driver do you think wins first or do any of them win at all this year in your opinion? Matthew T., High Point, NC
A: It is really difficult to say if a Hendrick Motorsports driver will break through and win a race or two at this point. Yes, they have all improved their performance the last several weeks compared to how they were to begin the 2018 season, but they have yet to show that race winning speed.
If anyone is close to winning a race, or at least competing for a win, it would have to be Elliott. He is in his third full season now and expectations going into this season were through the roof as to how he would fare.
It is safe to say, he has not met them.
After a fourth-place finish at Sonoma, it seems he is getting much closer to winning. It might take something happening to one of the drivers who has dominated this year, though, for him to sneak a win. I just do not feel as if he has the outright speed yet to capture a win.
Now I am not saying that Hendrick will never have the speed at all, because it is very possible they may. Right now, though, at this moment, I have yet to see it. Who knows, Chevy teams like Elliott may dominate the second half of the season as we approach it. It is unknown right now, but if anything, the pressure is going to continue to build for Elliott as more time goes on and he does not capture that elusive first win.
Johnson has had speed but I don’t see him winning a race until they show that they can run top five and finish there, like Elliott has for a few weeks now. William Byron will have better finishes in the second half of this season but I don’t think he finds Victory Lane yet. Bowman has had speed but it hasn’t matched Elliott or Johnson yet and he likely won’t win this season either.
Hendrick Motorsports will return to its winning ways again. The organization has too many talented personnel not to have success again.