Following an unusually uncompetitive day Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. was among the many who left the half-mile disappointed.
Managing only eighth in the STP 500, the first-year Joe Gibbs Racing driver was unhappy with the higher downforce package used over the weekend, saying it complicated passing on the year’s smallest track.
“We’re going to be faster everywhere, but the real shame of it is that hard to pass,” Truex said. “I couldn’t believe — you’d get behind three or four guys, you’d run them down from a long way back and then you’d be stuck there. You couldn’t run any faster than them. It’s just crazy how it works.”
Truex believes no change was necessary for the short track races, as the recent competition and thrilling finishes at the small tracks speak for themselves.
“I thought we had some awesome short track races last year with the low downforce,” he said. “I know we’re running the package here because we’re trying to save the teams money from having two packages that are different. But I know that the racing was a lot better before.”
Truex’s opinion is backed with the numbers, as Sunday saw only three lead changes, tying the least at Martinsville since 1961. And though the circuit doesn’t return to Martinsville until October, the tough passing conditions could return soon, said Truex.
“This one is the slowest, so it should be the easiest [to pass],” he said. “They’ll get harder as we go. Richmond is going to be tough. When we go to Dover with this package, it’s going to be near-impossible.”
“A little frustrating but hopefully we can figure it out better than everybody and lead all the laps.”
Brad Keselowski did nearly that, leading 446 of 500 laps toward his second win of 2019. Though Truex has yet to drive into Victory Lane with JGR this year, the 2017 champion is happy to have top-five speed to start the year.
“It’s been consistent, we’ve been solid,” he said. “But we need to find more. That’s how it goes around here… if you’re not winning, you’re looking. We’re looking.”