Apparently all it took for Martin Truex Jr. to win on a short track was to switch teams.
Last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway saw Truex, in the midst of his first season for Joe Gibbs Racing in its No. 19, emerge victorious, snapping a losing streak at short tracks in NASCAR’s premier series that dated back to, well, his entire career.
What a deeply odd streak. It’s not like Truex was luckless on short tracks in the Xfinity Series during his two championship-winning seasons in the mid-2000s. In 2004, he got his first Xfinity win at Bristol Motor Speedway and added a victory at Memphis International Speedway that year, too. The next year, he was victorious at Lucas Oil Raceway. So, OK, he didn’t exactly light the short track world on fire, but he had his successes.
Nonetheless, Richmond was Truex’s first time in Victory Lane at a Cup short track event, and from now on, we don’t have to bring up his shortcomings at Richmond, Bristol Motor Speedway or Martinsville Speedway each time he races there. Kinda. I mean, he still hasn’t won at the latter two, so that’s something of a story, right?
The same can’t be said for some of the Cup Series’ other competitors, though. While some, like Kyle Busch, tend to be among the sport’s all-time best at the short tracks, others tend toward Truex’s not-as-abysmal-as-it-used-to-be record, longing for a return to the mile-and-a-half circuits the six times a year when Cup come to the less-than-1-mile speedways.
In all, nine of the current Cup full-timers with at least one career win in the series have no victories to their credit at any of the three short tracks on the schedule. Some of them are still relative newcomers to the series, while others are veterans of the circuit, much like Truex.
With Truex out of the picture, here’s who’s still looking for their first win on a short track.
Bristol average: 24.6
Martinsville average: 20.9
Richmond average: 16
All-time at all three: four top fives, 12 top 10s, 57 starts
Bristol average: 19.6
Martinsville average: 14
Richmond average: 26.7
All-time at all three: three top fives, six top 10s, 22 starts
Bristol average: 24.2
Martinsville average: 21.6
Richmond average: 26.4
All-time at all three: one top five, one top 10, 23 starts
Bristol average: 16.9
Martinsville average: 17.8
Richmond average: 18.4
All-time at all three: three top fives, six top 10s, 33 starts
Bristol average: 12.4
Martinsville average: 14.8
Richmond average: 12.8
All-time at all three: six top fives, 10 top 10s, 23 starts
Bristol average: 14.8
Martinsville average: 22.2
Richmond average: 16.4
All-time at all three: two top fives, three top 10s, 15 starts
Bristol average: 17.9
Martinsville average: 19.5
Richmond average: 23.9
All-time at all three: two top fives, 11 top 10s, 73 starts
Bristol average: 24.4
Martinsville average: 22.4
Richmond average: 23.4
All-time at all three: four top fives, seven top 10s, 76 starts
Bristol average: 13
Martinsville average: 27.9
Richmond average: 19.5
All-time at all three: five top fives, 10 top 10s, 39 starts
The takeaway? Chances are some of these drivers will forever be winless at the short tracks, much like Jamie McMurray recently ended his career.
There are, of course, exceptions. Chase Elliott’s six top fives and 10 top 10s in 23 starts at the short tracks suggest a breakthrough soon, especially now that he’s been able to win at all in NASCAR’s top series. At Martinsville earlier this year, he finished second; what more do you need?
Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones seem to have upside as well in their somewhat-limited starts at the three short tracks, Blaney particularly at Martinsville and Jones at Bristol.
Finally, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is a bit of a wild card at Bristol. No, not Martinsville or Richmond; he’s rarely shown much to be excited about there. At Bristol, though, he’s got four top fives and six top 10s in 13 career starts, suggesting that if there’s a non-superspeedway win in his future, it’s in Tennessee.
About the author
Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.