(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

2019 NASCAR Driver Reviews: Martin Truex Jr.

In regards to the last few seasons, the best driver paired with the best crew chief paired with the best team sounds like an extremely potent combination, right?

In 2019, it certainly was.

After several stellar seasons with Furniture Row Racing, Martin Truex Jr‘s future after 2018, for a time, was in serious jeopardy after FRR went under. It was a disappointing and sudden end for Truex, who helped owner Barney Visser’s organization transform from a midpack team into a regularly race-winning organization and ultimately a championship contender. The relationship eventually led, in a true rags-to-riches story, to the 2017 championship crown, Truex’s first NASCAR Cup Series title.

Yet almost effortlessly, he and longtime crew chief Cole Pearn found a home at Joe Gibbs Racing with the No. 19 team. However, the No. 19 hadn’t had the quality performance in the last few seasons to which Truex and Pearn were accustomed. With Daniel Suarez at the helm in 2018, the team only scored three top fives and nine top 10s, a far cry from the four wins, 20 top fives and 21 top 10s Truex notched with FRR the same season. To boost performance, the team was overhauled for the new season and Pearn and Truex promised to continue the winning tradition in their new backdrop.

As with any new job, an acclimation period is expected. Truex’s lasted for the first quarter of the 2019 season, before finally finding victory lane at Richmond Raceway in April. The significance of the win was monumental for Truex, who finally got his first win on a short track after an unbelievable 80 attempts. More wins followed throughout the late spring and summer at Dover International Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Sonoma Raceway, cementing a comfortable spot in the playoffs.

With so many playoff points stacked up, Truex was all but a shoo-in to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway when the postseason started. With Truex and company firing on all cylinders, the team ultimately came out swinging as he opened up the playoffs with a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The New Jersey native was then on his way to another win the very next weekend at Richmond before getting spun from the lead by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. But he rebounded and still found his way to another victory lane, good enough to sweep the 2019 Cup races at Richmond.

Thanks in part to a statement win at Martinsville Speedway, Truex made the Championship 4 for the fourth time in five seasons. After a near-flawless 2019 campaign, Truex was well on his way to his second championship in three years until the wheels fell off.

Well, they didn’t really fall off, but they were backward. Midway through the championship race, the pit crew mistakenly swapped the left and right side tires during a pit stop, which put him just short of another title.

As JGR teammate Kyle Busch claimed the crown, Truex has to wait another year. But all is not lost. His season was nearly flawless. Often known for his calm and genuine demeanor, Truex’s character echoed on and off the racetrack in 2019. Off-track, Truex continued to be heavily involved in charity work.

Under the banner of the Martin Truex Jr Foundation, he and girlfriend Sherry Pollex continued to host several annual events, including a karting event at Justin Marks‘ GoPro Motorplex, an industry-wide race-used steering wheel auction, and their headlining event A Catwalk for a Cause.

On the track, in their usual fashion, the dynamic and humble duo of Truex and Pearn let their determination and friendship define their successes. Never one for the limelight, Pearn kept his driver at front of the pack all season. For Truex, he kept his car out of trouble and was never one to engage in conflict or drama.

After such a successful year that resulted in seven wins, the entire No. 19 team will remain virtually unchanged, except for one big piece of the puzzle: Pearn, who dropped a bombshell earlier this month when he announced his departure from NASCAR.

With his departure, the experience that Pearn provided and Truex relied on will be missing. James Small, a relative newcomer to the top position on the pit box, will assume Pearn’s former role. With a new shot caller on top of the box, will 2020 be business as usual, or will another period of acclimation greet the No. 19 crew?

2019 Stats:

36 starts, 7 wins, 15 top fives, 24 top 10s

Best Finish: First (Richmond [spring & fall], Dover [spring], Charlotte [spring], Sonoma, Las Vegas [fall], Martinsville [fall])

Point Standings: 2nd

Season Grade: A

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It is safe to say that Zach Gillispie has been obsessed with race cars for nearly his entire life. After all, his childhood home was just a stone's throw away from Charlotte Motor Speedway. Since joining Fronstretch in 2018 as a sedulous 18-year-old, Zach thoroughly enjoys sharing his passion for motorsports with the racing faithful through professional journalism with a youthful and vibrant flair. He somehow does it all while juggling duties as a full-time college student, an entrepreneurial businessman and the News Director of Western Pennsylvania's WSAJ 91.1 "The One." In the rare moments when he is not working or studying, you can find him at his church, traveling, or cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves.

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