Truex happy to be back ‘home’ at the Monster Mile

DOVER — Martin Truex, Jr. smiled at the idea that Dover International Speedway is his “home” track.

“I guess it’s one of my home tracks,” he quipped. “Everybody says I have a lot of home tracks.”

Still, Dover clearly is a special place for the Mayetta, N.J. native.

And, right now, the defending NASCAR Monster Cup season champion could use a little homecooking to get his season back on track.

Truex comes to Dover stuck in a streak of four-straight double-digit finishes. The worst was a 37th-place finish at Fort Worth a month ago.

But just being back at the Monster Mile gives Truex some confidence.

“Honestly, I always look forward to coming up here,” he said in the infield media center on Friday. “I have a lot of memories of coming to this race track — a lot of really, really good memories, a lot of success, a lot of special times.

“The first time I came here, I fell in love with the track. I think any time you like a place, you tend to understand it better and are able to just figure it out a little quicker. … I feel like the numbers don’t even show really the success we’ve had at this track.”

In 24 all-time Cup races at Dover, Truex owns a pair of wins and 13 top-10 finishes. He’s placed in the top four in his last three trips to the Monster Mile.

It’s not like this season has been horrible for Truex, either.

He’s ninth in the Monster Cup points season standings. With a victory at Fontana, he’s also guaranteed a spot in the Chase at the end of the year.

On the other hand, the cold streak has Truex back to feeling like he has something to prove — even with last year’s championship.

“I would say our sport probably changes more week to week than it does year to year,” he said. “So we’ve had four tough races in a row right now and, hey, we’re ninth in points. You’re only as good as your last race.

“Right now, I wouldn’t say we’re the ‘hunted,’ I’d say we’re the ‘hunters.’”

Even though he’s a fan of Dover, Truex also knows that it’s a pretty challenging place to drive. He said it’s important to stay aggressive on the one-mile concrete oval.

He said “you have to attack all the time.”

“The consequences when you mess up are pretty bad here,” said Truex. “It’s definitely a difficult track. For me, coming here initially, it took a while to get up the nerve to get to where I needed to make the car.

“It’s like, OK, I keep driving harder and harder and the car still wants me to go faster. So once you figure that out, it’s really just about — through the years — adapting to changing racecars, changing rules, tires changing, the track changing as it ages… just continuing to try to stay on top of all those things, I think is the biggest challenge now.”

Truex has almost always qualified well at the Monster Mile and Friday was no different. He qualified third, which will make this the fourth straight Dover race where he’ll start in the top three.

Of course, he’ll only really be happy if he finishes near the front on Sunday.

“We’re just trying to get back on track, get to where we need to go,” said Truex. “We always tend to focus on our own program more than anything else. I’d say most of the garage is the same way.

“The championship was last year. It’s time to turn the page and try to do it again right now.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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