Truex Jr. Holding Hot Hand At Right Time
by John Close
Charlotte, NC (April 24, 2012) - Martin Truex Jr. posted a 2012 season-best second-place finish at Kansas Sunday. It couldn't have come at a better time for the driver of the No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.
Truex Jr.'s contract with MWR is up at the end of 2012. The 31-year-old driver has eclipsed any previous career performances with six top-10 finishes in the first eight NASCAR Sprint Cup events this season. Truex Jr. has finished no worse than eighth in the last five events and is now second in the points - just 15 out of first - after nearly winning at Kansas Sunday.
Talk about leverage.
If this kind of performance doesn't get you noticed, nothing will.
To be fair, it hasn't just all been Truex Jr. You have to throw out some props to MWR and their performance so far this season too. The team shook things up a bit after a disappointing 2011 season that saw Truex Jr. and David Reutimann produce just four top-10 finishes in a combined 72 Sprint Cup Series starts.
Reutimann was shuffled out at the end of the year and Clint Bowyer slid into a new 2012 MWR driver's group that includes Truex, Jr., Mark Martin and Brian Vickers.
The results have been stellar with Truex, Jr. and his 7.5 finishing average second in the points. Bowyer has been fast too leading a pair of races and scoring two top-five's in the first four races. He's cooled recently, however, and Sunday's Kansas engine woes left him with a 36th-place finish but still 11th in the Chase standings.
Finally, Martin and Vickers have both posted multiple quality rides in the 55 car. Each has a top-five finish giving the four MWR drivers a total of six top-five efforts for the year - already two more for MWR than all of last season.
That said, you could make the argument that MWR is the most improved team in Cup this season. You could, we'll just say 'bravo.'
Anyway, all of this is looking pretty sporty on Truex Jr's. resume right now. Even before his standout drive Sunday at Kansas, team owner Michael Waltrip had indicated the organization was negotiating with Truex Jr. on a new deal.
Sunday's run left Truex Jr. with a winning hand - the kind that can be appreciated at the new casino outside Turn 2 at Kansas Speedway - and one that produces fat, new contracts.
Here's betting he gets it soon.
Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas produced a new first-time winner for the division in James Buescher. Buescher is having quite an early season also taking the Nationwide Series victory at Daytona.
Buescher is now just four points behind another pre-season favorite, Timothy Peters, in the Truck Series standings after four events. Peters, second at Kansas Saturday, leads Buescher by a 163-159 margin.
The rest of the Truck Series top-10 points are an interesting mix of new and old talent. Second-year trucker Justin Lofton is third in the standings with 152 points while series rookie Ty Dillon is fourth at 149.
Second-year pilot Nelson Piquet Jr. has been very solid so far this season and is fifth in the standings with 140 points while Parker Klingerman (137), veteran Ron Hornaday Jr. (129), Daytona winner John King (124), Jason White (120) and Matt Crafton (115) complete the top 10.
The Trucks now take a couple of weeks off before returning to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, May 18.
It will be three weeks this Wednesday since I got my new knee. Won't bore you with all the details other than to say I am slowly returning to mobile status.
Outpatient Physical Therapy is now my 'get out of jail' free card as I am allowed to drive myself to an OrthoCarolina medical facility in Uptown Charlotte every Tuesday and Thursday.
Otherwise, I am still a captive at the house performing the PT routines twice a day. Every exercise session - at PT or in home - is a reminder that this is going to take some time. Success is measured in small victories like graduating to a cane from a walker.
Anyway, I have my first visit back to my orthopedic surgeon later this week and will have a lot better evaluation then as to where my recovery path is and what the next 'steps' will be.
Will keep you posted.