Saturday night’s final race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season was a tough one for Martin Truex Jr., who on the 39th of 400 laps, ran over oil dropped by Reed Sorenson’s car and hit the wall, resulting in a 42nd-place finish for Truex and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet.
Obviously, it was a disappointing result for the driver and the team, but in an exclusive interview with FOXSports.com, Furniture Row general manager Joe Garone said it’s better to have bad luck in the regular season than in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. Truex will start the Chase as the 10th seed.
“For us, we got the win at Pocono (in June) and I think we finished third the following week at Michigan,” Garone told FOXSports.com. “And then we went to Sonoma and wrecked, and then we got in a wreck-fest, which we had avoided the whole first part of the year. So in some ways, it felt like, ‘OK, let’s get this out of our system now, and maybe we can get into the Chase and get lucky and not have wrecks or any problems.’
“So we certainly looked at that period of time as a way to sort of flush all the bad luck out of our systems and really be feeling prepared going into the Chase,” said Garone. “I look at it as sort of a blessing that it happened the way that it happened, and we’ll see what the Chase holds for us.”
Indeed, Garone, Truex and the team’s crew chief, Cole Pearn, have legitimate reason for optimism. Eight of the 10 tracks in the Chase are places where the Cup teams raced once earlier in the season. In those eight races, Truex had an average finish of 7.4 and a worst finish of 12th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
If Truex and his team can replicate those numbers in the Chase, that home improvement would certainly put him squarely in the title hunt.
“The real season starts now, and to be a challenger we have to turn up the wick and have 10 great races,” said Truex. “You know that everybody else is going to step up their game. For us, we need to get a little better with consistency and get rid of the strange things that have happened the past month. … When things go the way that we can control, I feel we are capable of producing top 10s, top fives and contend for wins. The forced and unforced problems need to be minimal, very minimal.”
Crew chief Pearn said the team is ready for the Chase.
“I think the biggest thing we’re looking to is just getting back to some of our strong racetracks,” Pearn told FOXSports.com. “The summer schedule is weird. You go to a lot of different style tracks and different places that are not really representative of the Chase. Getting back to those tracks is really what we’re anticipating.”
And while Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing are probably the title favorites now, don’t overlook Denver-based Furniture Row, which had its best regular season in its history this year, with Truex posting one victory, five top fives and 14 top 10s in the first 15 races.
So now, the mission is to win it all.
“We’re all pretty competitive,” said Pearn. “At the end of the day, we do this for one reason and that’s to try and win (races) and try to win a championship. That’s going to be our focus, and until that happens, I’m not to concede to any other deal, so we’ll stay focused, and hopefully we can make it.”
Pearn’s boss agrees, saying the goal is to be one of the four cars racing for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
“We expect to advance to Homestead, absolutely,” said Garone. “We’ll be disappointed with anything less.”