April 24, 2012
By Doug Demmons
As much attention as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s winless streak gets, Martin Truex Jr. has him beat.
It’s been 175 races since Truex went to Victory Lane at Dover in June 2007. It was so long ago that Truex was still with DEI, which was still a thriving company.
That streak should have ended Sunday on a cool and windy day at Kansas Speedway. Truex had the car; he had the mojo; he even had the racing gods on his side. He even had team owner Michael Waltrip in the broadcast booth trying not to seem disappointed when Truex could not catch Denny Hamlin at the end.
The racing gods are nothing if not fickle.
Truex dominated that race, but leading the most laps only gets you one extra point. Second place earns you days -- maybe weeks and months -- of what-ifs.
What if the sun had not come out to heat the race track, making the No. 56 loose? What if that last set of tires on that last pit stop had not been worthless junk?
Every time a driver loses a race he should have won, he says he will put it behind him and move on. He emphasizes the positives -- the points, the good equipment, the team, etc.
And there are plenty of positives for Truex to emphasize. He is second in the standings, ahead of everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. Truex could sit out three races and still be ahead of Kasey Kahne in the standings.
As well as the No. 56 team and Michael Waltrip Racing have been running, Truex would need a huge collapse to miss the Chase this year.
Still, there’s no trophy for second place, no sticky Gatorade in your hair from Victory Lane.
“I've given wins away, though, and been this disappointed before,” Truex said Sunday. “I can remember back at Phoenix, we led about the whole race and the last time the caution came out we stayed out and everybody pitted. It's kind of things like that that seem to be the story of my career since my first win.”
It is indeed, things like that that cause a dominant car to lose a race. But it is also true that when you run up front just about every week the odds favor you. Eventually Truex is going to win.
“To sit here and be disappointed with second place is saying something for us,” he said. “Just looking forward to coming back to the race track next week. I really enjoy working with this team. They're doing a phenomenal job. I can't even tell you how much fun we're having to be honest.
"Once I get over the defeat, in a few hours, I'm going to look at all the positives, and there's a lot of positives we can take out of this weekend and so far this season. We're not near as good as we can be yet, and we're going to keep pushing forward and try to keep getting better. I know our wins are going to come soon.”
As disappointing as it is to not win, it’s still much more fun to run well than it is to struggle for top 20s all season. And it makes a statement.
“We're not just a flash in the pan,” Truex said. “We've been solid each week, and I know our wins are going to come, we just need to keep running like we are. It's been a long time since I've won, and I know I'm capable of it, and that's the most disappointing thing is letting one slip away today.
"If I had made a mistake or we'd made a bad adjustment or something, it would probably be a little bit easier to swallow to be honest. But to put tires on and touch the car and all of a sudden the car drives worse than it has all day, it is pretty frustrating when you haven't won in a while.”
Still, he knows the forest is more important than the trees.
“Come September we want to be in the Chase and we want to go after a championship, too,” he said. “You've got to look at the big picture a little bit.”
Doug Demmons is a writer and editor for the Birmingham News ~ he writes daily and weekly auto racing columns ranging from NASCAR to open wheel to Formula One, local tracks and more... you can read Doug's columns online at ALABAMA MOTORSPORTS
Follow Doug on Twitter: @dougdemmons
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.