To say Martin Truex Jr. has had a streak of bad luck would be quite the understatement.
The New Jersey native was looking good at the end of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season, ready to compete for a championship in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Then the entire ‘Spingate’ controversy with Michael Waltrip Racing took place in the regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway, and Truex found himself bumped out of the Chase entirely.
As part of the fallout, Truex’s sponsor NAPA left MWR, leading the team to shut down the No. 56 car, putting its most senior member out of a ride. During the offseason, Truex landed on his feet at Furniture Row Racing.
Looking for a fresh start, things got off on the wrong foot from the get-go with an engine failure and 43rd-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500.
Truex and the No. 78 team have faced adversity, bad luck and poor finishes at nearly every turn early in the 2014 season. Through the first 12 races of the year, Truex’s best finish was 10th at Richmond, but the No. 78 team had eight finishes of 21st or worse.
Yet on Sunday, at his home track of Dover International Speedway, Truex was finally able to turn things around and record his best finish of the season, sixth in the FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks.
The weekend wasn’t without issue, however. On Friday, a bird hit the No. 78 Chevrolet in the left headlight area during Sprint Cup Series practice causing slight damage.
"All in all it was a good day," Truex said of his run on Sunday. "We battled from the beginning, lost the handling of the car for a while but our crew chief, Todd Berrier, made some great calls throughout the race and we were able to finish strong."
Things began looking up last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as Truex was having another solid run. However, with just nine laps left in the Coca-Cola 600, the No. 78 Chevrolet suffered a broken right-rear drive plate that ended top 10 run and led to a 25th-place finish.
Despite the finish in Charlotte, Truex is confident in the team’s momentum moving forward.
"You can just feel it that we’re heading in the right direction," he said after Sunday’s race in Dover. "We also had a top-10 car last week in Charlotte, but had a freak breakage occur with nine laps to go. We’re a new team and takes a while to get all the pieces of the puzzle in place. We’re learning about this car and how to be competitive with it. We’re getting closer and closer to finding that sweet spot."
Truex credits his over-the-wall guys for solid pit stops all season long, but knows the team still has work to do.
"We still have a ways to go, but the feeling is upbeat knowing that we have more speed and can be more competitive," he said.
With Sunday’s sixth-place run, Truex sits 25th in the series standings heading to next week’s race at Pocono Raceway.