Martin Truex Jr. comes close to figuring out Martinsville puzzle

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Martin Truex Jr. may be out of the championship fight after winning two of the first three races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but that doesn’t mean he’s backing down on the 2016 season.

Truex earned his fifth pole of the season at Martinsville Speedway, leading 147 laps in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 on his way to a seventh-place finish.

In his 16th top-10 finish of the year, Truex felt he and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team took a huge step in the right direction at NASCAR's oldest active track.

“Martinsville used to be a big puzzle for me,” said Truex. “This weekend was a good step forward for us at Martinsville. We probably had the best car we ever had here. We started up front and led a bunch of laps early. We were up there all day, but have to figure out how to be better the second half of the race at Martinsville.”

With the season winding down and a shot at the title dashed, a good run at the .526-mile oval only served as a confidence booster for Truex. But if he can figure out how to break into Victory Lane there for the 2017 season, Martinsville may be a good shot for Truex to score an early-season win and quickly punch his ticket into next year’s Chase.

“Once we can do that we’ll have a shot at winning one of those grandfather clocks,” Truex added. “I really want one of those.”

After losing an engine at Talladega Superspeedway, Truex said the sting of being eliminated from the Chase would go away some if he could close out the season with a couple victories.

If Truex can duplicate the run he had at Martinsville and give himself a shot to close the deal over the final three races, he may do just that.