Martin Truex Jr. continues solid start with second-place finish

Martin Truex Jr. has had plenty to smile about with the fast start to his 2015 Sprint Cup season.

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/NASCAR

Martin Truex Jr.’s stellar start to the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season certainly is looking like no fluke.

The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet offered more evidence of that during Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Fast all weekend in practice, Truex was a contender at the front of the field and finished second behind race winner Kevin Harvick. The runner-up finish marked Truex’s third-straight top 10 finish of the season, his first top five since Oct. 2014, and first second-place finish since April 2013.

Struggling mightily on the track for much of the 2014 season, Truex has also had to deal with off-track adversity as his longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

For as tough as 2014 was, the start to the 2015 season has been 180-degree change. In the first three races of the 2014 season, Truex finished 43rd, 22nd and 14th. This season he already has one top five and three top 10s.

"I really can’t put it into words, honestly," Truex said of his solid start to the season. "Just really proud of everyone. Obviously proud of Sherry, what she’s been through and everything I’ve learned from her to be a better person."

Truex was able to take the lead from Harvick on Lap 145, but could not hold off the winning driver’s hard charge three laps later.

"Harvick was so fast all day," he said. "I got the lead on him once there on a restart and thought, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool.’ But didn’t have anything to hold him off. We’ll keep working and get better. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come."

Working closely with Richard Childress Racing, Furniture Row Racing has been the highest-finishing ECR-powered car in the first three races of the season. While that relationship has shown dividends early in the season, Truex believes the Denver, Colo.-based team had major issues in 2014 that needed to be addressed.

"We had fundamental issues last year that we needed to correct in the wintertime," he said. "Obviously out of the box it’s been a lot better, and you know, I don’t attribute our success to the rules changes, I attribute it to knowing what we were doing wrong last year and fixing it over the wintertime and coming out of the box kind of understanding what we’re doing."

With the issues seemingly fixed and the success following out of the gate this season, Truex is finally back to having fun at the race track.

"At the end of the day, it’s just fun," he said. "As a competitor, that’s what you want. Last year was ‑‑ there was days where it was just really hard to even think about racing because it was so miserable."

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However, while dealing with his on-track struggles, the off-track issues with his girlfriend and her battle with ovarian cancer put everything into perspective.

"I think those bad days are not near as bad at the racetrack as you thought they were," he said. "When you get a glimpse of something that could possibly change your life like that in a bad way, it makes you look at things a lot differently. Suddenly those bad days at the racetrack weren’t so bad. Suddenly they were okay, and I knew that if we just kept working hard, we could get through it all, and certainly I feel like we have now."

With his solid start to the season, Truex heads to next weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway fourth in the overall standings, the highest position for Furniture Row Racing in the 10-year history of the organization.

"We’re going to continue to work hard and try to get to that next level," he said. "We want to win races. We have got a great team. We have got good equipment right now, and it’s important when you’re in those positions to try to take advantage of that. We’re going to keep pushing and try to get better and hopefully get in victory lane a few times."

VIDEO: Martin Truex Jr. talks about his second-place run at Las Vegas