• Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

Countdown to the Clash: Martin Truex Jr. putting 2022 behind him

ByBrenden Martin

Jan 18, 2023
Martin Truex Jr.

Photo courtesy of James Gilbert | Getty Images

The 2022 season was not kind to Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 driver Martin Truex Jr., to put it lightly. The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Champion has been a Championship 4 competitor consistently, coming into 2023 with five career appearances, most recently in 2021.

Going from four wins and being a caution away from stealing the 2021 Cup Series Championship, Truex Jr. shocked everyone when he went without a win in 2022 and missed the playoffs entirely. He finished the regular season three points behind Team Penske No. 12 driver Ryan Blaney for the final spot.

The winless season was the first of its kind for Truex Jr. in his four years with Joe Gibbs Racing and the first season without a trip to Victory Lane since 2014 when he was in his first season with Furniture Row Racing.

A part of Truex Jr.’s struggles came with the introduction of the Next Gen car first seen at the Inaugural Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum. Truex Jr. started 2022 strong by winning both stages of the Daytona 500, but could not get that coveted win at a superspeedway, which has eluded him his entire Cup career.

Truex Jr., along with several other drivers voiced concern with the new car. He spoke during Championship Weekend at Phoenix Raceway about ways the product as a whole can be improved with changes to the car.

Something Truex Jr. said about 2022 that made it more manageable was the reintroduction of qualifying, which was largely absent from the 2021 season due to COVID-19 restraints.

Truex Jr.’s starting position fell from 2021 to 2022, going from an average start of 8.36 to 15.25. He also led almost 300 laps less and finished in the top five only four times compared to 13 the season before.

He did earn his first pole with JGR at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

A defining moment in the 2022 season for Truex was when his car suffered an engine failure while leading late in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, leaving Truex noticeably disappointed by the occurrence.

The 2023 season could mark the changing of the guard in the Cup Series. Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 driver Kevin Harvick announced that 2023 will be his last full-time season earlier in the month. Truex Jr. went into last year not knowing if he wanted to continue after the season.

After much speculation, Truex Jr. announced he would return to JGR for his 18th full-time Cup season on a one-year deal.

Only time will tell if the 42-year-old Truex Jr. thinks this season could be his last too. JGR has already seen a fair amount of turnaround in the last few years. In 2021, JGR elevated Christopher Bell to the No. 20 car to replace Erik Jones, who now drives the No. 43 for Legacy Motor Club.

Truex Jr. will also have a new rookie teammate next season, reigning Xfinity Series Champion Ty Gibbs in the No. 54 car. Gibbs will take the spot of Kyle Busch, who moves to Richard Childress Racing in the No. 8 car.

Whether or not 2023 is Truex Jr.’s final season, he has put together an amazing career that currently has him 29th on the all-time Cup Series wins list.