Tony Stewart exchanges words with Martin Truex Jr . following the race at Auto Club Speedway.
Furniture Row driver striving to build on his hot start Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Martin Truex Jr .'s fast start in 2015 can be traced back to last fall. At the end of October, the driver of the No. 78 Chevrolet for Furniture Row Racing took part in a Goodyear tire test at Auto Club Speedway . He credits that experience with his team's blistering start in the Sprint Cup Series this season. The 34-year-old has rattled off four straight top-10s to open the season with the best result being a runner-up finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . The seventh-place result in the CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway gave the Furniture Row organization four straight top-10s for the first time in the team's history and placed the driver third in the point standings. Now, the series shifts to the Auto Club 400 (March 22, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX) at the 2-mile track in Fontana, California. Auto Club has not been the kindest track to Truex in his Sprint Cup career. In 14 starts, he has three top-10s with the last one coming in 2012; his average finish there is 20.1. He has only one top-10 in Fontana in the past nine Sprint Cup events there, but with the way he's been running this season, he has a good feeling heading into the finale of the three-race West Coast swing. "Definitely looking forward to California," he said. "I feel like it's a place we should be strong. We did the Goodyear tire test there last fall. … Really liked what we saw there with the new package. We ran 2015 rules and learned a lot there that has helped us throughout this season. I feel really good about it. I had a good car at Atlanta and Vegas and that's a good indication that we should be good on the 1.5-mile, 2-mile tracks. I feel like that will be a good one for us." Truex said last year's testing is an advantage for his the team, but there are other factors. "It depends on what tire they bring back I guess," Truex said. "Any time you get track time, especially a new rules package coming in effect. We got some time on the 2015 rules, which was definitely, I think, a little bit of an advantage. I think at the end of the day we were fast out there. We felt good about what we had and we have some data to work off of for this year. It really just gave us a step up on the competition I think." The roots of his confidence-building fast start date back to last fall, but there's another major reason for his progress -- the promotion of Cole Pearn from lead race engineer to crew chief last December. "He's certainly a big part of turning the team around," Truex said of Pearn. "He's a big part of why we're running well, obviously. I don't want to give him all the credit because there are a lot of other people that deserve it as well. "He has a bright future in the sport. He is a guy you are going to talk about for a long time being a good crew chief. ... I think one of the neatest things is that there were a lot of big teams after him last year and this winter. We are very proud that he stayed with us. I'm proud that he stayed with us because he knew what we were capable of." The team struggled in Truex's first season with the organization. He came over last year from Michael Waltrip Racing , which went from three full-time teams to two due to the fallout from MWR's involvement in the Richmond race manipulation scandal that took Truex out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff in 2013. With Todd Barrier atop the pit box last season, Truex recorded only five top-10s all season. His first top 10 of 2014 didn't come until the 13th race of the season — in June — at Dover International Speedway . With 30-plus races to go, Truex is just one top 10 away from matching last year's total. The synergy with his new chief couldn't be going much better. Pearn's transition to crew chief was part of Furniture Row's offseason plan to get the one-car organization back in the Chase. "I would say the biggest thing to start with was personnel," said Joe Garone, General Manager of Furniture Row Racing . "Advancing Cole Pearn to crew chief, which really had been planned for awhile. The last I think eight races of the season, he was a lot more heavily involved. It was just kind of a perfect fit for him. We boosted up our engineering staff around him. "We were able to go into the offseason with a good plan, and focus on our downfalls that we learned through the season and just listen to the driver. He told us the cars weren't working and went to work on them and got them better." The plan is looking good, but Truex said execution has been the key. "All the guys on the team, Joe, Barney (Visser, team owner), Cole, having a good plan and executing throughout the offseason," Truex said, referring to the setup for success. "Cars have been running good. The team has been making good decisions. The team hasn't been making mistakes. Reliability's been there, so everything we needed to work on and wanted to get better at has been there. Now it's just a matter of how much better can we get." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
No. 78 Furniture Row driver starts the year off with two top-10 finishes Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live LAS VEGAS -- Martin Truex Jr . was all smiles after climbing out of his car on Las Vegas Motor Speedway pit road, his runner-up finish in the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet his best in two seasons with the team. And as happy as he was, you got the feeling Truex wasn't satisfied. He still wanted more. "I've finished second a lot in my career," Truex said, with a grin. "But this feels good and it's better than third … or 30th." And the very fact Truex is shooting higher than a runner-up effort shows how far this single-car team has come in a year. Truex' debut with the Furniture Row Racing Team included winning the outside pole for the 2014 Daytona 500 but he finished last in the race and it proved a harbinger of things to come. He scored five top-10s but had 11 finishes of 25th or worse and led only one lap on the season after contending for a Chase bid a year earlier with Michael Waltrip Racing . This year he started 10th and finished eighth in the Daytona 500 and answered that last week at Atlanta with a sixth-place finish. His runner-up at Las Vegas equals a runner-up finish in the non-points paying Sprint Unlimited race at Daytona in February and he also finished fifth in his Daytona 500 qualifying race. And Truex is fourth in the Sprint Cup Series championship standings, only five points behind Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano entering next week's race in Phoenix. Truex could only shake his head when asked to describe the difference between the start of 2015 and the disappointment of 2014. "You can't describe it," he said. "When things aren't going good, you have to just keep on going and going, and working and working harder. "It's no different than what Sherry was going through. You find out what people are made of when they're down," Truex said, referring to his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who has undergone treatment for ovarian cancer in the past year. "After seeing all that and being a part of that, its was like, a bad year in the race car, that's nothing. Caring for Pollex through her difficult treatment and watching her will to persevere and strength to overcome has affected Truex greatly and inspired him mightily. It has given him a new perspective and re-defined what it means to "never give up." "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," Truex said. "Suddenly those bad days at the race track 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. "But we're going to continue to work hard and try to get to that next level. 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." Truex was quick to credit some major offseason changes for the early season results. He has a new crew chief, Cole Pearn, and says the team's technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing is maturing and paying off, as is simply having a year under his belt with the FRR team. Third-place finisher Ryan Newman , a RCR driver and sixth-place finisher, JTG Daugherty Racing driver A.J. Allmendinger are part of that RCR alliance. "Just getting more experience together, getting more confidence in each other and really just having a better game plan going into the season is a big part of the reason why the cars are running better and all the teams seem to be running closer together," Truex said. Asked if the rules changes to the cars may have played a role in his reversal of fortune and lent itself more to his driving style, Truex said it was simpler than that. "I attribute it to knowing what we were doing wrong last year and fixing it over the winter time and coming out of the box kind of understanding what we're doing. "The biggest thing I was proud of today or took way from it was we were off a little bit at the beginning of the race and worked on it all day long, continued to get better and at the end of the day we were the best we've been all day." He continued, "That's what you like to see out of your team; you like to finish strong. "Got a lot of momentum on our side right now and hopefully we can keep building on that, build some more momentum and hopefully we are able to catch that 4-car (Sunday's race winner and points leader Kevin Harvick ) in a couple weeks." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Furniture Row Racing driver looks to have put 2014 woes behind him Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live HAMPTON, Ga. -- Last season was the worst of Martin Truex Jr .'s career. Go ahead and ask him; he'll own it. 2015 is shaping up to be his best. After showing speed in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet throughout Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway (second in the Sprint Unlimited, fifth in his Budweiser Duel, eighth in the Daytona 500), Truex Jr . backed up his hot start by finishing sixth in Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. When did his second top-10 finish of the season come last year? At Dover, in June. He only managed three more on top of that the rest of the season. Now he's got two in two races. "Yeah it was good, another good weekend. That is two-for-two on good weekends," Truex Jr . said on pit road following the race. "I just really wanted a top-five there. I just wasn't really quite as good as those guys on the short run. And in dirty air I needed a little bit longer runs and to be able to kind of pick and choose my lanes where I needed to be. "All in all, what can I say? All the guys at Furniture Row are doing a great job. This beats where we were last year by about 35 spots at this time of the year. Excited about what everybody is doing and really pumped up to get the rest of the year going." To say that Truex needed to come out in 2015 and get off to a hot start is an understatement. But it wasn't close to being something to count on. In his first year with the organization in 2014 after his departure from Michael Waltrip Racing, the team never quite put things together and the New Jersey-native finished a career-worst 24th in the final standings. A crew chief change from Todd Berrier to Cole Pearn is certainly a piece of how Truex has come out strong, but it also may have something to do with the new technical package NASCAR rolled out for the 2015 season. "We ran it once last year at California, testing, and I just like the feel of it a lot better," Truex said of the package, which lowered the rear spoiler two inches. "In the past, I've always had my most success with the least amount of downforce we've ever had, so it kind of plays into my hands a little and I think the feel of the car a lot better." It's clearly working, as Truex sits in fifth place after the season's first two races, the highest the one-car Colorado-based Furniture Row has ever been in the Sprint Cup Series standings in its 10-year history. The series now heads to another 1.5-mile track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where we'll get to see if Truex and the 78 team are able to continue the fast speeds they've been showing. With another five points-paying races at intermediate tracks left before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup cutoff, strength at the 1.5-milers could pay dividends for Truex to make his return to the sport's playoffs for the first time since 2012. Atlanta was a good start. "We had a good plan going into the offseason of knowing what we had to do to turn the program around," said Truex . "Hats off to Cole Pearn and (owner) Joe Garone and everybody that has been pushing all the buttons and making the right decision over the winter. "It is fun to drive race cars that are fast and to be running good again." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Martin Truex Jr . talks about his solid run at Atlanta Motor Speedway and starting 2015 with back-to-back top ten finishes.
Furniture Row Racing driver led 28 laps on Saturday in runner-up finish Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- For a driver that was out front for one lap all of last season, leading a race-high 28 laps in the span of one night marked a refreshing change for Martin Truex Jr . Though the strong performance came in the non-points Sprint Unlimited, Truex was able to take some encouraging vibes from Saturday night's second-place finish at Daytona International Speedway. At the same time, the heartening result carried a bittersweet feel, coming home just car-lengths behind race winner Matt Kenseth at the checkered flag. "Well, it feels good and bad," Truex said. "To lead all those laps and come home second, it stings a little bit, but honestly after the year and a half I've had -- on and off the race track -- that was a lot of fun. This team really needed that; I really needed that. This is the most fun I've had in a race car in a long, long time." Truex kicked off his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with Furniture Row Racing on an up note, bearing a sharp contrast to the No. 78 Chevrolet team's mighty struggles in 2014. In addition to his laps led tally being singular -- Truex led Lap 163 at Talladega Superspeedway last October -- instead of plural, he also netted just one top-five finish, a fourth place at Kansas Speedway in the fall. The off-track hardships Truex referenced were shouldered by his longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last August. Pollex was in Daytona for Saturday night's exhibition, and Truex gave her and the fans braving the chilly temperatures a show. Truex lined up 10th after a random draw for starting position, but took the point for the first time by Lap 11. His car was one of the few in the 25-car field able to carve through traffic and change lanes with relative aplomb -- experience, he said, that should carry over as the rest of Speedweeks head toward its pinnacle, the Feb. 22 Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX). Truex's primary Daytona 500 car encountered a small setback during Saturday's early practices when the No. 78 crew discovered a crack in the oil pan. The team did not have to change engines, keeping the driver's confidence up. "I learned a lot tonight that's going to help us throughout the week, mostly next Sunday for the race," said Truex , who started second in the 500 last season. "Obviously we learned a lot about our race car. We learned that it is fast. It's got speed. But honestly it's been a long time really, a couple years, since I had a car that I could make moves like that with, you know, make moves to take the lead, hold guys off for the lead, be able to run at the front all night long. So I learned a lot." But the learning experience wasn't limited to Truex's feel behind the wheel. The exhibition also gave the driver a test run in communicating with new crew chief Cole Pearn, making his debut atop the pit box. "That's kind of what we wanted to do," Pearn said, "going back to being able to run this race, is just trying to figure out what you have to do as far as what position you need to be in to get a good result and how the car's going to handle. … I think from that, it was a good test and honestly, pretty pleased with the results, so I think we can use this information to roll forward the rest of the week." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Furniture Row Racing looks to benefit from West Coast trifecta Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live This year's shift within the early part of NASCAR calendar, including the advent of a three-race West Coast swing, will save some teams the extra effort of crisscrossing the nation. For one organization in particular, the benefit is even greater. Furniture Row Racing, the only full-time Sprint Cup Series team based west of the Mississippi River, aims to take every advantage from the schedule change that it can. The Denver, Colorado operation -- located more than 1,500 miles from the industry's Charlotte, North Carolina hub -- enters its 10th year in NASCAR and its second season with driver Martin Truex Jr ., bent on improving its 24th-place rank in the final 2014 standings. With a 36-race slate spread around the United States, travel is a necessary price to pay. Now, however, the schedule follows a more logical progression, scrapping the former Daytona-Phoenix-Las Vegas-Bristol-California turn for a cleaner Daytona-Atlanta-Las Vegas-Phoenix-California quintet that runs three events in Western states on consecutive weekends. "It's definitely a good change, I think, having all three West Coast races back to back," Truex said. "That Phoenix, California, Bristol … whatever it was, it was a nightmare for everyone traveling. Logistics, haulers back and forth across the country, switching out cars -- it was definitely a good change, I think. For us to be out there for a week, have some fun, do some things and cut down on travel costs, it's a good thing for everyone." Furniture Row general manager Joe Garone, a former director of NASCAR's Research & Development Center, said the team will continue to rely on the symbiotic relationship with the company that car owner Barney Visser founded in the Rockies in 1972. Garone said a furniture truck travels each week to North Carolina for deliveries, but that its other purpose is to exchange racing parts to bring back to Colorado. Garone said the schedule alteration should help the team early on, but that the calendar always seems to balance itself out. "Obviously, any time we're racing out West, it's a better situation," Garone said. "It's harder on the East Coast guys and easier for us, but we get payback when we go back East." For Truex , the truer test of the opening five- or six-race sequence has less to do with logistics and more to do with performance, especially for a single-car team that went from qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs in 2013 to leading just one lap all of last season. Once Furniture Row makes the turn from winter to spring, Truex says the No. 78 Chevrolet team will have an indication of how well he has meshed with new crew chief Cole Pearn and whether the organization is ahead of the game concerning the new 2015 rules package. Truex hopes the results from that litmus test turn out to be bellwethers worth waiting for. "The first five races or so -- you have Daytona, a speedway track, a couple downforce races and a short track -- you pretty much know where you stand five or six races in," Truex said. "Everybody will have a good idea of where they're at and what they need to be working on. It's always a fun part of the year when guys are developing new things, and you're always optimistic that your team is one of the ones that's going to get on the new stuff quick before everybody else and have an advantage for a while. "Looking forward to it. I think that we've got a great group of guys put together, and again, with what we've built on last year and the new rules really fitting into our wheelhouse a little bit better, I think there's a great opportunity for some success for us early in the season, and I hope we can take advantage of that." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Longtime girlfriend diagnosed with ovarian cancer RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Martin Truex Jr . will not be on hand for practice and qualifying Friday at Michigan International Speedway due to medical issues of longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex, according to Furniture Row Racing officials. Pollex was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. According to her Twitter account, she has a "big surgery" on Friday. "Sherry and Martin would like to thank the NASCAR community for all the well wishes," the team said in announcing Truex's planned absence. "They have requested that everyone respect the family's privacy as Sherry begins her treatment and recovery." Reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton (ThorSport Racing) will practice and qualify the team's No. 78 Chevrolet. Truex Jr . is expected to arrive in Michigan, site of this weekend's Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, on Saturday to begin preparations for Sunday's event. The Truck Series is scheduled to compete at MIS on Saturday. "Everyone at Furniture Row Racing extends their thoughts and prayers to Sherry during her treatment and recovery period," FRR general manager Joe Garone said. "She is a devoted supporter of our race team and we can't wait for her to return to the track." According to information on the Martin Truex Jr . Foundation website, "Sherry’s passion is helping children and specifically those fighting pediatric cancer. … She is the creator of the Foundations' annual Catwalk for a Cause, which seeks to raise funds for children with special needs." Truex Jr ., twice a champion in NASCAR's Nationwide Series, is in his ninth full season of Sprint Cup competition. His younger brother, Ryan, moved up to Sprint Cup this year and competes for BK Racing. Pollex responded to well wishes on Twitter with the following tweet: Thank you so much for all the prayers!!! I'm going to need them. But I'm a fighter. I can beat this!! Cancer picked the wrong chick — Sherry Pollex (@SherryPollex) August 13, 2014 MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Martin Truex Jr . talks about his impressive showing in the Sprint Unlimited, and what it means to him to start the year off strong.
After rain delays most of of on-track time, RCR driver leads wet session Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Practice 1 " Results Following a lengthy delay for rain, Ryan Newman led Friday's lone Sprint Cup Series practice at Martinsville Speedway . Practice was originally slated to begin at noon ET, but cars didn't get on the 0.526-mile track until 2:04 p.m. ET. When they did, Newman ran a session-best speed of 97.835 mph for a best time of 19.355 seconds. He was followed by four Chevrolets in AJ Allmendinger (97.679 mph), Jeff Gordon (97.664 mph), Jimmie Johnson (97.618 mph) and Martin Truex Jr . (97.558 mph) to round out the top five. Defending race-winner Kurt Busch was 14th, with a speed of 97.083 mph. There was a caution late in the session when the No. 3 of Austin Dillon endured engine issues and caused heavy smoke, effectively ending the practice session. Coors Light Pole qualifying was pushed back from 4:45 p.m. ET to 6:10 p.m. ET. Per a NASCAR bulletin sent to teams earlier this week, the opening round of qualifying will be 20 minutes instead of 15 minutes, as it had been for the past four events. Should qualifying be canceled because of weather, Newman would start Sunday's race from the pole position. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule