Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Martin Truex Jr . and Kevin Harvick each talk about what went right and wrong at Kansas Speedway as the trio all finished inside the top 10.
Martin Truex Jr . spoke with members of the media after leading 95 Laps and finishing in ninth position in the SpongeBob SquarePants 400.
Richard Petty Motorsports announces crew chief change effective for Kansas Sam Hornish Jr . will have a new crew chief on the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford with Kevin "Bono" Manion coming aboard to be the team's new pit boss. The move takes effect immediately ahead of Saturday's SpongeBob SquarePants 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) at Kansas Speedway . Manion comes to Richard Petty Motorsports after serving as Alex Bowman 's crew chief for the No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing team for nine races this season. In his career, Manion has been atop the pit box for 328 Sprint Cup races with five victories including wins in the 2010 Daytona 500 and at Indianapolis, Charlotte and Talladega with Jamie McMurray behind the wheel. Manion also guided Martin Truex Jr . to his first career premier series win at Dover in June of 2007. Manion also has 15 wins as a crew chief in what is now known as the NASCAR XFINITY Series. With Manion departing the No. 7 team, TBR team owner Tommy Baldwin will take over as crew chief for Bowman, starting immediately according to a press release from the team. "I'm very happy for Bono; we've been friends a long time," Baldwin said Tuesday. "I wish him nothing but the best. Climbing atop the pit box is somewhat of a familiar role for me, and I look forward to working with Alex." Drew Blickensderfer, who has been with Richard Petty Motorsports since the end of the 2012 season, was the crew chief for the first 10 races this season with Hornish. Blickensderfer has three wins atop the pit box including the opening two races of the 2009 season (including the 2009 Daytona 500 with Matt Kenseth ) but his last victory as a crew chief came in 2011 with David Ragan at the July Daytona race. Blickensderfer has been offered another position in the organization, according to a release provided by RPM. "We began the season with changes to the No. 9 race team, most notably with the addition of Sam as our driver," Sammy Johns, the Petty team's director of competition said in a release. "We are now looking to give Sam all the tools he needed to be successful. We feel that Kevin will bring some new ideas to help better our performance. We welcome him to the Petty family." Hornish is coming off a sixth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend, his first top-10 with Richard Petty Motorsports . The 35-year-old is currently 28th in the point standings. 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
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
Furniture Row Racing driver goes through the fire with girlfriend Sherry Pollex
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 solid run at Atlanta Motor Speedway and starting 2015 with back-to-back top ten finishes.
Tony Stewart exchanges words with Martin Truex Jr . following the race at Auto Club Speedway.