Monster Energy champion Martin Truex Jr. still feels like the hunter

NASCAR Texas Auto Racing
Martin Truex Jr., a New Jersey native, is the reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.

DOVER, Del. – Martin Truex, Jr. said that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series changes too quickly to worry about the transition from going from the hunter to the hunted.

The native of Mayetta, N.J., is pleased to be the reigning Cup Series champion, but, in his mind, the 2017 season has nothing to do with 2018.

“I don’t think it’s a whole lot different,” Truex said of coming into the season with the target on his back. “I’d say our sport changes more week to week than it does year to year.

“We’ve had four tough races in a row, and right now we’re ninth in points. You’re only as good as your last race, they say. So right now, I wouldn’t say we’re the hunted. We’re a hunter just trying to get back on track.”

Camera icon Ross Hailey / Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Martin Truex Jr.’s car smokes after hitting the wall during O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in April.

Truex, who began his career racing go-karts at New Egypt (N.J.) Speedway, started the season with five top-five finishes, including a win at the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, Calif., but his best finish in the last four races has been 14th. He’s wrecked in three of those four races.

He comes into the AAA Drive for Autism on Sunday at Dover International Speedway having finished 26th at Talladega last week.

“It’s one of my home tracks,” Truex said. “I always look forward to coming to [Dover]. I’ve got a lot of really, really, good memories of this racetrack, a lot of success, a lot of special times.

“I love the racetrack and look forward to having a really good weekend here.”

Truex got his first victory on the top level of NASCAR at the 2007 Autism Speaks 400 at Dover and won the Dover 400 in October 2016.

“The first time I came here [2001 MBNA.com 200 in the Xfinity Series], I fell in love with the track,” said Truex, who has 16 career series wins and 165 top-10 finishes. “I think anytime you like a place, you tend to understand it better and figure it out a little bit quicker.

“I guess coming up through the ranks figuring out the feel that I needed at this racetrack and what I needed to be successful is something I’ve carried through.

“I feel like the numbers don’t truly show the success we’ve had here. I’ve had so many good races that ended in heartbreak here, but we did win a few along the way, too.

“Stats-wise it’s maybe not my best track but performance-wise it’s definitely up there with one of our best.”

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next race: AAA 400 Drive for Autism

The place: Dover International Speedway

The date: Sunday, May 6

The time: 2 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports 1; coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400 miles (400 laps). Stage 1 ends on Lap 120; Stage 2 ends on Lap 240; final stage ends on Lap 500