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Martin Truex Jr. on why 2 teams are dominating in 2019

 

Six races into the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season, the sport is experiencing a different version of the dominance it’s seen in the last couple seasons.

Just four drivers and two race teams, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske, have found their way to Victory Lane this so far, which hasn’t happened since Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Racing took the first six checkered flags two decades ago. It’s still early in the 36-race, February-to-November, but the trend is notable and a bit surprising.

On his way to 200 wins across all three national NASCAR series, Kyle Busch has two Cup Series wins for Joe Gibbs this season, while teammate Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500. And winning Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, Penske’s Brad Keselowski grabbed his second victory of the year, and teammate Joey Logano rounds out the winning bunch ahead of race No. 7 this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Although Logano is the Cup Series’ defending champion, 2018 was controlled by three drivers — Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. — who combined for 20 of 36 wins and earning the “Big Three” nickname.

But this year’s brand of dominance is different, catching people a little off guard, especially because Harvick and Truex have been shut out after both having wins at this point last season. And Truex — who won eight races in 2017 on his way to the championship — explained to For The Win what he thinks is going on.

“I’m not really surprised,” said Truex, who is the newest member of Joe Gibbs Racing after his title-winning team, Furniture Row Racing, closed up shop at the end of last season.

“I think any time you have a big rules change, you’re going to have people that hit it closer to optimum than others, and some guys just take longer to catch up.”

Kyle Busch after winning at Auto Club Speedway in California. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

This season, NASCAR is using an aero package designed to create tighter racing and manufactured competition, along with a tapered spacer to reduce horsepower.

Though he’s still looking for his first win with his new team, Truex isn’t worried about his No. 19 Toyota team falling behind as people are still adjusting to the new package during races and in qualifying. Plus, clearly a few people at Joe Gibbs Racing have figured things out, so perhaps its other two cars (Truex plus Erik Jones in the No. 20 Toyota) are nearly there.

But Truex pointed to the logistics of the schedule to help explain why other teams could still playing catch-up.

After the season-opening Daytona 500, NASCAR went to Atlanta Motor Speedway and then took off for the three-race West Coast swing. On the other side of the country, the 38-year-old driver said it’s not ideal when teams need to make large-scale changes.

“Once you go out West, you’ve kind of got what you’ve got for a couple weeks,” Truex said. “We start talking about (it with) guys, saying, ‘Well, we know what we need to do, we just need some time.’

“With such a drastic change on the rules from last year, two teams hit it out of the trailer there. Not a huge surprise.”

NASCAR returned to the East Coast last weekend at Martinsville and is at Texas Motor Speedway for a three-race weekend, capped off by the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, FOX).


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