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Martin Truex Jr.: 2022 NASCAR Season Preview and Prediction

Martin Truex Jr.

Truex, the driver of the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, is ranked No. 6 by Athlon Sports

That close. Again. That’s now the recurring story for two of Joe Gibbs Racing’s drivers — Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. — after narrowly falling short once more for the NASCAR Cup Series championship. Fortunately for Truex, his trophy case already holds the 2017 Cup crown.

“At the end of the day, we did the best we could, and we gave it a hell of an effort,” Truex says. “If the [championship] race is five laps longer or 20 laps shorter, I think we’re the champion. I don’t know how you hang your head on that — I don’t know how you’re disappointed in that.”

Truex scored four wins and made gains over 2020 with an improved average running position and more laps in the top 15. But series champion Kyle Larson simply outran Truex and the rest of the series, racking up 10 wins, the best driver rating, the most fastest laps, and a new Playoff-era record for total laps led in a season.

Still, one position could have changed everything.

2022 Athlon Sports Racing Magazine

Truex has landed as the championship runner-up in three of the last four Cup seasons. Each time, Truex finished second in the title-deciding race to the season champion — meaning just three total on-track positions across three races are the difference between Truex being in truly rarified air as a four-time Cup champ. Only Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon have won as many as four.

But those near-misses aren’t draining or dragging on Truex’s psyche. After all, he’s already achieved NASCAR’s mountaintop as the 2017 Cup champion. He knows only 27 drivers in NASCAR history have won more Cup races. And he’s lived through the emotional roller coaster faced by longtime partner Sherry Pollex as she’s battled ovarian cancer in recent years. There’s just not much that can shake Truex these days.

“It’s something that we’re really, really proud of — being there every year and being a contender,” Truex says. “When it comes down to the championship race, I feel like we did what it takes to bring our best and bring everything and make no mistakes this year. We were there, so I don’t know. It hurts — but we’re still proud.”

While he’s been on his run of titles and championship appearances, there’s been no shortage of peers and competitor race teams that have racked up sleepless nights, personnel changes and development costs trying to get to the level of Truex and the No. 19. Truex, 41, returns this season with crew chief James Small — now starting his third year leading the No. 19 team — knowing that the challenge ahead will be as daunting as ever.

“You look at just how tough it is to make the final four, let alone have a chance to win the championship. To be the best out of four, it’s so tough honestly to get there and to put yourself in that position,” Truex says. “You just never know. So I really have no expectations for this year. I don’t have any idea what it’s going to be like. It’s honestly so new. And there’s so many question marks.”

Truex’s question marks for 2022 start and end for now with the new Next Gen vehicle. During December’s NASCAR awards celebration in Nashville, Truex was adamant that much work was needed to make the car more drivable on intermediate ovals but insisted that his team would solve any competitive deficiencies.

“There’s going to be an opportunity to figure some things out quick and really make some hay,” Truex said then. “So hopefully we can be that guy and that team that figures it out quick.”