Martin Truex Jr.'s Success in 2015 Makes Him Underdog to Win at Talladega

Jerry Bonkowski@@jerrybonkowskiFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2015

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 14:  Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 14, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

I’ve got that feeling again.

Last week, I picked Kurt Busch to win the Toyota Owners 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway.

Busch not only dominated, he drove away with the victory, much to my great pleasure for having picked him.

(Too bad I no longer compete in fantasy racing, or I would have cleaned up.)

And now as we start to turn our attention to this Sunday’s Geico 500 at the always unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway, I’m starting to get that same kind of Busch-like feeling.

Only this time, I’m not picking the older Busch brother to make it two race wins in a row.

Rather, I’m going with a pick that is equally as surprising as Busch was last week.

Watch for the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet driven by Martin Truex Jr. to reach Victory Lane on Sunday afternoon.

First, here’s some of the reasons against Truex to win Sunday:

* He has just two wins in his Cup career (Dover in summer 2007 and Sonoma in 2013).

* Talladega is arguably one of Truex’s worst tracks on the Cup series, with no wins, just one top-five finish and a total of six top-10 finishes in 20 career starts there.

* He had eight DNF’s in his first 10 career Cup starts at Talladega. By comparison, he’s finished on the lead lap nine of the last 10 races there.

* He’s finished 17th and 27th there with Furniture Row, both times last season.

* But perhaps most glaring, Truex’s career-average finish at one of only two restrictor-plate tracks on the circuit is a marginal 21.2.

But let’s go back to that stat about finishing nine of the last 10 races on the lead lap. That really sticks out like a sore thumb.

That means Truex has avoided multiple editions of Talladega’s infamous “Big One” wreck nine of the last 10 races there.

I challenge you to find another driver who has been able to do that—or was 10-of-10.

What’s more, let’s take a drive down memory lane at ‘Dega.

Sure, we’re talking the Xfinity Series here, but when Truex was with Dale Earnhardt Inc., earlier in his career, he had four starts—three of which were wins.

So, Truex DOES know how to win at ‘Dega—and has done so multiple times, just not in the Cup circuit.

Just like my gut feeling about Busch winning at Richmond, I have the same feeling that Truex will grab the checkered flag at Talladega.

So let’s balance all his negative reasons not to win there with positive reasons why he very well may do so:

* With top-10 finishes in eight of the first nine races of 2015, as well as remaining in third position behind series leader Kevin Harvick and second-ranked Joey Logano, Truex continues to have the best start he’s ever had to a season in his Sprint Cup career.

* Truex has developed an uncanny kind of consistency in 2015 that he has never had in the past.

* The technical alliance FRR has with Richard Childress Racing and ECR Engines has already paid incredible dividends—and we’re still just one-fourth of the way through the 2015 season.

* Truex has shown new confidence in not being afraid to mix it up with some of the harder drivers to compete against, including Harvick, Logano, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and more.

* Truex has gone through so much adversity over the last few seasons that he's due for some good fortune. In 2013, he failed to make the Chase due to the infamous “Spingate” at Richmond in the final pre-Chase race there. Then last season and into this season, he’s had to deal with longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex’s courageous battle with ovarian cancer, a battle that she appears to be winning.

His start to 2015 has been exceptional, but it would ratchet things up significantly if he could finally reach Victory Lane for the first time in nearly three years.

And after all the adversity he and Sherry have gone through together—both with his racing and her disease—I can’t think of a better candidate to turn that adversity around than MTJ.

He's paid his dues. Now it's time to get some return on his investment and continue the success he's had this season.

Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

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