Five years have passed since Martin Truex Jr. recorded his first and only win so far in the Sprint Cup Series.
Truex, who hails from Mayetta, NJ, won the 2007 spring race at Dover International Speedway, which is his home track. It's been 179 races since then, but Truex is optimistic his lengthy drought will come to an end soon, maybe as soon as this weekend when the series runs at Dover.
Currently sixth in the point standings, Truex has been impressive in his third year as driver of the No. 56 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. He's had four top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the first 12 races this season.
In April, Truex put on a dominating performance at Kansas Speedway by leading 173 of 267 laps, but Denny Hamlin passed him for the lead with 31 laps remaining and then held it for the win. Truex finished second.
Truex has finished in the top-10 at Dover just two times since his win there. He has won the pole for two of the last four races at this one-mile racetrack.
"Going back there this year with the race cars that we've got, with the team I have behind me, and they've done such a great job all year long, I really do feel like that's probably the next track where we have a real shot to get back to victory lane," Truex said. "I'm always excited to go up there. We did the tire test there a few months ago and had a really fast car there too. I always look forward to it but definitely more this year with the race cars we have and the team that we've got right now."
Truex drove for Dale Earnhardt Inc./Earnhardt Ganassi Racing from 2004-09 before moving over to Michael Waltrip's team. He made his first appearance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in '07, finishing 11th in points. Right now, Truex has a good chance of becoming the first driver from MWR to make the Chase field.
"I love this team," he said. "I love the direction we're going, and hopefully, we'll just have to see how everything lines up. My heart is with the team, and that's where I want to be. I feel like we've come a long, long way. We've worked very, very hard to get to where we are."
Waltrip made a crew chief change with Truex's team at the halfway point of the 2011 season, as Chad Johnston replaced Rodney Childers. Johnston has been very instrumental in the team's turnaround.
"It's fun to come to the racetrack every weekend feeling like you have a chance to go out there and do great things," Truex said. "That obviously is because of my team and the job they've done this year. I feel like we can go anywhere and be competitive and run up front."
Truex has also benefited from Clint Bowyer and long-time veteran Mark Martin joining Waltrip's team this year. Bowyer is presently 12th in the standings, as he trails 10th-place Carl Edwards by just six points. Martin, at age 53, is running a limited schedule this season. He started on the pole at Phoenix and Richmond and finished third at Texas.
Martin is entered in Sunday's 400-mile race at Dover. He leads all active drivers with 51 starts there. Martin has four race wins and four poles at this track.
His first start at Dover came on May 16, 1982. In a 500-mile race, which took four hours and nine minutes to complete, the 23-year-old rookie driver started seventh in the 32-car field and finished fifth (four laps behind winner Bobby Allison).
A lot has changed at Dover since then, particularly the track surface and the race length. The original asphalt surface was concreted in the mid-1990s, and the race distance was trimmed from 500 miles to 400 in the mid-90s as well.
"I remember going there in 1982 and remember how much fun it was to drive," Martin recalled. "It was a better place to race on when it was asphalt, which is true for all tracks. On asphalt, you can slip and slide the car around more than you can on concrete. But Dover is so awesome that even in concrete it is good.
"Now, if I was the track owner, then everyone of my tracks would be concrete, so I wouldn't have to repave it every 10 years."
Matt Kenseth won last year's spring race at Dover. Kenseth capitalized on a two-tire pit strategy during the last round of pit stops.
Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards dominated most of the race by combining for 324 of 400 laps led. But Johnson and Edwards took four tires each on their final stops, which ended up placing them back in the field. The stops occurred during a caution with less than 40 laps remaining. Martin did not pit and led the way for the final restart with 34 laps to go.
Kenseth moved around Martin for the lead shortly after the restart and then ran in front for the final 32 laps. He crossed the finish line 2.1 seconds ahead of Martin for his second Cup win at Dover. Kenseth's first victory there came in June 2006.
"Dover is my favorite track on the Sprint Cup circuit, and it's been a place where we've had a lot of success at as well, so I just love racing there," Kenseth said. "The track is so fast and challenging, and it's unique because of the way you drive up out of the turns. The turns sit a bit lower than the straightaways. and you can feel it when you're driving out there."
Kenseth is currently second in the point standings. He trails leader and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle by 10 points.
Forty-six teams are on the preliminary entry list for the FedEx 400.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, June 3. Race: FedEx 400. Site: Dover International Speedway. Track: one-mile oval. Start time: 1 p.m.(ET). Laps: 400. Miles: 400. 2011 Winner: Matt Kenseth. Television: FOX. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Satellite.