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NASCAR Season Preview: Martin Truex Jr.

Photo credit: Jerry Edmundson (CC-BY-NC-ND)

#56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing

Born: June 29, 1980

Home: Mayetta, New Jersey

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: For the first time since 2008, Truex had multiple top fives in a season. His best track turned out to be Bristol, where he led 63 laps in March and scored a season-best second place finish in August. He also scored a pole at Dover in October, and he improved to 18th in points after two consecutive seasons of finishing outside of the top 20.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: Two crashes at Martinsville and Texas in April dropped Truex from 13th to 21st in points, which proved to be his general rank in points for the rest of the season. He also couldn’t make anything of his Dover pole, only leading two laps and finishing 30th, four laps down.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Truex will be looking forward to having one consistent crew chief for the 2012 season. Last year, Pat Tryson was replaced by Chad Johnston after Kansas in May, but after an illegal windshield led to Johnston’s suspension for the final four races of the season, both Tryson and Scott Miller took turns as replacements atop the pit box. Johnston will return this year, with the goal of keeping Truex up front during races; last year, the team led laps in 16 events, but Truex failed to finish in the top 10 in 11 of those events.

With new teammates Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer on board, Michael Waltrip Racing has taken a serious step up for 2012, and Truex should be a beneficiary. There’s no doubt that MWR is hungry for its first ever Chase appearance this season, and while Bowyer may be more likely to seal the deal than Truex, the two-time Nationwide Series champion will certainly give Waltrip and highly supportive sponsor NAPA plenty of exposure this season – if not on the track, certainly during commercial breaks.

– Chris Leone

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