What a difference a year makes for Truex

A year ago, Martin Truex Jr. left Daytona International Speedway three points short of claiming the final spot in the NASCAR Cup Series postseason.

On Saturday night, Truex pocketed 15 additional playoff points after claiming the regular-season championship. Truex and the No. 19 team will start the postseason seeded second behind William Byron, but with the same amount of playoff points (36).

“It feels great,” Truex said. “Obviously, at the beginning of the year, you set out to be the best. For the regular season championship, it’s a huge deal; the 15 points that come along with it are very, very important for the playoffs.


“Just really proud of my team. Thankful to turn it around from last year, missing the playoffs, to being here tonight is a big deal for all of us. Thankful to all our partners and everybody that makes this happen. Hopefully, we can keep this going throughout the playoffs.”

Truex missed the postseason and went winless last year, finishing 17th in the overall championship standings. It was the first time since 2014 that Truex had finished worse than 11th in the standings. And the postseason shutout came after Truex had made four appearances in the championship race in five years.

A return to the postseason comes as the highest-seeded Joe Gibbs Racing driver. Truex has three race wins and six stage wins, which is also the most of any Gibbs driver.

Truex finished 24th in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 and won the first stage. He clinched the regular-season championship over Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin at the end of the second stage.

“I think the 19 team … everybody at JGR, TRD, Toyota, just as a whole, as a group, we’ve won a lot more races this year, had a lot more speed across the board with all of our cars,” Truex said. “For me, just my guys, really buckling down, finding things that I need, finding things that stuck out that we could work on for me, has been a huge help.

“It’s fun to go to the track and know they’re going to give me something I can go out and win with almost every single weekend. We didn’t have that last year. It’s a lot of fun to race that way. We’ve got it right now. Hopefully, we can have it for 10 more weeks and go out on top here.”

Story originally appeared on Racer