Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud at New Hampshire: Why is Martin Truex Jr Still Thinking About Leaving?

What Happened?

Martin Truex Jr. spanked the entire field to dominate and win his first career New Hampshire Motor Speedway NASCAR Cup Series race on Monday, July 17. The track’s local hero held off fellow Northeasterner Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski who all completed the top five in order.

This is the second victory Truex has earned on a Monday in 2023 and the fourth of his career.

See also
Martin Truex Jr. Wins 3rd Cup Race of Season With New Hampshire Victory

But What Really Happened?

Proof that Truex shouldn’t retire. At least not yet.

Although it doesn’t sound like he agrees with that.

As much as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver would enjoy retirement on his new boat and fish to his heart’s content, there is simply one fact that the 43-year-old just proved to everyone on Monday.

He can still kick butt.

In even some of the most legendary driver’s swansong seasons, we’ve seen many of them put up mediocre numbers at best. Even names like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and shockingly Richard Petty could only put up one win at most in their final full-time years.

As a matter of fact, the last NASCAR Cup champion to earn more than one race victory in their final full-time year before retiring was Cale Yarborough all the way back in 1980 when he won six.

Why would Truex break the streak now?

As a driver that has already earned three wins in 2023, currently leads the regular season championship and is a favorite for the overall title, it just feels odd that we are all talking about how it could be his final year.

It had made sense one year ago when Truex wasn’t able to earn a win in the entire 2022 season – his first winless season in eight years. However, with the 2017 Cup champion experiencing a second wind in his career, it feels like there’s still at least one more competitive year in him to add to his already impressive racing legacy.

So why not do it?

Who Stood Out?

There’s no other to compare. Truex was simply in a league of his own on Monday.

The New Jersey racecar driver not only earned a win in what was a dominating performance, but it was also the most dominating performance at New Hampshire since 2000.

In fact, if you go even deeper than that, it was the second-most dominating performance by a Cup winner at The Magic Mile ever. Only Jeff Burton, who led every lap in the aforementioned race in 2000, has beaten that.

Think about that for a second. There have been 52 Cup Series races at NHMS since its inaugural event in 1993, and Monday just so happened to have the most dominant performance by a single driver in the last 40 of them.

Keep in mind, this also occurred in arguably the most competitive car the Cup Series has used in some time.

There are other factors to appreciate of course. A big one is the current short track racing package, which has produced some lackluster racing on the popular track type since the Next Gen era began.

Then again, hasn’t passing always been difficult at New Hampshire? Not to mention, while Truex had the obvious fastest car on Monday, he had plenty of opportunities to have a win get stolen from him at the end of the 301-lap event.

There were three big ones all in the final 30 laps. Each of them came in the form of an untimely caution, forcing the field to reset and have any driver in the top five be only one good restart away from sneaking past the No. 19 and stealing a win, but that never happened.

Instead, after all three late-race restarts, Truex simply pulled ahead with little to no difficulty at all.

The same can’t be said for his pole-sitting teammate.

Who Fell Flat?

Before Monday, Christopher Bell had finished inside of the top two in every single NASCAR race he’s competed in at New Hampshire except for one.

Until Monday.

After winning the pole, the reigning lobster winner was an obvious favorite to earn a second consecutive crustacean at The Magic Mile. Even after a loose wheel sent the No. 20 to pit road for an unscheduled stop and to the back of the pack, Bell still looked like he was strong enough to fight his way back into the lead.

On the final pit stop of the day, Bell relinquished some track position to gain four new tires while everyone else ahead of him only took two or none at all.

In the closing laps of the race, the JGR driver had the best tires out of anyone in the top 10. With 20 laps to go, Bell fought for any position he could with his new racing rubbers.

But he fought too hard.

In a day that should’ve been one of Bell’s best chances at winning another Cup race, it ended with him in 29th.

See also
Christopher Bell's Winning Chances Go Awry With Pit Road Mistakes, Late Crash

But at least he’s already guaranteed in the playoffs, unlike Aric Almirola.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is in a similar situation as race winner Truex in 2023. There is uncertainty surrounding him regarding if he’ll return to Cup Series competition in 2024.

However, that’s where the similarities end. In 2023, Almirola has endured an abysmal racing season. With only one top-10 finish to his name after 20 races, the No. 10 needed good results – maybe a win – to keep his playoff hopes alive.

On Monday, he had a real chance.

At first, the Floridian hovered in the top five and was showing to be a contender at the same racetrack where he earned his most recent Cup Series win. He finished fourth in stage one and was still in the top five for most of stage two. At one point, Almirola was actually leading during a restart with 17 laps to go in the second segment.

Then his wheel nut came loose.

What could have been easy stage points, an easy top 10 or possibly even a win ended with the No. 10 on the hauler before the race had even entered the final 100 laps?

Better Than Last Time?

Last year didn’t have one of the most dominating performances in NHMS history, so if you’re expecting growth in competition, you’d be disappointed.

But in actuality, 2023 had two more leaders than the previous year with nine. In 2022, there were only seven. Additionally, there were eight lead changes last year which was less when compared to Monday’s 13.

Despite the increase, which is more likely because of green flag pit stops rather than actual competition, there was more uncertainty as to who would win in 2022. Truex simply stunk up the show on Monday, and that’s fine. That’s his job.

So, what does that mean for New Hampshire as a whole?

Well, Monday’s race still had plenty of fun three and sometimes four-wide battles after restarts to watch in the middle of the pack. Some of them even ended with a car in the wall.

After a few laps, however, even that fizzled out, and what was left was a single-file race sprinkled with some frustrating battles for positions that would often take two or three laps to resolve. In what is one of the shortest races on the calendar, that shouldn’t take so long.

But hey, at least there was some passing going on in the first place. In fact, there was quite a bit of it. There were 980 quality passes recorded during the entire race according to NASCAR statistics, and when compared to last year’s 752, that’s quite an increase – a near 23% increase to be exact.

It really boils down to the current short track package, which thankfully NASCAR is running a new test on at Richmond Raceway to help fix some of the issues with it. With any luck, the new splitter being tested will resolve the passing difficulty that has come at the sport’s most beloved racing facilities.

Paint Scheme of the Race

It was another one of those weekends.

Every once in a while, there’s a race where there aren’t any super-noteworthy Cup paint schemes. On Monday, however, there was one that had an interesting sponsor behind it.

And it came with one hell of a reveal.

On its own, buildsubmarines.com is an interesting sponsor to put on a racecar in the first place. It’s no secret that Keselowski has a big involvement with the US veteran community, but to see a sponsor that is looking for employees to actively create military submarines come on board – pun intended – to sponsor a NASCAR car is pretty interesting.

It also makes a good-looking racing livery.

RFK Racing rarely makes a bad-looking car nowadays, and it’s no wonder why its two drivers’ racecars have been featured on Thinkin’ Out Loud multiple times in the last year and a half.

Its black and seafoam green color clashes really well with a white roof and door panels, and of course, RFK’s usage of reflective numbers is utilized so well here.

Plus, while it is an appealing car, it also allows the RFK social media admin to make some quality social content.

What’s Next?

The sport heads to The Tricky Triangle.

The Cup Series returns to Pocono Raceway for its annual trip to the triangle-shaped circuit. Qualifying for the HighPoint.com 400 will be live on Saturday, July 22 at 3:20 p.m. ET with the race being televised live on Sunday, July 23 at 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.

About the author

Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021. Currently, he is the lead writer for the weekly Thinkin' Out Loud column and one of our lead reporters. Beforehand, he wrote for IMSA shortly after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.

Follow Dalton on Twitter @PitLaneLT

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

4 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dawg

Based on a recent interview with Martin on this subject. While he was somewhat reticent about the subject, it sounded like the decision wasn’t entirely his.
With Johnny as his longtime, & stable sponsor that shouldn’t enter into it.
And now that Gibbs has Baby Face where he wants him, no pressure should be coming from that source.
I don’t know much about his family situation, but if I read him right. That could well be what’s sparking his thinking on retirement.

There are a few drivers I wouldn’t mind seeing out of the sport.

But Martin isn’t one of them. When the subject of respect comes up, I always think of him, he’s one of the most respectful drivers in the sport. He might get out of shape at times, but you won’t see him intentionally rough someone up to make a pass. he might take a few laps to do it, but he’ll always make a clean pass.

Retirement eventually comes to everyone, & when it’s his time, he’ll be missed.

Bill B

I cringe every time I hear Dover, New Hampshire and Phoenix referred to as “short tracks”.

I thought Truex’s explanation for still considering retirement made a lot of sense. If you aren’t happy doing the entire job (on and off track) properly, then it’s time to move on. It’s a life altering commitment and it means you have to put your job above everything else in your life. Once you’ve made your mark (he will be in the HOF, as will all other champions) and collected enough money, the only reasons to stay around are some combination of greed, ego and/or it’s still fun. For most it’s that last reason that weighs most heavily.

As for the race, it was typical New Hampshire. Track position was most important. Passing was difficult. Top 5 were all experienced, older drivers. Usually I consider this race to be one of the most boring of the year and my expectations are lowered. I can say the race exceeded my expectations but the bar is set pretty low.

Mr Yeppers

Bobby Allison won a race in his last year at 51 years old. Obviously, he was forced to retire.

Last edited 9 months ago by Mr Yeppers
DoninAjax

Don’t forget Harry Gant who didn’t get a good ride until he was almost 50. That’s not how it works now.

Share via