Martin Truex Jr. entered last year’s edition of the Pennzoil 400 with a three-race streak of top-fives highlighted by a victory in 2017. He finished second in 2015. Given how strong he was in 2018 on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, it seemed natural that he would challenge for another win; he finished eighth instead.
Most drivers would be satisfied with a solid top-10, but it did not quite reach the level we’ve come to expect from Truex on the "cookie-cutter" tracks. We weren’t the only ones expecting greatness from him: Draft Kings had Truex priced at $10,100, making him one of the most expensive in the game. With their scoring system, he earned the fifth-most 62.5 points and covered the spread, but he was less valuable in straight up Pick’ Ems.
As it turned out, that was only a blip.
Truex returned to Vegas in the fall after seesawing through the late regular season. He dominated the South Point 400 in response to any concerns about his loss of momentum and set the No. 19 up as one of the top-four playoff contenders. Truex won the following week at Richmond and finished second two weeks later at Dover.
With the exception of Talladega 2, he swept the top 10 in the final 10 races. His 26th-place result in the 1000Bulbs.com 500 is germane to this week’s conversation because it failed to rob him of his momentum. The same is going to be true of his 32nd in last week’s Daytona 500.
Truex has been around long enough to expect hardship on the aero-restricted superspeedways. He’s crash prone enough on those courses to take that accident in stride and it stopped being relevant before the tire smoke even cleared from the cockpit.
The last time anyone took back-to-back races at Vegas was in 2007 when Jimmie Johnson completed the task of winning three in a row. Truex likes to make history and we will be extremely surprised if he is not challenging for the win in the closing laps.
If Truex misses, he is still likely to earn significant points. In 16 starts on this track, he has been inside the top 10 50% of the time and in the top-15 75%. In terms of top-15s, that ties him from second with Kyle Larson, behind one of our other drivers to watch this week, Joey Logano.
Truex enters this week with a current streak of nine consecutive top-15s; seven of those were top-10s. His average finish since 2013 is 5.8, which is as good an indication that he will score another top-five as fantasy players will get from anyone in the field.
Career Average Finish: 10.9 in 16 starts (ranked fourth)
2019 South Point 400: 1
2019 Pennzoil 400: 8
2018 South Point 400: 3
2018 Pennzoil 400: 4