Martin Truex Jr. was the consummate all-or-nothing driver in 2018. In the first 33 weeks of the season, he either finished in the top five or outside the top 10. The good news was that 19 of those 33 races were top-fives. Truex won only four races through July – fewer than Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch –but he ran so well that he was considered one of the Big 3.
Truex’s was best in late spring and during the summer. From the May 6 running of the Dover International Speedway race through August 5 at Watkins Glen International, he finished outside the top five only twice. Three of his victories came in that span of races and his worst effort was an 18th.
One issue with running so well is there is no place to go but down. When Truex failed to score a top-five, he finished 14th or worse in all but one race. All but one of these races was further impacted by negative place-differential points.
For another driver, that would be a great record. Not so where Truex was concerned. In Draft Kings, that kept him from being a good value because of his exorbitant salary cap. In allocation management games, one had to make certain they had him activated at the right time.
Truex’s frustration became apparent during the playoffs. Beset by questions of the team’s focus in light of car owner Barney Visser shuttering the No. 78, Truex was suddenly considered a risky proposition. He and crew chief Cole Pearn were determined to prove their critics wrong, but after scoring third-place finishes in the first two playoff races, they went three weeks without a top-10. Despite an abundance of playoff bonus points, they were the low hanging fruit in Round 3 should there have been more than two winners who were not part of the Big 3.
Truex’s attitude further unraveled with last lap contact at both the Charlotte Roval (when Jimmie Johnson dive-bombed him in the final chicane) and at Martinsville Speedway (when Joey Logano moved him out of the bottom groove in Turn 4) with the checkers in sight.
On paper, Truex should be a greater value this season. He moves to Joe Gibbs Racing for a fully-funded ride with the powerhouse organization and should easily contend on a level par with Busch.
The reality is that with the exception of Busch, Gibbs struggled some last year. Daniel Suarez rarely scored top-10s with this same team. Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones were erratic and lacked consistency. New aerodynamic rules will disrupt a lot of races and it is going to take a while to see who adapts best. Truex, Harvick, and Busch are going to be expensive out of the gates and might not be the best selections in salary cap games.
Three Best Tracks
Kentucky (10.1 in 8 attempts)
Homestead (10.8 in 14)
Darlington (11.3 in 13)
Three Worst Tracks
Daytona (21.7 in 27)
Talladega (21.3 in 28)
Bristol (21.1 in 26)
Victories:  (Auto Club, Pocono I, Sonoma, Kentucky)
Top-fives: 20 (.556)
Top-10s: 21 (.583)
Top-15s: 28 (.778)
2018 Finishes at or above their rank? = 21 (58.3%)