All the sweat, the tears, the heart-warming pains and the back breaking gains have all culminated to this one last shot for the Championship 4 contenders to vie for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship this Sunday at 3 p.m. ET (NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Phoenix Raceway.
Wrapping up our coverage of the four drivers in the Championship 4, here’s Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)…
Truex By The Numbers:
1 – Number of career NASCAR Cup Series Championships (2017).
4 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series race wins in 2021.
5 – Number of career appearances in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 (2015, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19, ‘21).
5 – Number of stage wins during the 2021 season.
5 – Number of top-five finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
8.3 – Average starting position during the first 35 races of 2021 season.
10.3 – Average finishing position during the first nine races of the 2021 Playoffs.
12 – Number of top-five finishes in the first 35 races of 2021 season.
12.3 – Average finishing position during the 2021 season.
13 – Number of top-10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
15.3 – Average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway.
19 – Number of top-10 finishes during the 2021 season.
29 – Total number of Playoff points accumulated in 2021.
89.7 – Career driver rating at Phoenix Raceway – 10th-best among active drivers.
96.7 – Season-to-date driver rating – sixth-best among active drivers in 2021.
187 – Total number of laps led at Phoenix Raceway.
793 – Total number of laps led in the 2021 season.
8,822 – Total number of laps completed in the 2021 season (99.3%).
Martin Truex Jr. wants to be the next multiple Cup champion
Martin Truex Jr. returns to the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round for a series record-tying fifth time since the inception of the elimination-style format in 2014; joining Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch with five Champ 4 appearances each. And in the process, he became just the fourth different driver to enter the penultimate race under the Playoff cutline and race his way into the postseason’s final round; joining Kevin Harvick in 2014, Denny Hamlin in 2019 and Chase Elliott in 2020.
The 2021 season marks his 16th full season in the NASCAR Cup Series and over that time the Mayetta, New Jersey native has collected 31 wins, 128 top fives and 247 top 10s.
He joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019 after two very successful seasons with Furniture Row Racing that saw him earn a Cup championship (2017) and two Championship 4 Round appearances (2017, 2018).
After missing the Champ 4 last season, Truex is back to his championship contending form this season. In 35 starts he has put up four wins (Phoenix-1, Martinsville-1, Darlington-2, Richmond-2), 12 top fives and19 top 10s. His average starting position this season is 8.3 and his average finish is 12.3. He has also led 793 laps.
Truex jumped into the 2021 Playoffs with both feet posting fourth at Darlington, a win at Richmond to advance to the next round and a seventh-place finish at Bristol. He then put up a fourth at Las Vegas, a 12th at Talladega and a 29th at the Charlotte Roval to skate into the Round of 8. From there Truex finished 25th at Texas and seventh at Kansas. As a result, he went to Martinsville either having to win or race his way in on points as he was below the cutline. The 2017 series champ answered the bell and finishing fourth and making the final round by three points over his teammate Kyle Busch.
Now the 41-year-old is looking to become the 17th different driver in series history to win multiple championships and just the second active driver to accomplish the feat joining his JGR teammate Kyle Busch (2015, 2019).
Truex’s stats in the Arizona desert
Though there have been some “rough patches” in Martin Truex Jr.’s overall Phoenix Raceway resume, his resume of late has been outstanding. Truex won at the 1-mile Phoenix track earlier this season and returns to not only get the season sweep but take home his second Cup title.
Truex has made 31 series starts at Phoenix Raceway posting one win (2021), five top fives, 13 top 10s and has led 187 laps. His average starts at the track is 11.9 and his average finish is 15.4, 12th-best in the series.
Truex is also near the top of the charts in several pre-race Loop Data categories at Phoenix with an Average Running Position of 13.889, 11th-best in the series, a Driver Rating of 89.7, 10th-best, 361 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-best and 6,659 Laps in the Top 15 (68.8%), fifth-most.
Earlier this season at Phoenix, Truex led 64 laps after starting fifth en route to his first win at the track.
Multi-team champion a possibility
Should Martin Truex Jr. claim the NASCAR Cup Series championship on Sunday evening at Phoenix Raceway he would become just the seventh driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to earn the season-ending trophy for multiple teams.
Truex won the Cup championship in 2017 driving for the Furniture Row Racing team. And he is one of two Joe Gibbs Racing drivers in the Championship 4 this weekend in Arizona.
Buck Baker, Ned Jarrett, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte and Tony Stewart all won NASCAR’s most prestigious title for more than one team. Stewart was the last to do so – winning a Cup championship at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2002 and 2005 and then for his own Stewart-Haas Racing team in 2011.
Crew Chief Corner: James Small
Since making his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series as a Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief in 2017, James Small has proven that he is one of the rising stars in the sport to keep an eye on. He made his Cup debut with Erik Jones running two races in 2017 before moving the No. 19 and driver Martin Truex Jr. in 2020. During his two seasons of full-time competition (2020, 2021) with Truex the pair have made 70 starts posting five wins and have qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in consecutive seasons (2020-21). This is the first year Small has earned a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 Round; his previous best final Cup standings finish was seventh in 2020.
The Truex-Small pair has combined for the following achievements in 70 NASCAR Cup Series races together:
- 5 wins
- 25 top fives
- 41 top 10s
- 1,690 laps led
- 0 poles
- One NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 appearance (2021)
- One NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs appearances (2021)
Small will look to capture his first NASCAR Cup Series championship this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. If he accomplishes the feat, Daniels will become the 42nd different crew chief in the series with a championship.
Continuing Joe Gibbs Racing’s excellence
Winning and excellence are ingrained in the foundation of the Joe Gibbs Racing and since joining the NASCAR Cup Series in 1992 the organization has collected five series championships among three drivers – Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002, 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015, 2019).
Overall, Joe Gibbs Racing has 10 NASCAR national series owner championships (five in Cup and five in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2016).
Joe Gibbs Racing has won five of the last 21 NASCAR Cup Series championships (2000-2020), putting the team’s title-winning percentage during that span at 25%. The organization also holds the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Present) record for the most wins in a single season with 19 victories in 2019.
Heading into Phoenix this weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing has earned nine NASCAR Cup Series wins in 2021. The 2021 season is the organization’s 29th straight season with at least one victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.
This season Joe Gibbs Racing led a combined 2,792 laps. The team ranks second in laps led in a single season in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Presnt) with 4,047 laps out front in 2019. Junior Johnson and Associates holds the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era organization record for the most laps led in a single season with 4,296.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s recent dominance doesn’t end there, they also set a NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era record for the most finishes (32) inside the top two in 2019; a feat Hendrick Motorsports tied this season. This season the JGR foursome of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. scored 79 top-10 finishes; the team’s third-most (92 in 2019, 84 in 2016), posted 51 top-five finishes; the team’s third-most (61 in 2019 and 55 in 2020) and also won 22 stages.
Since the inception of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs elimination-style format in 2014, Joe Gibbs Racing has placed at least one driver in the Championship 4 Round each season (Denny Hamlin: 2014, ’19, ’20, ’21; Kyle Busch: 2015-2019; Martin Truex Jr.: 2019, ’21; Carl Edwards: 2016). Impressively, Joe Gibbs Racing has placed more than one driver in the Championship 4 Round in three of the seven Playoffs with the elimination-format (2016, 2019 and 2021) and set the series record for the most drivers to earn a spot in the Championship 4 Round by an organization in a single season when Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin all made the Championship 4 in 2019.
Joe Gibbs Racing has won at least one Playoff race in 13 of the 17 Playoff seasons (since 2004) for a combined 33 postseason wins, second-most all-time. Joe Gibbs Racing is also tied with Hendrick Motorsports for the most Playoff wins in a single season with six victories each (JGR, 2019 and HMS 2007).
Martin Truex Jr. is looking to bring the Joe Gibbs Racing organization its sixth NASCAR Cup Series championship and his second becoming the fourth driver for JGR to win a title; joining Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002 and 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015 and 2019).
For more on the different contenders, you can click here.