By Bob Pockras
FOX Sports Writer NASCAR
MADISON, Ill.— Martin Truex Jr. admitted that he is a little tormented.
He reflects daily on what he should do in 2023.
Does he drive for Joe Gibbs Racing? Or is he retiring?
Truex, who turns 42 later this month, doesn’t need to fill out his resume. In 600 Cup starts, he has 31 career wins to go with the 2017 Cup title. Before moving to the Cup 16 years ago, he won two championships in what is now the Xfinity Series.
Martin Truex Jr. on his future plans
Martin Truex Jr. says he wonders daily if he will race next year. He said he should have an answer within a few weeks.
He probably doesn’t need the money, because he doesn’t lead an extravagant life.
But he loves it when the green flag drops and he’s driving a race car. And he’s still very, very good at it.
Whether this continues into 2023 is a mystery. Truex gives no indication of his leaning when answering questions about his future, which come up every week.
“I think about it every day,” Truex said Friday in some of his more in-depth comments on the subject. “We’re working on it. I should know something soon. I’m taking everything into account – my whole life, all the races, everything.”
He needs to know something soon because Joe Gibbs Racing needs to know something soon. Sponsors Bass Pro Shops and Auto-Owners Insurance have strong ties to Truex, and if he does return, those sponsors will most likely return.
JGR also needs to know if he should start negotiating with a driver to replace Truex.
The fact that this is one of the most wanted places in the garage has everyone wondering. Anyone working in the industry has wondered – and speculated – what Truex would do.
“Everyone is asking me, but I still haven’t heard from them,” Truex said. “I’ll let you know when I find out.”
Even those closest to Truex in the garage don’t know what he will decide. He loves racing, but the Next Gen car isn’t totally suited to his wheelhouse. His average result of 13.1 tends to be his worst since 2016. Still, he sits fifth in the standings and was in a position to potentially win on Sunday at Gateway.
Off track, the past few years have been emotional and exhausting. Truex partner Sherry Pollex has fought a long battle with cancer and continues to raise funds for childhood cancer research and ovarian cancer research.
The bottom line is that Truex doesn’t need to run. He loves the outdoors and could spend more days on a boat or on the hunting property he owns.
Still, the competitor in him probably doesn’t want to give up the Sunday adrenaline rush. There might be a part of him that wants out after a season where he’s had a bit more success.
Then again, he probably doesn’t want a long year of “retirement” when everywhere he turns there are parting gifts and questions about the “last run” at this or that track. Truex isn’t exactly a pilot who likes the spotlight, although he knows that’s part of the job.
For this decision, he will ask his relatives what he should do, but he will not ask everyone’s opinion.
“I don’t talk to him about it,” Truex teammate Denny Hamlin said. “But I would like him to come back as a teammate. I think he is a great asset to our team.
“So definitely you want to have good teammates around you, and I think Martin is one of the good ones.”
Denny Hamlin on Martin Truex Jr.
Denny Hamlin says Martin Truex Jr. is a good teammate and hopes he comes back next season.
This would be another reason JGR wouldn’t want to see Truex leave. He doesn’t create a lot of internal drama. This is not a high maintenance driver. He doesn’t take a film crew everywhere with him. He just wants to come run and do his thing.
Like Truex said, he doesn’t know what he’s going to do. And in the way he’s conducted himself throughout his career, that’s the truth.
“It’s a big decision and a lot of factors,” Truex said. “I would say that in a few weeks you will know what I am doing.”
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Thinking out loud
After Ross Chastain hit Hamlin and sent him into the wall at Gateway on Sunday, should NASCAR step in to try to curb any possible retaliation?
Hamlin had strong words after the race, saying the only way for new drivers to make it clear they can’t keep driving overhead is to drive them into the fence.
He said that to send the message, he will have to pick a time when it will hurt Chastain.
What should Ross Chastain expect after Gateway?
Bob Pockrass discusses Joey Logano’s Gateway win and Ross Chastain’s poor race, including Denny Hamlin’s reaction.
NASCAR is in a tough spot because such an act could hurt Chastain, and it could impact other drivers in the field if they get caught up in the incident.
But NASCAR also knows it’s a sport of self-control, and that’s part of the drama. Last year’s playoffs were filled with up-and-coming Kevin Harvick-Chase Elliott.
For now, NASCAR probably has nothing to do. Hamlin knows the rules, and if he does something egregious, he’ll know there could be consequences.
Social Media Spotlight
Statistics of the day
Gateway is the 18th different track at which Joey Logano has won, which ranks him third among active drivers.
They said it
“Words won’t solve the problem, so I’ll have to pay it on the track. … I deserve everything they do.” – Ross Chastain after meeting several drivers at Gateway
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR newsletter with Bob Pockrass!
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