Lebanon, fig. – It took Martin Truex Jr. Just seven words to end the season-long speculation about his future in NASCAR.
“I’ll be back next year, I’ll be back,” Truex said at the Nashville Superspeedway before his statement from Joe Gibbs Racing was more succinct.
Nice and succinct for the 2017 NASCAR Champion, who has never been verbose but has been particularly lacking in detail as he contemplates his future for the past several months. His contract with Joe Gibbs Racing expires at the end of the year, and the most telling Truex was that the organization needed a decision from the driver this summer.
“The competitive side of me said I’m not finished and I’m going to keep fighting, so here we go,” the 42-year-old Truex said on Wednesday.
Next year will be his 18th season in the Cup Series, and the New Jersey native has 31 career wins and a pair of Xfinity Series titles. Heading into Sunday’s race in Nashville without a win this season but finished sixth in the standings.
Now that Truex has been signed, JGR can turn its full attention to two-time champion Kyle Busch. It’s also in a decade, but JGR needs a number 18 sponsor because its longtime partner Mars, Inc. He is leaving NASCAR after this season.
With Truex back, JGR retains a permanent title contender. He advanced to the NASCAR Championship title race in four of the past five seasons, winning his only title in 2017 when he drove for the now-defunct Furniture Row Racing. He has finished second in the championship three times since then, including last year when he lost to Kyle Larson.
Truex has won 16 races since joining JGR.
“We are thrilled to have the 2017 Cup Champion and our partner and friend in the Camry TRD back for at least another year,” said David Wilson, President of Toyota Racing Development.
It wasn’t clear what Truex might decide in part because of its struggles with the new, next-generation stock car, and also because of JGR’s struggles. The four JGR drivers – Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Truex – had three wins. Bell and Truex haven’t made it to Victory Lane yet.
“I think we all keep learning and growing, and the good teams will be the good teams everywhere,” Bush said. “But you know, it’s kind of incomplete right now once you get an understanding built around this car.”
A performance conflict had upset Truex, who had seven top ten spots over 16 races.
“I don’t like not running well,” Trux said. “I’m here to win. I feel like everyone is working hard, really at the moment. It’s a fickle sport. I’ve been a lot worse than this before. We’re sitting in a good place on points…but I feel we’re getting closer and we’re going to keep doing everything we can.”