Truex sets sights on cham­pi­onship run

Points leader cred­its Den­ver head­quar­ters for his team’s suc­cess.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Pete Ia­co­belli

Martin Truex Jr. be­lieves being far away from NASCAR’s hub has helped him dur­ing the most suc­cess­ful stretch of his ca­reer, a run he hopes ends with a cham­pi­onship this sea­son.

Truex, the Mon­ster En­ergy NASCAR Cup Se­ries points leader, also is tied for the se­ries lead with three vic­to­ries. Al­ready locked into the play­offs for a third straight sea­son, Truex be­lieves he’s bet­ter pre­pared to end the year with NASCAR’s tro­phy.

“It just seems like con­sis­tency has got­ten bet­ter as we go down this road to­gether as a team,” Truex said. “Last year was a good and this year so far seems even bet­ter so hope­fully we can con­tinue that up­ward trend.”

A big rea­son, at least in Truex’s mind, is his Fur­ni­ture Row Rac­ing team’s head­quar­ters in Den­ver, two time zones from the NASCAR cen­ter out­side of Char­lotte, North Carolina. The lo­ca­tion gives the team an all-in-the­same-boat feel­ing that has made them bond into a win­ning group.

“I think it’s a great team, a great sit­u­a­tion,” Truex said. “Being in Den­ver, all by our­selves out there, my crew chiefs, my engi­neers, we’re just like a fam­ily and we get bet­ter and bet­ter as we work to­gether.”

That’s cer­tainly ap­par­ent this sea­son.

Along with his three vic­to­ries, Truex has eight top fives and 14 top 10s in 21 races this sea­son. He’s led the most laps of any driver (1,291) and has been out front in 16 of 21 events so far this year.

“You don’t know what to­mor­row is go­ing to bring, you don’t know what next week­end is go­ing to bring, so we’re en­joy­ing while we have suc­cess,” he said. “We’re work­ing hard to stay where we’re at.”

The next step is run­ning for a ti­tle.

Truex made the fi­nal four two years ago, yet fin­ished 12th at Home­stead to fall to fourth in the points race. In 2016, he came in as a play­off pow­er­house with crown jewel vic­to­ries in the Coca Cola 600 in Char­lotte and South­ern 500 in Dar­ling­ton. He then won two of the first three chase races to move out front. But prob­lems in the round of 12 ended his run as he fin­ished 11th over­all.

This time around, Truex isn’t look­ing ahead. He thinks a fo­cus on the week-to-week rac­ing will keep him­self and his crew sharp so when the play­offs come, they’ll be ready.

Yan­kees: Sonny Gray will make his Yan­kees de­but Thurs­day at Cleve­land, and Jaime Gar­cia will start against the In­di­ans on Fri­day.

Mar­lins: Right-han­der Edin­son Volquez and short­stop J.T. Rid­dle will miss the rest of the sea­son be­cause of in­juries. Volquez has been out since July 17 be­cause of a left knee in­jury, and Rid­dle has been out since July 19 with a left shoulder in­jury that will re­quire surgery next week. Volquez may also need surgery, man­ager Don Mat­tingly said. Also, Mat­tingly said first base­man Justin Bour is ex­pected to be out an­other four to six weeks be­cause of a strained right oblique.

White Sox: Out­fielder Willy Gar­cia was placed on the seven-day dis­abled list be­cause of a con­cus­sion he sus­tained dur­ing a col­li­sion with top prospect Yoan Mon­cada in right field against Toronto on Mon­day. Also, in­fielder/out­fielder Nicky Del­monico was pro­moted from Triple-A Char­lotte.

Astros: Jose Al­tuve wrapped up July with the best bat­ting av­er­age in a month in fran­chise history. The All-Star sec­ond base­man hit .485 with 10 dou­bles, a triple, four homers and 21 RBIs. He sur­passed the .476 that Richard Hi­dalgo posted in Sep­tem­ber 2000. Al­tuve’s 48 hits in July were the most in a month by an Astro since Lance Berk­man had 49 in May 2008.

Gi­ants: Mon­day’s loss dropped them to 35 games be­hind the Dodgers in the NL West — the most they’ve been be­hind since the fi­nal day of the 1946 sea­son.

Ath­let­ics: Re­liever John Ax­ford was re­leased, less than a week after he was des­ig­nated for as­sign­ment. The right-han­der, 34, pitched in 22 games this sea­son, go­ing 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA.

■ Util­ity player Chad Pin­der was re­in­stated from the 10-day DL after miss­ing more than a month with a strained left ham­string.

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