Weekly column from Track President; Matthew Becherer
When Martin Truex Jr. pulled his No. 19 car into Victory Circle following the rain-delayed Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover last Monday, it was the third time he had done that in 27 career races at the Monster Mile. For the 2017 MENCS champion who claimed the Ford EcoBoost 400 that year to win his first title, it now marks his most victories at any of the 23 venues which host Cup Series races.
Truex began to be regarded as one of the top drivers on the circuit in 2015 – one year after he joined Furniture Row Racing. Since that time he has recorded 19 of his 21 career victories, made two appearances in the Championship 4 and took home that coveted championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway two years ago.
However, it was driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Inc. in which he won his first career race, all the way back in 2007 – his second full-time season on the Cup circuit. And yes, it occurred at Dover. Since that time, more than half of his starts at the Monster Mile have resulted in top-10 finishes (15) while he has led a total of more than 10,000 laps. For whatever reason, Dover International Speedway has been a sanctuary of sorts for the Mayetta, New Jersey native.
Whether it’s the concrete surface or the fact that he grew up about 100 miles from Dover, his home track has been very kind to him over the years.
Quite often in NASCAR you hear about how some drivers thrive on certain types of tracks, whether it be road courses, short tracks or superspeedways. Some really take their racing prowess to another level at specific tracks. For some, it might be because of a particular aspect of the track. For others the “hometown” element might come into play, as I’m sure it does for Truex to some extent. For some, it might just be because they are stellar drivers and can succeed anytime they get behind the wheel.
So this week I thought we would take a look at some of the recent champions in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and the tracks where they know the route to Victory Lane like the back of their hand.
Joey Logano – 2018 MENCS Champion
Team Penske has been known to have one of the top superspeedway programs of any team on the circuit. For last year’s champion Joey Logano, three of his 22 career victories have occurred at Talladega Superspeedway. Nearly half of his starts (10 of 21) have resulted in top-10 showings.
Jimmie Johnson – 2006-10, 2013, 2016 MENCS Champion
When you have won a record-tying seven championship and have taken the checkered flag 83 times in your career, there are not a whole lot of tracks at which you have not been successful. For Jimmie Johnson, the only three active tracks at which he has not won a race are Chicago (17 starts), Kentucky (8 starts) and Watkins Glen (17 starts). He crossed Homestead-Miami Speedway off that list with his win in the 2016 Ford EcoBoost 400. Like Truex, Johnson has record his most career victories at Dover (11 in 35 starts). Before his Hall of Fame career concludes, he has the chance to also reach double-digit win totals at Martinsville (9) and Charlotte (8).
Kyle Busch – 2015 MENCS Champion
In referring to why drivers succeed on certain tracks, Kyle Busch is one of those drivers who thrives because he is just so good. In 15 full-time seasons (2005-19) he has secured victories at every current track, including the 2015 Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This tally consists of 54 wins, 16 of which have come on short tracks – those less than one mile in length. Bristol, however, has been the one track where Kyle has become synonymous with winning, having taken the path to Victory Circle at the World’s Fastest Half Mile on eight occasions. For the Las Vegas native, Thunder Valley has certainly become a second home.
Kevin Harvick – 2014 MENCS Champion
While not Kevin Harvick’s home track per se, ISM Raceway near Phoenix has served as just that for the Bakersfield, Calif., native. Of his 45 career wins, nine have occurred in the Valley of the Sun, meaning that more than one-quarter of his starts there (33) have resulted in wins. That’s pretty amazing! In fact, from 2012-16, he went through a stretch in which he won six of his eight starts in Phoenix, including four in-a-row, This included a win in the 2014 fall race, which propelled him into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, leading to the lone championship of his career.
Of course, no list which talks about champions can be complete without mentioning the two icons who share the record with Jimmie Johnson with seven career championships – “The King,” Richard Petty, and the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.
With a record 200 career wins, “The King,” accounted for double-digit win totals at five different tracks, including 15 apiece at North Wilkesboro and Martinsville, 13 at Richmond and 11 Rockingham. But it was on the biggest stage in which he really rose to the occasion. He won 10 times at Daytona International Speedway, with seven of his victories taking place at the DAYTONA 500, the most of any driver, three more than his nearest competitor.
Dale Earnhardt Sr.
The “Intimidator” got his nickname for good reason, and you especially had to be aware at Talladega, where Earnhardt made a living, recording 10 of his 76 career wins. Of course, he also dominated at Atlanta, Darlington and Bristol, where he won nine times apiece. The Kannapolis, North Carolina native was a fan favorite wherever he raced, and he had the victories to back it up.
- Matthew Becherer