Martin Truex Jr. regards Delaware's Dover International Speedway as his home racetrack, but he also has an affinity for Pocono Raceway. Truex, from Mayetta, N.J., in Ocean County will be driving the No. 56 Toyota at Pocono in Sunday's Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500.
"Pocono is fun," Truex said. "We talked about how challenging it is with the three turns being different, the surface being old and wore out and bumpy. When you're competitive, it's a lot of fun. But when your stuff is off, it makes for a very long, difficult, frustrating kind of day.
"I spent a lot of time up there as a kid skiing in the wintertime. The Race of Champions for the modifieds used to be at Pocono. I used to watch my dad and uncles [race] there."
In his first season with Michael Waltrip Racing after four full years with Dale Earnhardt Inc., Truex is 14th in points. He's just 14 points out of the 12th and final qualifying Chase for the Championship berth. Truex was a Chaser in 2007, finishing 11th.
Truex was the fastest qualifier 3 weeks ago at Dover (he finished 12th). He qualified third fastest for last Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 (23rd place finish).
"We're right where we should be for a new team," Truex, 29, said. "I think our chances [for the Chase] are really good. I feel we're getting stronger each week. The consistency has been there."
Having Pat Tryson as a crew chief is one reason for Truex's optimism. Tryson, from Malvern, has been in the Chase with Kurt Busch (last year) and previously with Mark Martin.
"Pat has done a great job," Truex said. "He's been easy to work with. He's very smart about his race cars."
Tryson also believes that the team is improving.
"We've been running better lately," he said in an earlier conversation. "We've been gaining on it. We just have to gain a little more and, by the end of the year, we'll be where we need to be.
"Martin is real easy to get along with. He gives us good feedback and stays calm."
Winning a championship this year probably isn't on the Truex-Tryson radar. Despite recent subpar finishes, four-time reigning titlist Jimmie Johnson is still blocking the path to No. 1.
"He's still the guy to beat until somebody beats him," Tryson said. "We all want to be that guy. He hasn't finished that well, but he's run really well."
Truex is planning to attend Game 4 of the Flyers-Chicago Stanley Cup Final tonight at the Wachovia Center.
Sunday's Sprint Cup race launches TNT's 6-week run. Adam Alexander is TNT's new play-by-play announcer. Lindsay Czarniak is the new host for the pre-race show with Kyle Petty and Larry MacReynolds. Petty will analyze the races with Wally Dallenbach Jr., with Phil Parsons roaming the pits.
Tomorrow's Messina Wildlife Animal Stopper 200 race will be the 50th ARCA series event at Pocono. After six races Patrick Sheltra leads Justin Marks by 10 points. Cherry Hill's Tom Hessert is fourth.
Chase Mattioli, grandson of Pocono Raceway owners Drs. Joseph and Rose Mattioli, will wear a Flyers-themed helmet in the ARCA race. Chase just finished his sophomore year at Fordham University. He is 14th in ARCA points. Nick Igdalsky, another Mattiolis grandson, is 13th in points. *