DOVER, Del. — Martin Truex Jr. has fond memories of Dover International Speedway.
The Mayetta, New Jersey driver spent a portion of his childhood in the stands at the one-mile oval, attending NASCAR races that planted the dream to be a winning race car driver. All these years later, and Truex Jr. isn’t just that: he’s forging himself as one of the best drivers in the playoff era.
On Sunday, Truex rolls off third in the Drydene 400 at the Monster Mile, looking to sweep the season at the concrete mile of madness and add to what is already his winningest track on the National Series scene (five combined Cup and Xfinity Series wins at Dover).
“The first time I ever made a lap here I fell in love with it,” Truex Jr. said. “I still love it just as much today. [Qualifying] was so much fun. These cars are so fast rolling around here.”
Truex’s first win at Dover came in the then-Busch Series in 2004, his fifth of six wins that culminated in his first-ever championship at NASCAR’s top three series. The second was also in the Busch Series in 2005. And the third is, without a doubt in Truex’s mind, the sweetest of all the memories in Dover’s 50-year history.
In his 58th Cup Series start, Truex broke through at the Monster Mile, leading 216 of the 400 laps (he had only led 54 laps in his previous 57 starts combined) for his first win at NASCAR’s top level. Truex raced his Dale Earnhardt Inc. No. 1 from 26th to the lead on Lap 125, where he led all of his 216 laps over the final 275 circuits.
“My first Cup win was huge,” Truex Jr. said. “Getting that one [fulfilled] a lifelong dream and something I was working toward for a while. So, getting that one was huge.”
Truex won his seventh career Cup race at Dover in the fall of 2016, driving the No. 78 for Barney Viser, and then collected his fifth and most recent victory at the track this spring. After his top-three qualifying effort Saturday, Truex Jr. thinks he has an even better machine this time around.
“I feel good, man,” Truex Jr. said. “We won here in the spring and I feel like our car is a little better. So we’ll see what we can do [Sunday].”
Over the past three years, Truex Jr. has 18 wins and 51 top fives in 100 races. He also has a Cup Series title and a runner-up over that span. He currently sits as the second seed going into the Round of 12 on Sunday, but another win would only add to a long lineage of memories for Truex at Dover.
“Overall, a lot of great memories,” Truex Jr. said. “Just love coming to this area of the country. It feels like home.”