Editorâs note: This is the third in a series of four stories examining why each driver could win the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
âą âą âą
Martin Truex Jr. will win the 2019 championship because âŠ
This is the strongest his team has ever been.
No, he didnât win a single pole this year. No, none of his seven wins, 14 top fives, 23 top 10s or 1,268 laps led are career highs. But this was a team in transition, moving during the offseason from half-a-country away when much of the now-defunct Furniture Row Racing group packed up and headed east for Huntersville, North Carolina, and Joe Gibbs Racing.
The reveamped No. 19 group then went out and racked up a pair of runner-ups in the first four races of 2019 and popped bottles in Victory Lane four times in the next 12 events that followed.
This season also finally saw Truex Jr. shake the short track monkey off his back, picking up his first career wins on such layouts at Richmond (twice!) and later in a showing of extreme dominance at Martinsville to clinch a Championship 4 berth. The latter victory also came along with the bonus prize of a two-week breather inherent with winning the Round of 8 opener, allowing crew chief/mad scientist Cole Pearn extra time â never a good thing for Truexâs competition â to prepare for Miami.
In all but one of his â19 wins (Dover), a fellow Championship 4 driver either placed second or led the second-most laps to him in the race â heâs been beating these same drivers all year, so why stop now?
A super strong playoff run â three wins and a 3.75 average finish not counting a 26th-place result at wild card Talladega â shows the team, at the absolute very least, has the performance dialed in to carry the No. 19 Toyota all the way to the title.
Though his first championship bid in 2015 didnât quite pan out (started 11th, finished 12th), Truex has been a stud in his two shots since. He sealed the deal in 2017 with 78 laps led en route to his first title and nearly followed it up last year by giving rival Joey Logano everything he had before a runner-up finish.
With seven battle-tested victories under his belt already this season, he could add an eighth come Sunday and, with it, the whole damn war.
RELATED: Championship 4 Power Rankings