There is still a notable NASCAR Cup Series free agent at Joe Gibbs Racing facing an uncertain future, and we’re not talking about Kyle Busch.
While there has only been one big deal announced in recent months as it relates to the NASCAR Cup Series driver lineup for 2023, that being the contract extension signed by William Byron at Hendrick Motorsports, silly season talk continues to heat up and speculation about several other top-tier drivers isn’t going away.
Much of the focus has been on Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch, who remains without a deal to compete in 2023 and finds himself in somewhat of a precarious position with longtime partner M&M’s leaving the #18 Toyota following the 2022 season.
But there is another major decision supposedly coming “pretty soon” at Joe Gibbs Racing, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Busch.
It has to do with Martin Truex Jr. and the #19 Toyota.
Back in late March, Truex, who is also in a contract year, stated the following about when he’d know about his 2023 plans.
"“Pretty soon because I’m pretty sure I’m going to start getting pressure from the team. They obviously have a lot — they have to plan. So there always comes a deadline. I don’t know when that is, but I’ll have to have this conversation I’m sure pretty soon here.”"
Truex signed a contract extension to remain with Joe Gibbs Racing through the 2022 season back before the 2021 season started.
But two months after he made the above statement, there has yet to be any sort of confirmation about what Truex’s future — or lack thereof — in the Cup Series entails.
It is widely believed that this decision is truly that of the 41-year-old Mayetta, New Jersey, native, and if he decides to return, his sponsors will also be back to support what would be his fifth season with the team.
Truex has been clear in the past that he doesn’t have to continue competing and he does so because he enjoys it and is competitive. So before making a decision on 2023, he wanted to get a good amount of experience in the Gen 7 car.
He earned at least four victories in four of the last five seasons in the Gen 6 car, and he also finished in the top two in the standings in those four years, including in 2017 when he won the championship for Furniture Row Racing.
But the start of the Next Gen era hasn’t been ideal for Truex, though it has been a bit better than it looks on paper.
Through 14 races on the 2022 schedule, he sits in fifth place in the point standings with only two top five finishes, four more top 10 finishes, and 130 laps led, putting him on pace for his worst season since 2014.
But take away the crash at Phoenix Raceway, and he’s probably sitting in second place in points, which would be highest among the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers despite the fact that he has not yet secured a top three finish.
Let’s also not forget the fact that Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing appeared to take a massive step forward at Kansas Speedway, where all six Toyotas finished inside the top 10, and five, including all four Joe Gibbs Racing Camrys, finished in the top six.
They backed that up at Charlotte Motor Speedway, sweeping the first two rows in qualifying and taking three of the top five spots in the race, including the top two.
Regardless of Martin Truex Jr.’s decision on whether or not to continue on with Joe Gibbs Racing in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, expect that decision to be formally announced in the near future. In fact, perhaps it has already been made, especially considering recent comments by Joe Gibbs.