NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr. won’t pull a ‘Tom Brady’

Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

While Martin Truex Jr. may seem like he is taking his time to make a decision on his NASCAR Cup Series future, he wants to be absolutely sure he is making the right move.

Martin Truex Jr.’s future — or lack thereof — in the NASCAR Cup Series has been a hot topic as of late. He is in his fourth season with Joe Gibbs Racing behind the wheel of the #19 Toyota, but without a contract that extends beyond the conclusion of 2022, he isn’t sure that he will be back in 2023.

While teammate Kyle Busch also faces an uncertain future, the key difference here is that Busch’s future is largely sponsorship dependent. Truex, however, is the one who needs to make the decision on whether or not to return for what would be an 18th season in the Cup Series next year.

Truex stated back in late March that a decision on the matter would be coming “pretty soon”. Then two months passed, and nothing more was said.

But two weekends ago, ahead of his 600th career Cup Series start at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Truex discussed the matter again, and he again stated that he should know something “soon”. He said that he expects to know “within a couple weeks”.

This would imply that a decision is right around the corner now.

When you consider Busch’s uncertain future and Joe Gibbs Racing’s pursuit of sponsorship for his #18 Toyota, it would obviously benefit the team to know Truex’s plans as soon as possible. Either they gain peace of mind in knowing he’ll return, or they know for a fact that they’ll need to find a replacement.

And the 41-year-old Mayetta, New Jersey native knows that, stating in March that he anticipated pressure from the team the longer he waited to make that call.

But what he also wanted to make clear when he spoke two weekends ago was the fact that there are plenty of factors going into the decision he is about to make.

"“I think about it every day. We’re working on it. … It’s a big decision and a lot of factors.”"

He doesn’t want to end up in a position where he makes a decision, and then a few weeks later, changes his mind, one way or the other.

While that may work in the early stages of an NFL offseason, like we saw with Tom Brady’s retirement and unretirement, that kind of decision-making won’t help anybody in the NASCAR world, when you consider the nature of driver market as well as the need for sponsorship, even for the sport’s top drivers.

One factor Truex has been taking into consideration is the Gen 7 car. He won at least four races in five of the last six seasons in the Gen 6 car, and he finished in the top two in the championship standings in four of those five seasons, including in 2017 when he won the title.

Through 16 races of the Gen 7 era, he sits in sixth place in the point standings with two top five finishes and a further five top 10 finishes, but he has not yet won a race.

Truex has long stated that he doesn’t have to keep doing what he does and he continues doing it because he feels he is competitive and has what it takes to win. Does he still feel that way?

While he hasn’t exactly been a standout so far in 2022, there are a number of races which he very well could have won, and if you take away his crash at Phoenix Raceway, he is probably sitting in a few spots higher in points, despite the fact that he hasn’t yet finished an individual race higher than fourth place.

All in all, there probably is no true “timeline” on which Truex could have planned to make the decision he will need to make, considering everything that goes into it.

But he wants to make sure that when he does make it, presumably sometime between now and NASCAR’s return to racing at Nashville Superspeedway in two weeks, that decision is right enough that it can be considered final, with no further questions asked.

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So will the 2022 season be Truex’s last? Will he return for the 2023 season, and if so, will the 2023 season be his last? Truex’s situation is one of many to monitor during the NASCAR Cup Series silly season, but it is quite unique in that this decision is truly up to him.