By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
MADISON, Ill. — Martin Truex Jr. admitted that he is a little tormented.
He thinks daily about what he should do in 2023.
Does he drive for Joe Gibbs Racing? Or does he retire?
Truex, who turns 42 later this month, doesn’t need to pad his summary. In 600 Cup starts, he has 31 career wins to go with the 2017 Cup title. Before he moved to Cup 16 years ago, he won two championships in what is now the Xfinity Series.
Martin Truex Jr. on his future plans
Martin Truex Jr. says he thinks daily about whether he will race next year. He said he should have an answer within a couple of weeks.
He probably doesn’t need the money, as he doesn’t live an extravagant lifestyle.
But he loves it when the green flag drops and he’s wheeling a race car. And he’s still very, very good at it.
Whether that will continue in 2023 is a mystery. Truex doesn’t give any indication of which way he is leaning when he answers questions about his future, which come weekly.
“I think about it every day,” Truex said Friday in some of his more extensive comments on the topic. “We’re working on it. I should know something soon. I’m taking it all into account — my whole life, all of racing, everything.”
He needs to know something soon because Joe Gibbs Racing needs to know something soon. Sponsors Bass Pro Shops and Auto-Owners Insurance have strong ties to Truex, and if he returns, those sponsors most likely will return.
JGR also needs to know if it has to start negotiating with a driver to replace Truex.
The fact that it would be one of the most sought-after spots in the garage has everyone wondering. Anyone who works in the industry has wondered — and speculated — about what Truex will do.
“Everybody asks me, but I still don’t have any news,” Truex said. “I’ll let you know when I find out.”
Even those closest to Truex in the garage don’t know what he will decide. He loves to race, but the Next Gen car hasn’t totally fit his wheelhouse. His average finish of 13.1 is trending to be his worst since 2016. Still, he sits fifth in the standings and was in a position to potentially win Sunday at Gateway.
Off the track, the past several years have been emotional and draining. Truex’s partner, Sherry Pollex, has had a lengthy battle with cancer, and they continue to raise funds for children’s cancer research and ovarian cancer research.
The bottom line is that Truex doesn’t need to race. He loves the outdoors and could spend more days on a boat or the hunting property he owns.
Still, the competitor in him probably doesn’t want to give up the adrenaline rush on Sundays. There could be part of him that wants to go out after a season in which he has a little more success.
Then again, he probably doesn’t want a long “retirement” year when everywhere he turns, there are goodbye gifts and questions about the “last race” at such-and-such track. Truex isn’t exactly a driver who relishes the spotlight, though he knows it’s part of the job.
For this decision, he will ask those close to him about what he should do, but he isn’t going to ask everyone for an opinion.
“I don’t talk to him about it,” Truex teammate Denny Hamlin said. “But I’d like to have him back as a teammate. I think he’s a valuable asset to our team.
“So certainly, you want to have good teammates around you, and I think Martin is one of the good ones.”
Denny Hamlin on Martin Truex Jr.
Denny Hamlin says Martin Truex Jr. is a good teammate and hopes he returns next season.
That would be another reason JGR wouldn’t want to see Truex go. He doesn’t create a lot of in-house drama. He isn’t a high-maintenance driver. He isn’t bringing a camera crew with him everywhere. He just wants to come race and do his thing.
As Truex said, he doesn’t know what he will do. And in the way he has carried himself throughout his career, that is the truth.
“It’s a big decision and a lot of factors,” Truex said. “I would say within a couple of weeks, you guys will know what I’m doing.”
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thinking out loud
After Ross Chastain bumped Hamlin and sent him into the wall at Gateway on Sunday, should NASCAR step in to try to curb any potential retaliation?
Hamlin had strong words following the race, saying that the only way the new drivers get the message that they can’t keep driving over their heads is to drive them into the fence.
He said that to send the message, he will have to pick a time when it will hurt Chastain.
What should Ross Chastain expect after Gateway?
Bob Pockrass discusses Joey Logano’s win at Gateway and Ross Chastain’s poor race, including the reaction from Denny Hamlin.
NASCAR is in a bit of a predicament because such an act could injure Chastain, and it could impact other drivers in the field if they get caught up in the incident.
But NASCAR also knows it is a self-policing sport, and that’s part of the drama. Last year’s playoffs were filled with Kevin Harvick-Chase Elliott back-and-forth.
For now, NASCAR probably doesn’t need to do anything. Hamlin knows the rules, and if he does anything egregious, he’ll know there could be consequences.
Stat of the day
Gateway is the 18th different track at which Joey Logano has won, which ties him for third among active drivers.
They said it
“Words aren’t going to fix it, so I’ll have to pay for it on the track. … I deserve everything that they do.” —Ross Chastain after he ran into several drivers at Gateway
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!
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