Martin Truex Jr. Crew Chief Frustrated by His Driver’s Lack of Aggression; Offers Surprising Choice of Aggressive Driver He’d Like Him to Copy
Martin Truex Jr. made headlines after Homestead for his heated remarks over the team radio during the race, suggesting he was done with racing. This week, it was crew chief James Small’s turn to generate some news when he talked about his Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s aggression or lack thereof, why he wishes it would change, and the surprising driver who he would like to see the 2017 Cup Series champion drive more like on the track.
Frustrated Martin Truex Jr. gets heated over team radio at Homestead
Martin Truex Jr. has struggled in the 2023 playoffs, and that’s an understatement. Through the first eight postseason races, the driver who won three times during the regular season and, more importantly, the regular-season title, has a single top-10 finish to his credit. Incredibly, in every other race, he’s finished outside the top 15.
Following his best finish in the playoffs, a ninth at Las Vegas, Truex and his team were understandably optimistic going to Homestead. Unfortunately, those positive vibes didn’t last long.
After starting the weekend strong by winning the pole, the No. 19 ran inside the top 10 in the first two stages. However, later in the race, the driver was again victimized by his pit crew, not once, but twice. Moments after the second bad stop, Truex didn’t sugarcoat what he thought about it all.
“What a f****** joke,” he said. And he wasn’t done. When his spotter cleared him off of pit road, the driver keyed up his mic. “I ain’t doing this s*** no more.”
Truex crew chief expresses frustration with driver’s lack of aggression
Truex expressing his frustration over the team radio isn’t anything new. When things aren’t going his way, as they have for the last several months, he can get aggressive with his words. His crew chief, James Small, is often on the receiving end of those biting remarks.
This week, Small visited with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Claire B. Lang before the race at Martinsville. The reporter didn’t ask the crew chief about the 43-year-old driver’s latest comments. Instead, he asked Small about Truex’s actions on the track and how he viewed his driving style from an aggression standpoint.
“It’s Martin Truex. He’s always timid,” Small said. “I wish he would go out there and drive like Joey Logano, but we’ll see.”
Lang then questioned if there was anything the crew chief could do to increase Truex’s aggressiveness.
“I don’t know. Tell him he gets no bonuses unless he wrecks people,” he laughed. “I don’t know. He’s never going to drive like that. And that’s great. That’s the way he wants to go about it; I’m fine with that. It would be great sometimes if he would move people out of the way or be more aggressive in certain situations, but he races everyone with the utmost respect.
“You can see that certain guys in the field respect that and race him that way, even some of the younger guys. But then there’s other guys that just don’t care and use him up. It’s frustrating, but, yeah, nothing we can do about it.”
There’s a history with Logano
Small’s remarks are curious, to say the least. First, he recommended Joey Logano as the example of an aggressive driver. That’s an awkward choice because, of all the drivers who’ve used up Truex in the past, the Team Penske driver’s aggressive move in the penultimate race at Martinsville in 2018 was the most consequential.
“He won the battle, but he ain’t gonna win the damn war,” Truex famously said of Logano after the race. “We should be in Victory Lane right now. I was next to him for six laps; I never knocked him out of the way. I cleared him fair and square… he just knocked me out of the way. That’s short track racing, but what goes around comes around.”
“I’m not surprised, considering how he drives,” Truex’s former crew chief Cole Pearn said. “But it’s his choice to make.”
Logano went on to win his first Cup title that year. Truex finished second.
That year proved that aggression pays off. But it never changed Truex’s approach on the track. Small’s latest comments won’t do it either. If anything, they’ll likely fire up the driver for the weekend’s race on The Paperclip, and he might be a little more active on the team radio. Heated remarks incoming.