Tim Tuttle
Tuesday June 2nd, 2009

Martin Truex Jr., Sprint Cup's most desirable free agent, has a gut feeling where he's headed next season.

"But I ain't going to tell you though," Truex told a press conference last Friday at Dover. "I am just not going to tell you anything. The picture is pretty clear for me right now. I am pretty happy with the way things have gone. I have been having fun at the race track and things are going well right now.

"I think in the next few weeks, everybody will know what is going on. I have just been concentrating on racing because the picture is kind of clear, so I am not really worried about it too much."

The smart money in the media center has Truex signing with Michael Waltrip Racing, which is undoubtedly working hard on putting together a sponsorship package to lure him. Truex has everything MWR is looking for to build its team around for the next 10 years: He's talented, experienced and has his best seasons in front of him.

Truex is another Jeff Burton in the making -- fast, consistent and smart. Coincidentally, they even share the same birthday, June 29. Truex will be 29 later this month and he's accomplished slightly more than Burton had at the same age with a Cup victory and a higher finish in the points in his opening two seasons. But they're very comparable. When they have teams capable of running up front, they win occasionally and pile up points.

Burton blossomed in his fourth season -- his second with Jack Roush, and the year he turned 30 -- notching three wins and finishing fourth in the points. Next year will be Truex's fourth and he's capable of those types of numbers. Like Burton, Truex functions well in the multi-car environment and contributes strongly to the overall success of the team. Truex won his race and made the Chase in 2007 when on a four-car Dale Earnhardt Inc. team.

At Waltrip, Truex would join David Reutimann, who is having the finest year of his career at age 39, Marcos Ambrose, a solid 20th in the points in his first full Cup season, and owner Michael Waltrip, if he doesn't retire. Reutimann's success, 13th in the points halfway to the Chase with one victory, is a selling point for the Waltrip organization.

"They (Waltrip) seem like a great organization," Truex said. "They have come a long way. I think they have a lot going for them. We will just have to see what happens."

Ryan Truex, Martin's 17-year-old brother, is driving for MWR in NASCAR's Camping World East Series this season.

"I think my brother being there has a big impact," Martin Truex admits. "I have more of an insight on how they do things." So, it's all but done, right? Truex is headed to Waltrip. Maybe.

Stewart-Haas Racing is also likely bidding for Truex, part of an expansion to three or four (with Brad Keselowski) if the sponsorship can be found.

Truex turned down a long-term offer from Penske Racing last year to sign a one-year deal with DEI, which merged with Chip Ganassi's team to form Earnhardt Ganassi this season. Mark Martin and Paul Menard both jumped ship, the team couldn't find the funding to keep Aric Almirola in the No. 8 and Truex finds himself part of a two-car team with Juan Pablo Montoya. It seems very unlikely Truex would consider a return to Earnhardt Ganassi. He knows which way the wind is blowing.

Why did Truex re-sign the one-year deal with DEI last season? He was keeping his options open, but joining Hendrick or Stewart-Haas in 2010 was probably foremost in his mind. It would put him in the same equipment with the ability to share technical data with his close friend and former DEI teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior would welcome them working together again, too.

Martin's unexpected decision to return for a second full season at Hendrick shut that door. Of course, Stewart-Haas, first with owner Tony and fifth with Ryan Newman in the points, has proven to be the revelation of this season. Stewart-Haas has to be very attractive to Truex

Truex has had a long-term relationship with Bass Pro Shops at DEI and it seems possible the company could follow Truex to his destination in 2010. Stewart's World of Outlaws team is sponsored by Bass. The established relationships would make for a smooth transition for Bass a compelling combination of teams and drivers to promote.

Truex has two excellent opportunities in MWR and Stewart-Haas. Truex clearly has a favorite in mind, but which is it?

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.