DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) Martin Truex Jr. believes being far away from NASCAR's hub has helped him during the most successful stretch of his career, a run he hopes ends with a championship this season.
Truex, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader, also is tied for the series lead with three victories. Already locked into the playoffs for a third straight season, Truex believes he's better prepared to end the year with NASCAR's trophy.
''It just seems like consistency has gotten better as we go down this road together as a team,'' Truex said Tuesday. ''Last year was a good and this year so far seems even better so hopefully we can continue that upward trend.''
A big reason, at least in Truex's mind, is his Furniture Row Racing team's headquarters in Denver, two time zones from the NASCAR center outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. The location gives the team an all-in-the-same-boat feeling that has made them bond into a winning group.
''I think it's a great team, a great situation,'' Truex said. ''Being in Denver, all by ourselves out there, my crew chiefs, my engineers, we're just like a family and we get better and better as we work together.''
That's certainly apparent this season.
Along with his three victories, Truex has had eight top fives and 14 top 10s in 21 races this season. He's lead the most laps of any driver (1,291) and has been out front in 16 of 21 events so far this year.
''You don't know what tomorrow is going to bring, you don't know what next weekend is going to bring, so we're enjoying while we have success,'' he said. ''We're working hard to stay where we're at.''
The next step is running for a title.
Truex made the final four two years ago, yet finished 12th at Homestead to fall to fourth in the points race. In 2016, Truex came in as a playoff powerhouse with crown jewel victories in the Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte and Southern 500 in Darlington . He then won two of the first three chase races to move out front. But problems in the round of 12 ended Truex's run as he finished 11th overall.
This time around, Truex isn't looking ahead. He thinks a focus on the week-to-week racing will keep himself and his crew sharp so when the playoffs come, they'll be ready.
''The last two years we had some good success in the playoffs and we did that by not changing our strategy,'' Truex said. ''Obviously, we haven't got a championship yet so we've got some work to do on it. But I feel good about this year and we'll see how it ends up.''
Truex was outside of the track ''Too Tough To Tame,'' at Ramsey's Pond to do a little down-time fishing. Truex, sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, sat in a boat alongside Darlington President Kerry Tharp and Bass Fishing Hall of Famer Guy Eaker. He made a few casts in the pond that local lore says led to Darlington's misshapen, egg-like layout because the Ramsey family did not want track creator Harold Brasington to get rid of the pond.
''The word environmentalist wasn't created back then,'' said Jim Ramsey, whose grandfather was credited with saving the pond. ''But I would say he thought about it years ago. He wanted to save that little pond.''
Truex fished some with the South Florida High fishing team that has won state and national angling titles on the prep level.
''Wished we could've caught some,'' Truex joked after coming up empty.
A bigger concern for Truex is staying on track with five races left in the regular season, including the Southern 500 at Darlington on Sept. 3.
''Can't wait for 30-some days to come back here and try again,'' Truex said.
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