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Martin Truex Jr. looks to build on first top-10 finish of year

Jeff Burton is impressed by Kevin Harvick after his Darlington win, Dale Jr. believes Hendrick Motorsports is best positioned for success moving forward, and Steve Letarte is inspired by Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth.

It took until the fifth race of the NASCAR Cup season for Martin Truex Jr. to have a result to feel good about. Now he gets another shot at the track where he scored his first top-10 finish of the year.

Truex, along with the rest of the Cup Series, returns to Darlington Raceway tonight (6 p.m. ET on FS1) three nights after Truex placed sixth there.

That came after Truex had to work through having “probably the worst car I’ve ever started a race with in my whole entire career.”

But Truex and first-year crew chief James Small made enough adjustments on their No. 19 Toyota to make Truex a contender by the end of Stage 2, when he placed third. They then earned Truex’s first finish better than 14th despite him having the third most stage points (50) after five races. He trails only Alex Bowman (55) and Chase Elliott (51) in stage points this season.

“I feel like we learned a lot on Sunday that will help us when we go back on Wednesday,” Truex said in a media release. “Obviously we learned what not to do from how we started, but James and the guys made some great changes throughout the race and we had a car good enough to finish in the top three or four. We were faster than the leader when we could get clean air at the end of the race, so that gives me confidence that we’ll unload a lot closer, which will be very important since the race is shorter.”

Following Sunday’s 400-mile race, Wednesday’s 311-mile event is the shortest scheduled Cup race Truex has ever competed in in 16 starts at the track “Too Tough To Tame.”

Due to the inversion of Sunday’s top-20 finishers for today’s starting lineup, Truex will start 15th. Last year’s Southern 500 winner, Erik Jones, won that race from the 15th starting spot. He’s the only driver since 2000 to win a Cup race at Darlington from the 15th-20th starting spots.

A win by Truex would give him two career victories at Darlington following his 2016 Southern 500 triumph.