Martin Truex Jr.

Driver Martin Truex Jr. (56) waves before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday, April 14, 2012, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)

Tim Sharp

Martin Truex Jr. is halfway to qualifying for NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship for just the second time in his seven-year Sprint Cup career.

The Stafford Township, N.J., native is in sixth place through 13 races. The top 10 drivers, plus two wild cards based on wins, through 26 races make the 10-race Chase. Truex last made it in 2007.

With 441 points, Truex is comfortably ahead of 11th-place Brad Keselowski (400). He trails leader Greg Biffle (486) by about the same amount of points.

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“Our top-10 at Dover (this past Sunday) gained us a few points on the leader as well as distanced ourselves from the teams behind us,” Truex said in quotes provided Tuesday by his team, Michael Waltrip Racing. “We are in decent shape with just 13 more races to go before the Chase starts.

“I wish we could have Talladega back because we would be in even better shape.”

Indeed, if he hadn’t gotten caught in a wreck at Talladega last month, Truex would be even higher in the standings. He finished 28th in that race, but if he had finished 15th — the position where he started — he would be in fifth place in the standings now.

Truex said the difference this season has been crew chief Chad Johnston, who took over for Pat Tryson after 13 races last season. Truex was in 22nd place at that point.

“Chad’s done a great job with this NAPA team,” Truex said. “Chad, MWR and Toyota have stepped up this year in every way, and you see the results each weekend.”

MWR has never placed a car in the Chase in its five previous seasons in Cup, but this year the team might have two drivers make it.

“We are solidly in the hunt to earn MWR its first berth into the Chase, and Clint Bowyer just climbed into 10th, so we’ve got two MWR teams in contention right now,” Truex said. “That’s pretty cool.”

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