Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (56) races his car during practice for the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race, Friday, June 1, 2012, in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Nick Wass

Nearly every professional athlete claims to want to win more than anyone else.

When Martin Truex Jr. says it, though, he's probably right.

Today's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway falls one day before the fifth anniversary of Truex's only career Cup win - also at Dover.

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The Stafford Township, N.J., native says he wants to win today "worse than anything in the world."

Truex has gone 179 races since that day in Dover. Among drivers who have entered every Cup points race since then, 48-year-old former champion Bobby Labonte is the only other one who has not won.

"It's been really tough, honestly," he said in a phone interview Friday afternoon between practices at Dover. "To be honest, it's pretty much all I ever think about."

The drought has been a new experience for Truex. He won 13 races in the Nationwide Series from 2004-06 and five in the K&N Pro Series East from 2000-03. Before that, he starred at Wall Stadium Speedway in Monmouth County.

"I've been winning races since I first started and was 12 years old, 11 years old, so the past few years it's definitely been difficult," said Truex, who turns 32 this month.

It's not that he hasn't been close, though. He has led 1,135 laps since that last win, having made it to the front in 61 races.

That might seem frustrating, but Truex looks at it as a positive. Unlike, say, Labonte, who has led just 46 laps in those five years, Truex has legitimate chances to end the drought on a weekly basis.

"It'd be a whole lot tougher if we weren't capable of it and we weren't running up front," Truex said. "I know we've got the team to do it."

Dover might be the track to do it, too. He finished eighth in the spring race there last year and has led at least one lap in each of his past four races there.

"He always comes to Dover with the mindset that he can win the race," Truex's father, Martin Sr., a former racer, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Martin Jr. considers it his home track, since it is only a few hours from where he grew up in the Mayetta section of Stafford Township. But he also likes the layout of "The Monster Mile."

"There's a few things about it that really fit my style," he said. "The speed, the banking. I really like high-banked racetracks. I grew up racing Wall Stadium, which had banking.

"The biggest thing is that I understand the track. I understand what I need to race here. And some places, it takes you longer to find that."

Whenever he comes back to Dover, Truex is flooded by memories - driving his dad's car there as a 20-year-old, being there for testing when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 happened, and, of course, that Cup win.

Of course, he doesn't need to be in Dover to picture his time in victory lane there.

"I think about it a lot, honestly, even when I'm not getting ready to come here," he said. "It crosses my mind a lot of times. (But) certainly this past week I've been thinking about this place a lot and what I've been able to do here, and I've been getting excited about the opportunity."

Truex is in the midst of the best season of his Cup career, sitting in sixth place in the standings through 12 races. The top 10 drivers, plus two wild cards based on wins, after 26 races qualify for the 10-race Chase for the Championship.

That's made it a bit easier to deal with some of the frustrating near-wins. But it also will be easier to focus on the Chase if he can end the winless streak.

"We just want to get that first one out of the way so we can concentrate on getting some more of them," Truex said.

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