Martin Truex Jr. returned to NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship last season.
This year, he wants to get back to victory lane.
Truex will start his eighth season in NASCAR's premier series Sunday, and while last year was his best in many categories, it was missing one thing: A win.
Truex, 32, earned his only career Cup victory in 2007, which also was the only other time he made the 12-driver Chase, NASCAR's version of playoffs.
"I probably didn't cherish (the win in 2007) quite enough because I really thought another one would come a whole lot sooner," Truex told reporters at NASCAR Media Day last week in Daytona Beach, Fla., site of Sunday's Daytona 500. "I'm still waiting, so it was like, 'OK, I got the first one out of the way. It's time to start winning a bunch.' And I've been real close a whole bunch of times, but obviously haven't gotten it done again.
"So I think the important part for me will be when I get my next one - I say when because I'm going to - to enjoy it a little bit more and cherish it more."
The only full-time Cup driver with a longer current drought than Truex is Bobby Labonte, who last won in 2003. In fact, Jeff Burton is the only other full-timer with a winless streak dating back past 2010. Labonte, 48, and Burton, 45, each have 21 career wins.
Nearly everything else about Truex's 2012 season was positive, though.
He finished in the top 10 in more than half of the 36 races - a career-high 19. His seven top-five finishes matched his career best from 2007. He led 434 laps, nearly as many as he had in the previous four seasons combined (483).
Truex also joined teammate Clint Bowyer as the first Michael Waltrip Racing drivers in history to qualify for the Chase. MWR's third car did not compete for the Chase because it did not have a full-time driver, but Mark Martin, Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip combined for 16 top-10s and seven top-fives in it.
"Obviously, with what we did last year, where we came from as a team in the past year and a half to get to where we were, I feel like the general confidence inside of the team, the way we transformed the team before and what we were able to do throughout last year, I think is definitely going to play in our favor (this season)," Truex said. "I think it's something that we hope will continue to keep working, that recipe that we used for success last year."
A new car
Truex and his teammates will face a challenge this season with NASCAR's new Generation 6 car. The sleek new bodies are the biggest difference between the Gen-6 and its boxy predecessor.
MWR executive vice president of competition Scott Miller said the transition shouldn't be too difficult, though.
"We have the capability to improve on our success from last season," Miller said in quotes posted on the team's website. "We developed a process last season to get from Point A to Point B, and we found a lot of success with the process. We will use the same process to help us with the development of the 2013 car. … I think we can elevate our program this season and compete for a championship again."
Truex said the new car fits his style better. It appears to be more similar to the cars he used to win titles in 2004-05 in what is now known as the Nationwide Series.
"This car demands you to drive it," Truex said. "It wants you to be aggressive. It likes to be pushed. The car we've been running the last few years is the opposite - it's always telling you to slow down and wait and be patient and be smooth. I don't like that. I like to attack. I like to drive the car."
Nothing would be better than to end his winless streak Sunday in the Daytona 500, NASCAR's version of the Super Bowl.
Truex will start from near the back of the pack because of a penalty incurred when his car window fell off on the last lap of his qualifying race Thursday. But Daytona International Speedway is a track where many drivers drop back until the end anyway to avoid big wrecks.
Truex said his car his capable of running up front Sunday. He would know, having led laps in each of the past four Daytona 500s, including having started from the pole in 2009.
"I've had cars capable of winning the Daytona 500, and I've been in contention. … I feel really good about my chances this year because I like this new Gen-6 Toyota," he said.
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