Martin Truex Jr. tickled by NASCAR rival Joey Logano’s lack of popularity

Martin Truex Jr. soaked in the boos raining down toward his rival at Martinsville two years ago and gestured with two thumbs down in reference to the move Joey Logano had pulled moments earlier.

Infuriated by Logano’s winning bump-and-run maneuver that stole away his final lap lead, Truex Jr. followed up the thumbs down by saying straight-up in his post-race TV interview that he wouldn’t let Logano win the 2018 Cup Series championship. He had the backing of a crowd that like many NASCAR spectators didn’t appreciate Logano’s edgy driving style.

“He may have won the battle, but he ain’t winning the damn war,” Truex Jr. said of Logano.

Flash forward 21 days and Logano held up the Cup Series championship trophy having won the damn war after all.

Those are the types of stretches that have sprouted mini-rivalries between Logano and a host of other drivers over the past 10 years. They have made him a natural villain many fans choose to root against. Truex Jr. hasn’t forgotten the 2018 incident or wavered from his negative views of the Team Penske racer.

During a virtual news conference Thursday afternoon ahead of this weekend’s playoff race at Texas, Truex Jr. laughed tellingly for several seconds when asked whether he was surprised Logano was so unpopular. To him, the reasons were both abundant and obvious.

“Not really (surprised), no. I mean, he’s been in a lot of altercations with a lot of drivers so I guess that’s probably part of the reason,” Truex Jr. said. “He has his own approach and he doesn’t apologize for (creating) those situations. … I don’t know that he makes decisions in the race car based on how many fans he has or whether he gets booed or not.”

Truex Jr. hasn’t sparred directly on the track with Logano during the 2020 playoffs, but that might be more related to the lack of close finishes between them of late. Truex Jr. is struggling to advance from the Round of 8, currently 31 points below the cut-off line to reach the Cup Series title race at Phoenix. Logano has already clinched one of the four Phoenix spots.

While Logano hasn’t engaged with Truex Jr. recently, he’s tussled with Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott over the past month. He could get under the skin of others on Sunday at Texas, even though his incentive to perform well is almost nonexistent given the point reset after this postseason stage.

Should Truex Jr. find a way past the Round of 8 — conducting his news conference from a boat Thursday suggested confidence in that pursuit — he’ll have the chance to get Logano back for what happened a couple of years back. After a stretch of summer races without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there would likely be spectators on hand in Phoenix to cheer that revenge.

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