Photo credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography

No. 19 team has one focus for Martin Truex Jr.'s remaining races

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- Tuesday's press conference at Joe Gibbs Racing focused on Chase Briscoe taking over the No. 19 Toyota in 2025, but team owner Joe Gibbs made it clear that there is another immediate priority.

Gibbs wants the No. 19 team to help Martin Truex Jr. do what so many drivers before him could not.

"The emphasis for the rest of this year, we think we can win a championship with this car," Gibbs said Tuesday. "I know James (Small) feels that way. We're going to do everything we can to try to win a championship and let Martin go out on top.

"For that car, nothing much has gone our way, but that car is sitting there as the first in points behind those who have won. We're in a good spot there."

Several drivers have attempted to win the championship in their final season. They have fallen short. For example, Tony Stewart won one race in his final season, and he finished 15th in the Cup standings.

Jeff Gordon reached the Championship 4 in his final season after winning one race. He ended the year third in the Cup standings. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson both went winless in their final seasons. They both missed the playoffs.

Truex remains winless after the first 18 races of the Cup Series season. He has four top-five finishes and eight top-10s, but these numbers don't tell the full tale. Truex has been in contention to win multiple times before something unexpected threw a wrench in the works.

Last weekend's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was an apt example. Truex finished fifth in stage 1 and second in stage 2. However, he spent extra time on pit road before the final stage because the lug nut on the right rear tire was not tight.

Truex then wrecked into the outside wall during the final stage but was still able to finish the race in ninth place.

Richmond was another race that slipped out of the No. 19 team's grasp. Truex led a race-high 228 laps but lost the lead to Denny Hamlin during the final pit stop. Hamlin went on to win after jumping the restart zone. Truex finished fourth after getting moved up the track toward the outside wall.

"If you take a look at this year, that car has overcome all kinds of adversity," Gibbs added. "It was again last week - and to fight all the way back, last week, and to wind up ninth is a perfect example. We've kind of been doing that all year.

"We've been the dominant car too at times, and things just didn't go well at the end of the race, so we are sitting there in points. Last year we won the regular season. I just think our team there, if we have a few things go our way, I think we could win the championship this year."

Despite the setbacks, Truex remains fourth in the Cup standings. He is 48 points behind Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, who are in a tie atop the standings. Truex is only eight points behind Hamlin, who has three wins.

The 2017 Cup champion and the No. 19 team remain in contention for wins, and they appear destined for a return to the playoffs. If they can check off the goal of reaching the playoffs on points or by winning, they will be set up to pursue a Cup title.

Though simply making the 16-driver playoff field is by no means satisfactory for Truex and his team. They want to dominate races and go out on a winning streak.

"We've got 18 races left and we've got a championship to win," Small told AltDriver. "A few things go our way here, we'll be rolling and perfect."