"Martin has won a lot of races this year," Harvick said. Nobody is going to get to me." The aforementioned "crap" makes him abundantly easy to root for."Those guys have dominated the year, and I feel like if they don't win at this point, they would probably feel like they've had a letdown." That sounds a lot like a veteran driver playing mind games, but Truex took it as a compliment. Few racers have suffered more hardships, from losing his job in 2013 with Michael Waltrip Racing, to going 69 races without a victory during one stretch, to, most difficult of all, watching his girlfriend Sherry Pollex suffer after a cancer diagnosis.Homestead, as you probably guessed, is a 1.5-mile track. Truex himself figures that the average race is 25 percent luck -- there is a reason that the expression "that's racing" is part of the sport's vernacular -- and the competition is stiff.

has been there and done that on NASCAR's biggest stage. Two years ago, when NASCAR's playoffs arrived at the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Truex was the happy-to-be-here outsider.

But he likes the view from the top, and that's exactly where the Mayetta native plans to finish in the 2017 Monster Energy Series title.

I feel like we're in a lot better position, we're a lot stronger team mentality, and we have what it takes to get it done." So does nearly everyone else in the sport, and it's easy to understand why.

In the past five races at 1.5-mile tracks dating back to this summer, Truex has four victories and one second-place finish.

Besides, he said, if Harvick was trying to get inside his head before the big race, he was wasting his time. Pollex is still fighting a recurrence of the disease, but she'll be in pit row on Sunday.

But the owner of his Furniture Row Racing car, the man who hired him when he didn't have a ride, will be absent.

Putting together the kind of season that makes the other drivers jealous -- the most victories (seven), top-five finishes (18) and laps led (2,175) -- is much better, even if it's a position that still might be a tad weird for Truex given the long road that brought him here.

"Nobody expected a lot out of us the first time around and, unfortunately, we didn't get a lot done, either," Truex said this week. Since that day, we've been working for two years to get another opportunity, and here we are.

He knows a victory will put an exclamation point on a professional turnaround that few saw coming, but no matter what happens, he isn't going to let one race define him.