JOLIET, Ill.: Martin Truex Jr. just celebrated his 38th birthday. He has won two of his last three races. He is spending this weekend at one of his favorite tracks.

So yes, life is quite good at the moment.

Truex appears to be picking up some momentum as he tries to become the first repeat NASCAR Cup Series champion since Jimmie Johnson won five in a row from 2006 to 2010. He goes for his third consecutive victory at Chicagoland Speedway this Sunday.

“This track has always been really good for me. Obviously, the last two years, it’s been really good,” said Truex, who turned 38 on Friday. “I had to overcome a lot of issues here both years it seems like to be able to get the win. That’s kind of neat looking back on our two races here, what we had to overcome to win. This year is going to be different, I think.”

Truex had to deal with a completely unraveled tire on his way to the Chicagoland victory in 2016. He had an early pit-road penalty last year, but he led for 75 laps and finished more than seven seconds ahead of second-place Chase Elliott.

Truex and the rest of the Cup Series face a different challenge on this visit to the bumpy 1.5-mile oval. Chicagoland was being staged in September as NASCAR’s playoff opener, but it has a mid-summer date this season and the forecast calls for temperatures in the 90s.

Truex was 12th in qualifying on Saturday, turning a lap in 174.656 mph.

“Grip’s been tough to find this weekend for a lot of guys,” he said. “New tires as well, so I mean there’s a lot of new things going on. It’s definitely going to be tougher, I would imagine that the groove’s going to be probably on average a little bit higher than when we run here in the fall. I think more guys are going to get the top working.”

Truex is coming off a win last weekend at Sonoma, outdueling Kevin Harvick on the road course for his third victory of the season in his Furniture Row Racing Toyota. He also won at Pocono on June 3, holding off a hard-charging Kyle Larson.

Truex, Harvick and Kyle Busch have combined for 12 wins in the first 16 races on the Cup Series. The only other winners this season are Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano.

Menard wins pole

Paul Menard won the pole Saturday for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

It’s the second career pole for Menard, who has just one top-five finish this season. He also qualified first for a race at Daytona almost exactly 10 years ago.

Menard turned a lap at 180.012 mph in his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford.

He has one career win, taking the 2011 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ryan Blaney joined Menard on the front row. Blaney was second at 179.880 mph in his No. 12 Team Penske Ford.

Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. Martin Truex Jr., who has won the last two NASCAR Cup Series races at Chicagoland, qualified 12th on Saturday.