One of Racing’s Best Drivers Has Never Won Daytona. What About This Year?
Fifteen years ago, NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. made his full-time debut as a Herald young driver with Dale Earnhardt Inc., came on the racing scene with high expectations and was talked about as one of the next great drivers Was living
Even though it was Broken Shifters, Blown engine Or destructive Pit road lashing His race days ended or many of his teams folded under him, threatening his entire career, the 40-year-old, Truex, 40, managed to reach Victory Lane only twice in his first decade in NASCAR’s top series are.
Over the past five seasons, however, Truex has operated from career letdown to a potential Hall of Famer and one of the most successful American racecar drivers, finishing 30th in career victories.
Since 2015, no driver has led more laps than Truex and only Kevin Harvick has taken home more checkers.
He became one of the most prominent drivers in the game, quietly and patiently, as has always been his nature.
He has won on short tracks, one-and-a-half tracks, and on road courses, but he has not won on sports high-banker superspeedways such as Talladega or Daytona, where he is running Sunday at the opening of the season of the Daytona 500.
This will be his 17th attempt.
He finished second in the 2016 Daytona 500, placing .01 second from Denny Hemlin in the race’s long history, the smallest margin of victory (or defeat, from Truex’s perspective).
“Everywhere we go, he has a chance to win,” said Joe Gibbs, Hall of Fame football coach and Truex’s current team owner. “And there are not many people that way.”
Throughout all of the time, Truex has faced a deep personal challenge: Sheri Polllex, his longtime girlfriend, first suffered ovarian cancer in 2014. After aggressive treatment, she recovered but at the end of last year Pollex announced that the disease had returned.
For Truex, while standing by her partner’s side, she underwent yet another surgery and more rounds of chemotherapy are as much a part of life as fastening on her helmet and climbing into the cockpit of her racecar.
Cancer, he said, “we live all the time.”
“But you learn to understand that what matters most and what doesn’t matter, don’t worry about it,” he said.
His master put it more tightly.
“He’s moved a lot,” Gibbs said.
Truex does not try to think in the long term.
With a mindset that has been hailed as a world-class racecar driver and someone’s partner in the fight of his life, Truex focuses right on the world through his windshield: the next treatment of his next race, the Polex , And maybe, if he is fast enough, to hoist the second cup series championship in November.
He is not thinking about retirement, nor is he worried about his place in the history of his sport.
“I haven’t really thought much about a legacy or my career,” Truex said. “The main thing right now is that I still like racing, I like competing, and I love winning.”
Now, as he nears a career full of highs and lows, Truex focuses on the task at hand; To win the Daytona 500, to win more, and to find himself in Victory Lane once again at the end of the season, dedicate another championship to his girlfriend as the metal green ticker tape winds up Let’s fill.
It will be the culmination of a career born in a small town near the Jersey Shore, away from the epicenter of stock car racing in the south.
He was introduced to running by his father, a racer who regionally called the Busest North Series.
To finance his racing, Martin Truex Sr. worked on a clamming boat, which eventually started a commercial clamming company.
“Racing was a hobby,” Truex Jr. said of his father’s racing career. “He always had to pay himself for everything.”
Like his father, Truex Jr. earned money to work as a teenager on his family’s boat to buy car parts for his race at the nearby Wall Stadium, a third-mile paved oval track where he raced Learned.
He reached the bottom rung of stock car racing before making his Full Time Cup Series debut in 2006.
This came shortly after Truex’s first win in 2007 at Dover International Speedway in Delaware.
Then, season after season, Truex failed to find a formula that worked.
He left the Arhart team at the end of the 2009 season to drive the No. 56 car for Michael Waltrip Racing. But after Truex won only once in 2013, and the team turned.
Without a car to drive, Truex thought his career, and thus his lifelong dream, might be over.
But Barney Wiser’s Colorado-based Furniture Row racing team had a ride start and after brief talks, Truax signed on to drive the No. 78 car.
Little expected the team, a one-man discrepancy and the only race team that was not in or around Charlotte, NC
After a disastrous 2014 campaign, while much of Truex’s attention was trained on his girlfriend’s health, the pieces began to fall into place.
In 2017, Hamlin was eliminated from his historic Daytona for a year and a half, after a season that saw him in Victory Lane eight times, with Trucks winning the silver NASCAR Cup trophy on a hot night at Homestead-Miami Speedway The finale of the hoisted season’s champion-crown.
It was a race he needed to win outright to become champion of the season.
As Truex took on his victory lap, the car’s camera showed him wiping tears from his eyes, his voice fighting with emotion as he thanked his pit crew on the radio.
Moments later, as the ticker tape lost Victory Lane and the tears were still well, he publicly recognized Polex, preferring a three-hour fight that he only endured in his car to that fight Did what they tried together.
“It meant a lot to him,” Truex said. “We just never give up all day.”
It was the highest point in a career marked by so many ups and downs, so many close calls, and so many.
After falling short of one place to win back-to-back championships in 2018, Furniture Row Racing announced that it would cease operations.
Truex soon signed with Joe Gibbs Racing and is driving the No. 19 car, in which he has won eight races in the past two years.
Gibbs attributes Truex’s light manner to his success behind the wheel.
Gibbs said, “What influences you is how far Martin’s personality is off the racetrack.” “He works in a racecar and really helps him because he can think his way through problems is really easy.
“He is always thinking, working, fighting.”