It’s been a wild ride, and not in the best sense of the term for Martin Truex Jr. His career sure looked promising after back-to-back titles in what is now the Xfinity Series. While he earned a 2007 win at Dover for DEI, Truex had the misfortune of joining the team while it was on a downhill slide. The New Jersey native came on board at Michael Waltrip Racing, as a big part of their upswing, picked up a big win at Sonoma, and just when it all appeared to be coming together, “Spingate” happened, costing Truex a spot in the chase, and costing MWR a valuable partnership with Napa Auto Parts, and ultimately Truex his ride (though it should be noted he appears to have had nothing to do with his team’s shenanigans at Richmond).
The door opens for the journeyman at Furniture Row Racing to succeed Kurt Busch. It sure looked like a great opportunity after the success Busch had with the Denver-based team. 2014 did not produce the desired results for Truex. He recorded just five top tens, and to top it all off, longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. While he says he never considered quitting, the health of Pollex cast his on-track misfortunes in a new light. “When you get a glimpse of something that could possibly change your life like that in a bad way, it makes you look at things a lot differently. Suddenly those bad days at the racetrack weren’t so bad. Suddenly they were okay, and I knew that if we just kept working hard, we could get through it all….”
It’s early yet, but the will to keep pressing on has paid dividends. Truex opened 2015 with a second-place in the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona. He followed up with a strong fifth-place run in another non-points event- the second of the Budweiser Duels. In the season-opening Daytona 500, Truex posted an eighth- place finish. At Atlanta, the 34-year old finished two spots better, and Sunday at Las Vegas, he piloted the 78 to a runner-up result behind 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick.
Martin Truex Jr. says his team’s recent successes to perseverance and to learning from experience “I attribute it to knowing what we were doing wrong last year and fixing it over the wintertime and coming out of the box kind of understanding what we’re doing.” He would like to think he and the 78 crew at Furniture Row haven’t peaked yet “We want to win races. We have got a great team. We have got good equipment right now, and it’s important when you’re in those positions to try to take advantage of that. We’re going to keep pushing and try to get better and hopefully get in victory lane a few times.”
Harvick’s victory aside, Sunday’s Kobalt 400 was a good day for the little guy. Ryan Newman took third, AJ Allmendinger finished sixth, in spite of battling illness, and promising youngster Kyle Larson crossed the start/finish line ninth.
Success on the intermediates portends good things for Martin Truex Jr. and the single-car team based out of that far flung outpost of Denver, Colorado. If he can keep this up, wins are sure to follow. A testament to “stick-to-it-tiveness,” it’s refreshing to see good things come the way of a NASCAR survivor.