I walked away from Sunday’s race at Pocono feeling good. Was it because of the scintillating, spine-tingling, edge of your seat action? Not really. The racing was o.k., but I’ve seen better. What really made this race was the race winner. Sometimes it’s not the race, but who wins it that makes it good.
Though he was a winner of back-to-back championships in what we now call the Xfinity Series, wins have not come in abundance for Martin Truex Jr. Some thought that after he picked up his first career Cup win at Dover in 2007, a flurry would follow. It didn’t quite work that way. After his DEI days came to a close, the Marietta, New Jersey native made what appeared to be at the time a move forward by signing on with Michael Waltrip Racing.
By 2013, it all seemed to be coming together. After a lengthy dry spell, Truex- not necessarily known as a road course warrior- picked up a victory at Sonoma. Everything was rolling, Truex was on the cusp of the Chase, then all hell broke loose. Though the suspected culprits will deny it, teammate Clint Bowyer appeared to spin out on purpose to bring out a caution flag at Richmond, thus setting up Truex to make NASCAR’s playoff. After the powers that be investigation, MWR was hit hit with a harsh penalty, NAPA’s sponsorship of Martin Truex Jr. came to an end, and he found himself on the outside looking in again.
As bad as that was, the worst was yet to come. Sherry Pollex, Truex’s girlfriend for roughly a decade, was diagnosed with cancer. As cancer goes, stage three ovarian cancer, comes close to being as bad as it gets. Though he was new to Furniture Row Racing, owner Barney Visser offered him any time off he needed, and he could still keep his ride. He graciously declined.With Pollex at his side, Martin Truex Jr. soldiered on in one of the most miserable seasons of his career.
Throughout 2015, Truex has been a consistent contender. A review of the stats shows a racer doing it all but winning. In every race but one, the 78 career has finished in the top 10. His top five count of four is four times what Martin Truex Jr. had in all of 2014. Sunday June 7,2015 changed all that. With new crew chief Cole Pearn, Truex was a winner on this day, holding off defending champion Kevin Harvick and six time champion Jimmie Johnson. This day, he would not be denied.
Adding to the sweetness of victory is that it came racing for Furniture Row, based on the outskirts of the NASCAR frontier in Denver, Colorado. Not only is a Truex a highly regarded driver among his peers, Visser is also regarded as one of the “good guys,” the owner that gave Kurt Busch another chance to get his career back on track, re-establishing himself when the opportunity came for Busch via Stewart-Haas Racing.
As solid as he has been this season, don’t think that this is just one shining moment for Martin Truex Jr. Week after week, he is producing the kind of finishes that suggest he is one of those drivers capable of pushing the bigger dogs all the way until the end.