Sometimes isn’t always to the swift. In true Martin Truex Jr. fashion, the race went to the one who patiently endured. To finish first, you must first finish. After years of blood, sweat and tears, Martin Truex Jr. has reached the top of the mountain. Let there be no doubt, when it came to the 2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series season, the driver of the 78 was the man.
There have been complaints in years past that the right driver didn’t always get the crown. The consistently excellent one would be topped by the man of the moment. It happens in sports. Just ask fans of the 2001 Seattle Mariners or the 2007 New England Patriots. How about those 2015-16 Golden State Warriors- they of the mind-boggling 73-9 regular season record.
This season, Martin Truex Jr. finished what he started. On only one occasion did the 78 team finish outside the top ten in consecutive races. Considering we’re talking about Sonoma and Daytona at the end of June and early July, that’s understandable. Out of 36 races, Truex made the top ten 26 times! In the rarified air of the top five, the New Jersey native made 19 times. How much did he win? Martin Truex Jr. took the checkered flag a series leading eight times, three more than runner-up Kyle Busch and double that of Kyle Larson.
The thing that makes this story cool is that this is a champion who had faced so much adversity in his long Cup career. After capturing two Busch Series titles, Truex got off to a promising start with a win at Dover in June of 2007. That happened right about the time that his team- Dale Earnhardt Inc.- went into decline.
From there, Martin Truex Jr. moved on to Michael Waltrip Racing. Patience seemed to be paying off. Truex finally got his second career win in 2013 at the challenging road course at Sonoma and was seemingly playoff bound. Then disaster struck at Richmond. Accusations that the MWR team brought out a caution to manipulate the race’s outcome cost Truex his sponsorship from NAPA and just like that, his career appeared to be in the dumper.
Then along comes Barney Visser and Furniture Row Racing. It’s not throwing shade to say they were considered a middling team. Regan Smith got the team a win at Darlington in 2011, but the team just organization just never quite got over the hump.
After a season at FRR, Kurt Busch left the 78 behind to join Stewart-Haas Racing. Truex signed on to succeed the 2004 champion, and it’s fair to say most considered it a “meh” move. You can’t win championships when your team is based all the way out in Denver. That’s like NASCAR Pluto.
No one was terribly shocked- to be honest- when 2014 didn’t go well for Martin Truex Jr. This movie had been seen before. Adding to the adversity was the cancer diagnosis for his girlfriend and ever-present companion Sherry Pollex.
Surrender is obviously not in the man’s vocabulary. A 2015 victory seemed to portend that Martin Truex Jr. and company had figured it out. He finished fourth at season’s end.
Even though he finished 11th in 2016, Martin Truex Jr. became a multi-race winner for the first time in his career. Much better.
Looking at his body of work, is there any disputing that Martin Truex Jr. is THE champion? No. Making it even sweeter is that fans love stories of perseverance. When you’re tempted to give up, remember this guy. Martin Truex Jr. never gave up, and look where it got him.