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Long Road To Success Pays Off with Title, Consistent Results for Truex in Cup Series

Few NASCAR Cup Series drivers have taken the long road to reach the elite level in motorsports. The results-driven industry demands immediate success to stay relevant in a field of 40 drivers. 

2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex, Jr. is an exception.

A decade ago, Truex was entering his first season with Michael Waltrip Racing in the Cup Series after a four-year stint at Dale Earnhardt, Inc./Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

In his four years at DEI, Truex produced one win, in 2007, 36 top-10 finishes and a combined average finish of nearly 20th position. Truex was getting results that led to the occasional playoff berth, such as his one in 2007, and not much more.

The next four seasons at Michael Waltrip Racing saw a marginal increase in success: one win, 53 top-10’s, a combined average finish of nearly 16th and one playoff appearance, in 2012.

Then, in 2014, Truex moved to Furniture Row Racing, the one-car operation that was based out of Colorado and owned by passionate race fan Barney Visser. Their first season together produced his worst season in years. Just five top-10’s and an average finish of 20th.

“I think throughout my career I’ve had a lot of great moments,” Truex said. “Certainly, there was a lull in there, but I felt like even through the bad years there was enough light at the end of the tunnel. I could always see it, and I could always feel it. It was always right there. I could always sense it. I never lost that.”

That confidence kept Truex going. He knew he had what it takes to be a champion. He just needed the perfect partner on his journey. He said he believes a big part of success in racing is the people who build the race cars.

In 2015, Truex found his perfect partner when Cole Pearn was hired as his crew chief. Pearn helped Truex reach that light at the end of the tunnel, and the two took NASCAR by storm.

That year, they won one race and made the championship final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2016, Truex secured his first multi-win season in his Cup Series career. 

Then, his 2017 season read like a movie script. Truex won a season-high eight races en route to his first career Cup Series championship while his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex battled ovarian cancer.

In the two seasons since his championship, Truex has won 11 more races and finished in the top-10 45 times. He has also finished second in the points standings each of the last two years.

Furniture Row Racing ceased operations after the 2018 season. In 2019, Truex got his shot with a well-established Cup Series team in Joe Gibbs Racing. He scored seven wins along the way to his second-place finish in the points, and he was one of three JGR drivers in the championship four.

“It’s incredible, to be honest,” Truex said. “I think it’s funny. I never really spent much time looking at numbers or accomplishments. I’ve been trying to live in the moment and still trying to figure out how to do more and get better. I’ve been in a great position the last five years. I’ve had great teams and great equipment, and the opportunity to succeed. It’s just been a lot of hard work, for sure, but it’s been a lot of fun. It’s very rewarding to see your hard work pay off. I’m not done.”

Truex said he tries to stay away from the statistics, but sometimes when you’re searching for answers, you go straight to the numbers. He feels like the light at the end of the tunnel kept shining because of his ability to score top-10 finishes while not in the best equipment.

“I’ve seen some stats, and if you look through my career and the top-10’s from the first however many years compared to the last five, it hasn’t been all that different,” he said. “It’s the top-five’s and the wins that have been a game-changer.”

The numbers don’t lie when it comes to top-five finishes. Truex more than doubled his total in the last five years from the previous eight. From 2006-14, Truex had 32 top-five’s. From 2015-19, he scored 70 top-five finishes.

And then there’s the wins. Before 2015, Truex had just two wins. In the last five seasons, Truex has scored 24 Cup Series wins, including two of NASCAR’s crown jewel races: the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500.

Now with a year under his belt racing for Joe Gibbs, Truex said he feels confident he can take advantage of his stellar equipment and win the other two crown jewel races he’s missing in 2020: The Daytona 500 on Feb. 16 and the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line on July 5.

Joe Gibbs Racing is no stranger to kissing the bricks. The team has five wins at Indianapolis, including two with reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Busch. Having adjusted from a one-car operation to a four-car team that shares a plethora of information, Truex is in the best position of his career to win at Indy and do something else few drivers have done before.

Tickets are on-sale now for the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line event weekend, which includes a revamped July Fourth weekend schedule, the Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink, FGL Fest and the Pennzoil NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

 
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