Truex hungry for New Hampshire win
LOUDON, N.H. Dale Earnhardt Sr. climbed out of his No. 3 Busch Series car in the New Hampshire Motor Speedway garage and crawled under the fender to tune on the carburetor.
He likely had no idea that, nearby, a wide-eyed 13-year-old named Martin Truex Jr. watched every move of his favorite driver.
Earnhardt was parked nose-tonose with Truex’s dad, Martin Sr., who was competing in the same race. That allowed a young Truex Jr. to get up close to the driver he idolized.
“I thought that was the coolest,” Truex Jr. said Friday, 23 years later. “That was (the) first time I’d ever been around bigtime NASCAR drivers. This was the only track I came to where you could see those guys you watched every week.”
Now Truex is one of those bigtime guys. As the winner of last week’s Chase for the Sprint Cup opener at Chicagoland Speedway, Truex is already locked into the next round of the playoff no matter what happens in Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300.
But Truex, now 36, isn’t about to let off the gas after earning his third victory of the season — as many races as he’d won in his entire career combined before this year.
New Hampshire is a special place for Truex and his family, and the track he called “the Daytona of the Northeast” is No. 1 on his bucket list.
“I’ve been after this one a long time,” he said. “There’s no other track I’d rather win at right now. I’ve won here in the other two series I’ve raced in. My dad has won here. My brother (Ryan) has won here. I’ve got a lot of memories coming up here as a young kid watching my dad, and I really, really want to get that Cup win.”
He certainly has a good chance. Truex had the fastest 10-lap average in Saturday morning’s first practice session — this after qualifying second Friday. He led 123 laps in the July race here before fading to 16th because of a broken shifter.
And Truex, a popular preChase pick to win his first championship, intends to do everything he can to make it happen.
“We plan on winning the next two races,” Truex said. “Our guys are relentless. We all are. That’s just how we race. The anxiety of something bad happening is the only thing that’s changed.”
Truex has had a long and somewhat improbable road to reach the point where he can make statements like that with confidence. In 2013, Truex was removed from the Chase after NASCAR discovered Michael Waltrip Racing manipulated the regular-season finale; later that year, Truex lost his ride when sponsor NAPA cut ties with MWR.
Truex landed at Furniture Row Racing, but he struggled through a miserable year in 2014 as his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, battled ovarian cancer.
These days, life is much better. Pollex is cancer-free, Truex has had the fastest car for most of the year and he has added Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500 trophies to his collection.
Sunday, he hopes to acquire another one.
“I always dreamed of it,” he said of turning his career around. “I always hoped for it. The most important thing is I never gave up. I always continued to push. I always believed in myself.
“Sometimes it was hard to keep those around me believing, but I tried as hard as I could all the time . ... I take a lot of satisfaction in where we’ve come from to where we are. It’s a very rewarding process, but it’s tough to get through those hard days.”
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