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WAID’S WORLD: Truex Jr., Team Establish Themselves As Title Favorites

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Yes, I have sung Martin Truex Jr.’s praises in the past. Bear with me because I’m going to do it again. I think he deserves it.

It’s not so much that Truex Jr. can, and does, win races. It more about how he achieves victory and what it has meant to his career.

In this first year of stage racing in Monster Series NASCAR Cup competition, Truex Jr. has not only thrived, he has dominated.

He’s made the most of this new type of racing and in so doing he’s made himself, as of now, the favorite to win the championship.

Consider Kentucky. Truex Jr. won the race and, perhaps, he should have not. The conclusion came down to a green-white-checkered – also known as overtime – and Truex Jr., who had been dominant, found himself the only driver with old tires on the restart.

Normally that would mean he was a man with a target on his back with his rivals taking dead aim.

But Truex Jr. hasn’t been normal this season. On the outside he got a push from Kyle Larson to get past Kyle Busch. He then was established as the winner when a wreck on the last lap froze the field.

The victory was Truex Jr.’s third of the season, which ties him with Jimmie Johnson for the most this year.

But more importantly, at Kentucky Truex Jr. swept all three stages of the race. He’s done that two times this season (also at Vegas) and as a result he has 28 playoff points that will be added to his total when the season enters the final 10 races of the year.

He’s well ahead of Johnson, who has 16 playoff points.

It goes well beyond points. As said, Truex Jr. has established himself as the season’s dominant driver.

And I think that maybe only a few could have anticipated that.

Truex Jr. races for Barney Visser, whose Furniture Row team is based in Denver, Col. While I am sure Denver has its own racing heritage, it’s far removed from the Charlottearea that is considered the base of operations for most NASCAR teams.

And until this year Furniture Row was a single-car team. Now let me ask you a question. How many NASCAR fans would have told you a single car team located thousands of miles from stock car racing’s hotbed would have any chance to not only win, but dominate and rank as a championship favorite?

I think you know the answer.

Perhaps we should not be surprised. Truex Jr. won four races last year but finished 11th in points. However, the year before that he took second in points with just one victory.

Truex Jr. joined Visser in 2013 and has won at least one race in every season except 2014. All but one of his 10 career wins have been with Visser.

All of this seems to provide evidence that Truex Jr. and the Furniture Row team had plenty of potential.

“I’m just glad I was able to hold on for these guys at Kentucky,” Truex Jr. said. “Everybody on this team puts so much effort into this and into what we do and gives me such awesome race cars to drive. Glad I could hold up my end of the deal.”    

“I know everybody in the shop was probably yelling and screaming at their TV,” said crew chiefCole Pearn. “It takes everybody. We’re real fortunate. It’s like a family and when you can win with family it makes it that much more special.”

Pearn’s use of the word “family” seems most appropriate. The team has stood by and served Truex Jr. in the midst of personal and emotional turmoil.

Truex Jr.’s girlfriend, Sherry Pollex was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer in 2014. Visser told Truex Jr. he could take off for the remainder of the season and not worry about a job.

Truex Jr. did not miss a race. But certainly Visser’s offer resonated with him and, I think, strengthened the bond the two, and the team, have.

Pollex had a recurrence and missed the Kentucky race because of surgery. That the cancer returned is not a surprise. Pollex – a courageous young lady – said 80 percent of people with her disease have a relapse.

“Everything went well,” Truex Jr. said at Kentucky, where he spoke with Pollex via telephone. “I will be excited to get home and see her and everything is going great.”

Indeed, for Truex Jr., it most certainly is.

And perhaps all is going much greater than we could know, given that Truex Jr. wins in spite of what surely must be a heavy emotional burden.

It seems that, for the moment, nothing can stop Truex Jr. and his team.

“Not right now there ain’t,” Truex Jr. said. “Other than luck.”

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Steve Waid

Steve Waid has been in motor sports journalism since 1972, the year he first started covering NASCAR, when he started his newspaper career at the Martinsville (Va.) Bulletin. From there Waid spent time at the Roanoke Times & World as well as NASCAR Scene, where he was the executive editor for 10 years. After retiring in 2010 he became the Vice President of Unplugged Auto Group for its website, MotorsportsUnplugged.com and has now joined POPULAR SPEED as an editor and columnist. Waid has won numerous writing awards and other such accolades. In January of 2014 he was inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame.