New Jersey's Martin Truex Jr was toast of the town as the Busch series invaded Orlando Florida to hold its annual awards ceremony.
Filling the Tuscan Ballroom of the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal studios Truex, in his first full year in the series won the title by 230 points over Raybestos rookie of the year Kyle Busch.
Driving for Chance 2 Motorsports, a team partially owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt, Truex, and crew chief Kevin Manion had a moment to reflect on the year that was.
"This is an incredible night." "It's hard to believe that last year at this time we were only planning on running a part-time schedule. Noted Truex, referring to the team's lack of sponsorship. Eventually, the team ran a full schedule with a combination of sponsors in place, and running multiple team cars at events Dale Jr was scheduled to run.
Team owner Dale Jr saw in Truex a legitimate chance to run for the title and put several deals together prior to the start of the 2004 season.
"We started Chance 2 for me to run a few Busch races and to get a taste of what ownership was all about," noted Earnhardt. "A few weeks before Daytona, we were only planning to do twenty-four races and the next thing you know we're doing a full season"
Truex also received accolades form his other owner Teresa Earnhardt before receiving his share of the $6,235,356.00 point fund. The young driver claimed a total of over two and one half millions dollars for awards including the championship, laps led, mid race award, pole award, Goodyear tire award and an honor bestowed by Sunoco.
Close to Truex in bonus earnings was Kyle Busch, Busch claimed $2,027,050 set record for the highest points total for a rookie driver in series history.
For the first time in the history of the series, the top two drivers each garnered bonuses over the two million dollar mark.
Busch, in accepting his awards, wore open toed sandals in tribute to his team owner, Ricky Hendrick who was killed in a plane crash last October.
The evening was a culmination of the thirty four race season, the top ten drivers in points were honored by series sponsor Anheuser Busch, NASCAR, and fellow competitors.
Anheuser Busch, who has sponsored the series for the past twenty three seasons, announced it would increase the annual point fund by three point seven million.
Encouraged by the increase in point fund money, Truex and Manion have there sites set on the 2005 title as the entire team will remain in tact for another season.