Never mistake Martin Truex Jr.’s lack of emotion with apathy.
Everything he has endured on and off the track throughout his career—and even in the last year—has prepared him for the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
As simple as it sounds, Truex has learned not to sweat the small stuff and that will serve him well on Sunday.
“If I don’t win, I’m pretty sure I’m going to wake up on Monday morning and things will be OK,” Truex said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I have a lot different perspective than I used to have. It used to be I’d pull my hair out. It would be the end of the world.
“Now, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just another race. I think in certain situations, people look at that as a weakness or ‘Aw, he doesn’t want it bad enough.’ But in this case, I think now, I can prove to people that I do.”
No, Truex doesn’t have a Cup championship as do fellow title contenders Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. He hasn’t had the luxury of being with any one team more than four years since he graduated to the Cup Series after winning his second Busch Series (now Xfinity) title in 2005.
Dealing with adversity off the track
And until moving to Furniture Row Racing in 2014, Truex hadn’t experienced a program custom-tailored around him. Sure, the Denver-based organization expanded its operation at the end of 2016 to accommodate the addition of the No. 77 team for Erik Jones rookie run. But at the nucleus of the organization was the flagship No. 78 team and its focus never wavered.
So when Truex had to tend to his life-partner Sherry Pollex, who was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer in 2014 and had a recurrence earlier this summer, he was confident his team would be waiting for him. Team owner Barney Visser had assured Truex of that when the couple faced the diagnosis the first year he was with the team.
Last month, Jim Watson, a fabricator for Furniture Row, passed away during at team outing on the Saturday of Kansas weekend. Once again, the team banded together.
Then at Phoenix last weekend, the team announced that Visser suffered a heart attack on Nov. 4. He had successful bypass surgery two days later. Visser is still resting at his home in Denver but remains in close contact with the team.
“He's certainly paying attention to everything that's going on,” said Joe Garone, GM of Furniture Row Racing. “It's going to take a little bit of time for him to get where he can move around, actually get out to the track.”
Certainly, Visser is at the heart of Truex’s turn around. Without the opportunity to join the FRR, the driver isn’t sure what might have happened to his career when Michael Waltrip Racing was shuttering and qualities rides did not abound.
Now at 37, Truex is thriving. He has scored a career-best seven wins, 18 top fives, 25 top 10 finishes and led 2,175 of his 10,101 laps completed—stats that lead the Monster Energy Cup Series tour. In the last two seasons, Truex has led more laps than he had in his previous 12 years in stock cars.
“I do want it really bad,” Truex said. “And I do work my butt off for this. But I do understand, at the same time, that since all of the stuff I’ve been through I do know that, ‘Hey, tomorrow is going to come and it’s not the end of the world.’
“I think that’s a good mindset to have. It keeps the pressure off. It’s easier to put the blinders on and say, ‘I don’t give a damn what those guys are saying. I don’t care what they’re doing. I don’t care how good they think they are or how good they think we are.’ None of that matters.
“On Sunday, when we hit that damn race track, the best car and the best driver is going to win. And I hope we’re the best car and the best driver.”
Throughout this journey, Pollex has been Truex’s inspiration. No matter what happens when the checkered flag falls on Sunday, Truex will roll on with Pollex at his side.
“It’s nothing compared to life,” Truex said. “She knows..she just doesn’t like the attention. She doesn’t want the attention—and I know that because if she did, we probably wouldn’t be together because it wouldn’t work. We know each other pretty well. I definitely, I would like to celebrate and see her face and just put her on top of the world for just one night—right there. It would be pretty special.