Truex says Dale Jr. "a huge part of the reason I'm here"

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Truex says Dale Jr.
Jim Utter
By: Jim Utter
Apr 28, 2017, 6:43 PM

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s contributions to NASCAR go well beyond his accomplishments on the track and the careers of drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Elliott Sadler are two of the best illustrations.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Martin Truex Jr., Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Martin Truex Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
Elliott Sadler, JR Motorsports Chevrolet
Elliott Sadler, JR Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Elliott Sadler, JR Motorsports

Both drivers talked Friday about the role Earnhardt has played in the development or continuation of their respective NASCAR careers.

Truex gets his shot

“There's a very high possibility that I wouldn’t even be sitting here right now if it wasn’t for him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) giving me an opportunity back actually right here at Richmond in 2003,” Truex said.

“He's been a huge part of the reason I'm here. He's been a great friend throughout the years, somebody I really look up to and a great role model for young drivers.”

Truex got the opportunity to run six races in 2003 in what is now the Xfinity Series with Chance 2 Motorsports, which at the time was co-owned by Earnhardt and his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt.

He won series championships in 2004 and 2005 and moved into a full-time ride in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2006 at Dale Earnhardt Inc., with Earnhardt as a teammate.

“There are just so many things I learned from him and so much I actually owe to him. I'm happy to see that he was able to go out his own way, on his own terms. I think as a driver that's everybody's dream – to not have something or someone make that decision for you,” Truex said.

“He’s been a great teammate. He's been a great friend over the years. Most of those things are not going to change, but we'll definitely miss him on the race track for sure.”

Sadler's revival 

In contrast to Truex, Sadler’s relationship with Earnhardt came late in his career.

Sadler, who had a 12-year career in the Cup series, was wrapping up a stint in the Xfinity Series with Roush Fenway Racing in 2015 when Earnhardt approached him about an opportunity to compete for the series championship at his JR Motorsports organization.

Since joining JRM for the 2016 season, Sadler has three wins, finished second in the series standings last season and is current leading the points in 2017.

“He and I met when I was 17 years old and we were both racing at South Boston (Va.) Speedway and it’s neat that we are still friends today. We’ve been through a lot together – good and bad,” Sadler said.

“The biggest thing that I’m proud of him for is that he is the same person today as the first time I met him. I wouldn’t be here right now if he and Kelley (Earnhardt-Miller) haven’t given be the opportunity drove his car a couple years and he looking me in the eye and saying he believed we could do it together.

“That’s a special feeling to have. Believe me, I turn 42 on Sunday and I think anytime a driver can go out on his terms, how he wants to go out, is huge for any athlete but especially in racing.”

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