That's History! NASCAR's Checkered (Flag) Past, One Story at a Time · Amy Henderson · Monday April 3, 2006
It wasn’t a sure thing. In fact, you could even say the victory on that July day in Loudon came pretty much out of the blue.
The name wasn’t among the Busch North powerhouses: the Brad Leightons, the Andy Santerres, the Ted Christophers, or the Kelly Moores. It was, by default, a familiar name, even one that had seen Victory Lane here in another generation. The difference was that this time around, it belonged to a rookie, who happened to qualify on the pole for the Busch North race that is always a featured part of NASCAR weekends at New Hampshire International Speedway.
"Is that ol’ Martin on the pole?" was the question overheard more than any other that Saturday morning.
"No…it’s his kid."
Martin’s kid. That was, if anything, the only reason anyone knew his name at all. Yet there it was at the top of the day’s lineup: Martin Truex, Jr. Martin’s kid.
Martin Truex, Sr. was a name known throughout the Northeast as a racer of both Modifieds and Busch North (now Busch East) cars. He posted a Busch North win at NHIS in 1994, and countless other victories at tracks throughout the Far North. He raced in, and won often, in NASCAR’s Modifieds before that, and had a handful of starts in the Busch Series, finishing 12th at Nazareth back in 1994.
Everyone knew and liked the man from New Jersey, but the love and respect only grew for the man when he had, early during that fateful season, stepped away from his own racing career to help young Martin, Jr. shape his own future.
Still, it was a bit of a surprise when the younger Truex, just barely 20 years old, put his car on the pole for the Thatlook.com 100. In those days, Busch North at NHIS usually meant Leighton or Santerre battling it out for the race win. But not that day.
Now, the Busch North (now East) Series is almost always guaranteed to produce one of the best finishes at NHIS on any NASCAR weekend. Usually, it involves two or even three cars duking it out coming off turn three, and races are decided by inches and feet, not car lengths and seconds. This time around, the Top 5 included veteran drivers like Moore, Santerre, Dale Quarterly, and Dale Shaw heading into the final laps. But this time, none of them could quite make a move on the race winner. Instead, it was Martin’s kid took his car to Victory Lane that fateful day in 2000.
Somewhere over the course of the next three seasons, while Truex, Jr. was winning another pair of races, including another at NHIS in 2003, a Dale Earnhardt Incorporated engineer and New Hampshire native Richie Gilmore tipped off Dale Earnhardt, Jr. about Martin’s kid. Junior (Earnhardt, Jr., that is) liked what he saw in the young driver and tapped him to drive for his newly formed Chance 2 Motorsports team in the NASCAR Busch Series. The "other Junior" (Truex this time) made the most of the opportunity, scoring 3 Top 10 finishes in just six races in 2003, and then winning the series championship in 2004 and again in 2005.
Having come a long, long way from his start as an eleven-year-old go-kart racer, Truex, Jr. was slated to make his Nextel Cup debut in the Fall of 2005. Then, an injury to his boss and good friend, Junior (the first one) caused the timetable to move up. Truex, Jr. qualified the No. 8 Nextel Cup car respectably that weekend, and took over from his good friend at the first caution flag. What track was it, you ask? Where else could it have been but the site of that wonderful Busch North victory…New Hampshire.
2006 began with Truex Jr. rising to the top level of NASCAR Racing; he’s now a Nextel Cup rookie, a teammate to Earnhardt, Jr. at DEI. The learning curve has been steep, but no doubt he’ll turn a few heads one day when he sits on his first pole, races to his first win. Busch North fans won’t be surprised when either happens, though. After all, he’s Martin’s kid. His best years may be in the future, but those years grew out of the legacy of his family-owned team. And that’s history.
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