The Frontstretch: Driver Review: Martin Truex, Jr. by S.D. Grady -- Tuesday January 8, 2008

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Driver Review: Martin Truex, Jr.

S.D. Grady · Tuesday January 8, 2008


Martin Truex, Jr.
2007 Ride: No. 1 Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Chevrolet
2007 Primary Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats
2007 Owner: Teresa Earnhardt
2007 Crew Chief: Kevin Manion

Stats: 36 races, 1 Win, 7 Top 5s, 14 Top 10s, 1 Pole, 11th in Points.
Average Finish: 16.4.
Best Finish: 1st — Dover, June.

High Point: His first career Cup Win in Dover. Surrounded by stands packed with his hometown fans, there was no more suitable place for Truex, Jr. to make a statement about his future in the top echelon of racing than the Monster Mile. Raised in nearby southern New Jersey, Truex, Jr. followed his father into regional racing series, making a name for himself in short order. While fans throughout the Northeast call Martin one of their own, those that populate Dover consider the Truex family next of kin. As a result, the normally reticent Truex, Jr. had a hard time peeling the grin off his face while he celebrated in Victory Lane.

Low Point: Since Martin makes a habit of being nearly silent and unseen outside of the track, finding a low point for this Chase Driver's season is not so easy. With only 4 DNF's, he maintained enough momentum on the track to keep his fans and sponsors happy with his progress. Still, there was that small snippet in January. Caught committing an embarrassing act in a public parking garage, he was ticketed for Disorderly Intoxication. Let’s just say that next time, Martin promises to use the bathroom in the restaurant.

Summary: Perhaps the thing that has defined Martin Truex Jr.'s Cup career thus far is not his success on track, but who he is associated with. For the beginning of 2007, this continued to be so. Lost in the shadow of his good friend, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin sat quietly in the background while NASCAR Nation listened to scandal and rumor rock DEI. When the dust settled, DEI was minus their star power and looking for somebody to take over the helm…and just like that, all eyes turned to Truex.

The sophomore sensation responded in kind. After taking home the trophy for the Nextel Open at Lowe's Motor Speedway and following it up with his debut points victory at Dover in June, the No. 1 team had the positive momentum to fill the shoes of the departing No. 8. The Bass Pro Shops team continued to finish respectably throughout the rest of the regular season, landing one of the coveted Chase positions while Dale, Jr. floundered failed to do the same. The camera settled on Martin a little more often, and he grew into his new persona as "the man" at DEI.

In October, Martin further matured in his development as a Cup driver by establishing his own charitable foundation. At the press announcement for the Martin Truex, Jr. Foundation, he had this to say: "The foundation is dedicated to providing funds to non-profit, charitable organizations that will properly impact the lives of children. It will benefit children in my hometown in New Jersey, as well as the town of Mooresville, North Carolina, and the surrounding area. There are so many kids who could accomplish things in their lives if only given the right tools. My goal is to help these kids any way I can. Our first project, ‘Little Bears for Little Kids,’ is a stuffed animal drive for children who have been served by the Dove House in Statesville, North Carolina. We have collected several thousand stuffed animals for the children in need, and I need to thank everyone with all of these corporations who have helped to make this a success.”

Back at the track, the No. 1 team spent time struggling compared to the other Chase teams throughout the fall. Still, Martin was not ready to give up after disappointing finishes at Kansas and Talladega. He won the pole at Texas and nearly repeated the following week at Phoenix, starting on the outside.

All in all, it was a good year for the sophomore, finishing a solid 11th in points. The No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy proved competitive throughout the year, and its driver smiled at the camera a little more often.

The biggest change for Martin Truex, Jr. in 2008 will be the loss of longtime friend and teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (No. 8) – he left DEI for the comfy confines of Hendrick Motorsports in the offseason.

2008 Outlook: With the upheaval of 2007 behind them, DEI should be prepared to commit all their resources to their existing, successful team…the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops machine. Unanswered questions regarding the engine program are worrysome, however, and only leading laps on the track will quiet those doubts. Sponsorship with Bass Pro Shops is confirmed for the upcoming year, as well as Kevin Manion as crew chief – in fact, he was signed to an extension in the offseason.

Truex has shown growth as a driver and leader during 2007, and one can only hope he will be able to take his team to the next level in 2008. Usually, we are only looking to a driver to prove he can win races. Next year, we're watching Martin to see if he can win them for DEI.

2006 Grade: C.
2007 Grade: B+.

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