NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2007 Driver Review: Martin Truex Jr.

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, one win, seven top fives, 14 top 10s, one pole, 11th in points.
Best Finish: First, 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 to make a statement about his future in the top echelon of racing than the Monster Mile. Raised in nearby southern New Jersey, Truex 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 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 four DNFs, 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 Truex’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, N.C. 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, N.C. 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, Truex 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.

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 Frontstretch Grade: C
2007 Grade: B+

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Editor’s Note: The 2007 season is over, and even the Final Chase exam has come to a close – which means it’s time to give each driver their annual year-end evaluation. For the second straight year, your favorite Frontstretch staff members are giving driver reviews for every full-time wheelman on the circuit, giving you insight into the seasons of anyone from AJ Allmendinger to JJ Yeley. Be sure to keep coming in every weekday this offseason for even more original content on Frontstretch!

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