2008 Ride: No. 1 Dale Earnhardt Incorporated Chevrolet
2008 Primary Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
2008 Owner: Teresa Earnhardt
2008 Crew Chief: Kevin “Bono” Manion
Stats: 36 races, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 11 top 10s, 0 poles, 15th in points
Best Finish: Fourth (Loudon – June)
High Point: While the finish didn’t reflect it, Martin Truex Jr. had a strong weekend at Kansas with what was likely his best-handling car of the season. He started fifth, led 27 laps, and remained in contention for the win before a transmission failure relegated him to a 43rd-place finish.
Low Point: It may not have been his worst race of the season results-wise, but the July 4th weekend at Daytona was by far the low point of the season for Truex. A failure of his car to pass technical inspection resulted in both the suspension of his crew chief and a loss of 150 driver and owner points. To make matters worse, Truex spoke out in frustration, claiming his crew shouldn’t have made such a common-sense mistake. Immediately, rumors popped up that he was on his way out at DEI after the season, causing a giant distraction for a team that suddenly had a deep hole to climb to make the playoffs. While the 150-point penalty would not have ultimately made the difference in whether or not Truex made the top 12, it was enough to make his team think they were all but out of it long before the Chase for the Cup began.
Summary: Truex was the standard bearer for DEI in 2008 – but that wasn’t saying much. Instead, a season filled with promise that the four-car organization would contend ultimately saw the majority of their employees released as the operation merged with Chip Ganassi Racing. In the midst of those struggles, the garage was filled with rumors about Truex’s future. Despite eventually signing a contract extension to quiet the first wave of gossip in late summer, stories continued to circulate that he might still be able to get out of his commitment to DEI if they could not field enough cars in 2009.
Why would Truex want to leave an organization where he’s the No. 1 driver? A quick look at the stats sheet reveals the ugly truth. Truex failed to visit victory lane after breaking through last year, and his final points position was a disappointing 15th after having made the Chase in 2007.
Team Ranking: The best full-time driver out of the DEI lineup in 2008.
Off-Track News: Truex started a self-named foundation designed to help children in need. As a result, this season saw the first annual golf tournament to raise funds for his foundation. Truex also sponsored an auction to allow a fan the opportunity to fish with him and crew chief “Bono” Manion. Like many of the other drivers in the NASCAR garage, Truex has worked during his time away from the track to give back to his community.
2009 Outlook: It is hard to say what 2009 is going to hold for Truex. The combining of two organizations under the roof at CGR is certainly going to involve some growing pains and adjustment time to incorporate the team functionalities with those at CGR. Fortunately for Truex, his crew chief will still be on top of the pit box, and the majority of his pit crew has made the migration to the new organization. With the team still running Chevrolets, he’ll still likely be top dog at EGR; the question is, how high will that placement get him in the points standings?
2006 Frontstretch Grade: C
2007 Grade: B+
2008 Grade: C