“Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.” No, this is not going to be a literary piece. However, William Shakespeare showed how to view adversity. Only the strong can rise above it and learn how to have success. One such person is Martin Truex Jr. He is a 37-year-old NASCAR driver from New Jersey that races in the number 78 car. He started racing full time in October 2004. That was the Bass Pro Shop 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, in which Jimmie Johnson won. It would take Truex Jr. three years before he could get his first win in the Cup Series. At Dover, he won the 2007 Austim Speaks 400. Since his first win until the beginning of the 2017 season, he had only five wins. That is only two wins a season on average. In that period, he lost his job in 2013. He has lost several crew members, even his entire team. He has watched his longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex battle Stage 3 ovarian cancer. How would he respond during another adverse season?
He started 2017 with a 13th place finish at the Daytona 500, the Superbowl of NASCAR. Not the ideal start but he made improvement by finishing eighth in Atlanta, the following week. The third time proved to be the charm. In Las Vegas, he got his first victory of the year. That was only his sixth victory to date. He would have to wait eight more races for his next victory in Kansas City. Although he continued to race well, he couldn’t seem to get another victory week after week. Finally, in Kentucky at the Quaker State 400 he won again. Three wins by any driver in a season is great. This win securely placed him in the playoffs. However, he wanted more. He proceeded to win in Watkins Glen, Chicago, Charlotte, and back in Kansas City again. He had gone from five wins before the season started to now seven wins on the season! He was part of the final four drivers with a chance to win a championship at Homestead, near Miami. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Brad Keselowski were trying to unseat the hottest driver of the year.
Truex Jr. had led just about every statistical category coming into Homestead. He was the leader in wins, laps led, and stage victories. Six of victories were on 1 ½-mile tracks, which made him a clear cut favorite for the championship. Just because you are the favorite doesn’t guarantee a victory. Truex Jr. was racing well the entire day, but with only a few laps to go Bush moved up to second place. He raced Truex Jr. hard but couldn’t get even enough to force him to make a mistake. Truex Jr. would be the winner of the Ford EcoBoost 400 and the Cup Series champion. This was the fourth consecutive year that the winner of the race would also be the Cup Series champion. Harvick did it 2014, Busch in 2015, and Johnson last year. How appropriate that Truex Jr. would lead 78 (his car number, for those who might night get it) of the 267 laps for his eighth victory of the season.
After his victory he said, “I told my guys we were going to dig deeper than we ever have today, and (with) 20 (laps) to go, I thought I was done — they were all better than me on the long run all day long. I just found a way. I found a lane that I could use, and I found a lane that was blocking enough of their air that they couldn’t use it and just made it happen. I can’t believe it. I’ve wanted this since I was a little kid and just never give up. Just never give up on your dreams, no matter what happens and what kind of crap you go through. And thank you, Barney. I wish you were here, buddy.” Barney Visser is the owner of Furniture Row Racing. He was back home in Denver, Colorado, recovering from a heart attack and bypass surgery.
There was one very important person he was looking for after the race, Pollex. She reminded him how far they had come together. She said, “I told him ‘That’s why you never give up.’ That’s been our motto all along, ever since I started my cancer battle. We were never going to give up, and we didn’t. Everybody is battling something; everybody is fighting something in their life, not just cancer, but any kind of struggle that they’re going through in their life.” Truex Jr. said, “A lot of it was for her. A lot of it was for me. A lot of it was for this team — just, I don’t even know what to say. We just never gave up all day long. We didn’t have the best car. I don’t know how we won that thing. Never give up. Dig deep.” He went on to say, “I was a mess. I couldn’t even talk. I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over with, the times when I didn’t think anyone believed in me, but the guys, the people who mattered did, my fans, my family. Then when I got with this team … they resurrected my career and made me a champion.” That’s right Martin Truex Jr., you are a true champion despite all your adversities.