The challenges of the last year and a half seemed to vanish as Martin Truex Jr. drove his No. 78 Chevy into victory lane after winning Sunday’s Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 at Pocono Raceway to end a 69-race winless streak. It was his third career Sprint Cup win, his first with Furniture Row Racing and the first for crew chief Cole Pearn.
But this victory was about so much more than mere numbers. Its significance transcends breaking a losing streak, leading the most laps or cementing his standing in the Chase. This was about beating the odds, both professionally and personally.
Last year was one of the lowest points in Truex’s life as he struggled with his new team managing only five top-five finishes the entire season. But Truex remained committed to the small single-car team led by owner Barney Visser. His biggest test, however, came as longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex underwent treatment for cancer.
Truex was inspired by her strength, saying, “She showed me what she was made of and I was like, wow, if she can do that then I can do this, this is easy.”
This season has seen a resurgence of Truex’s career, perhaps sparked by Pollex’s remission. The couple hugged after he climbed out of his car and one can only imagine the myriad of emotions they experienced in that brief moment, particularly since Truex lost his grandmother this week.
“Sherry is here healthy and is excited as I am and everything is going well for her,” said Truex.
“It never gets any better than this,” he exclaimed. “It takes time to heal things especially with what Sherry and I went through. This just kind of makes you forget all about it. Tomorrow we are still going back to normal life. We always try to remember that and be ourselves and remember why we are here and how lucky we are to be doing this. I just feel super blessed to be with this group of guys. They are super impressive and I’m just proud to drive cars for them.”
Truex’s win was popular within the NASCAR community. Even second place finisher, Kevin Harvick, said, “If you’re going to lose to somebody today, that’s a great person to lose to.”
“You look at everything, personally and professionally Martin and Sherry have dealt with,” he continued, “and you have to be super-happy for them. To see them have that bright spot is something I think the whole garage will support and be happy with.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. agreed, saying, “I’m just happy for him. I know he’s been through a lot of stuff, both inside the car and outside the car the last several years. He’s been able to get into a good opportunity with good people. He’s got a team that believes in him. They’ve come a long way over the last several years.”
Truex was humbled by the support of his fellow competitors.
“It means a lot, it really does, because there’s going to come a time when racing and where you finish in races doesn’t matter,” Truex said. “What’s going to matter is kind of the legacy you leave and how people look at the person that you are. So that means a ton to me to have that respect, and, honestly, it’s kind of humbling.”
Sometimes winning isn’t everything. Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Today was one of those days.