By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
The road has been long and full of trials and tribulations, but Martin Truex, Jr. and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team are Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champions.
Leading the way in almost every statistical category throughout the 2017 season, Truex came into the season finale at Homestead as the championship favorite, but it would take the same drive and determination that they have always shown to carry them to the title.
Truex himself noted that they did not have the fastest car on Sunday, but they dug down deep to hold off Kyle Busch over the closing laps to take the win at Homestead and clinch the championship.
For both team and driver, scoring the championship is a culmination of a lifelong dream and provides a storybook ending after everything they have had to go through over the last several years.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Truex. “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. I told my guys we were going to dig dipper than we ever have today and 20 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 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.
“What can I say about this team? Cole Pearn, Jazzy, all the road guys, the guys in Denver – you guys are the best, man. They work their guts out for me and I don’t even know – this is unbelievable, a dream come true. I don’t even know. I couldn’t even talk on the caution laps, so just really thankful, really grateful and thank you to the fans. We’re going to party it up tonight.”
Back in 2013, after getting dropped from the now-defunct Michael Waltrip Racing team, Truex thought his career might be over, but when Furniture Row Racing came calling for a ride the next season, many wouldn’t have guessed they would eventually be hoisting the championship trophy four years later.
In their first year together, the team only managed one top-five finish and five top-10 finishes all year long and limped to a 24th place finish in points, the worst of Truex’s career as a full-time Cup Series driver.
As each year progressed, the team got better and better, making it to the Championship Four in 2015, but finishing fourth out of the four championship contenders. That only served to embolden the team even further in their pursuit of greatness and it has certainly paid off.
After making the switch to Toyota and aligning themselves with Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2016, the team has taken it to a higher level, scoring 12 wins over the past two years, eight of which came in 2017.
Though they had things together on track, they were facing unbelievable adversity off of it.
Truex’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex was diagnosed with ovarian cancer back in his first year with the team, which she is still bravely battling to this day. This season, the hits have just kept on coming, from crew chief Cole Pearn losing his best friend earlier in the year, to the team losing a valuable team member in Jim Watson to a heart attack last month, and most recently with team owner Barney Visser having to undergo heart surgery and being forced to miss out on the biggest day in his organization’s history.
A lesser team would have cracked under such circumstances, but not Truex and Furniture Row. Everything they had to go through just brought them even closer and helped them just perform even better together on track. And now, they are champions as a result of it.
“This means the world,” said Truex. “Barney Visser (owner), eleven years of working towards this goal and he couldn’t be here tonight. We’re definitely thinking about him. We wish he could be here. I know he’s probably about as much in shock as I am tonight. But, Jim Watson, you know Cole’s best friend, Sherry (Pollex), everybody who’s battling something, this one’s for you guys.
“I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over with. Times when I didn’t think anyone believed in me. But the guys, the people who mattered did, my fans, my family and then when I got with this team – they’re unbelievable. They resurrected my career and made me a champion.”