When looking through the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage area, the number of drivers that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has had an impact on throughout his career is countless. Martin Truex, Jr. is a prime example of that, as Truex may have never gotten his shot to make it to the Cup Series contending for wins and championships if not for the connection between himself and Earnhardt.
Having made only a handful of starts for his family team in the NASCAR Xfinity Series between late 2001 and early 2003, it was Earnhardt that gave Truex his first chance to shine in quality equipment by giving him a ride in the No. 81 Chevrolet for Chance2 Motorsports at Richmond International Raceway in May 2003. Though transmission troubles would sideline Truex 44 laps from the finish, he made enough of an impact to garner five more starts for the team through the remainder of the season, which he finished out with runner-up results in the final two events of the year.
Truex and Earnhardt moved the team full-time in 2004 and as they say, the rest is history, winning 12 races over the next two seasons, along with the championship in 2004 and 2005 before moving up to the Cup Series in 2006.
“Oh, man, as far as the impact, I mean, there’s a very high possibility that I wouldn’t even be sitting here right now if it wasn’t for him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) giving me an opportunity back actually right here at Richmond in 2003,” said Truex. “He’s been a huge part of the reason I’m here. He’s been a great friend throughout the years, somebody I really look up to and a great role model for young drivers. Just so many things I learned from him and so much I actually owe to him.”
Twelve years later, Truex has eight Cup Series wins on his resume and is off to the best season start of his career in 2017, having a win at Las Vegas in March under his belt, as well as two top-five finishes, five top-10 finishes, 432 laps led, and an average finish of 8.6 through the first eight races of the season.
Along with Truex crediting Earnhardt for being a huge part of helping give his career a boost, the two remain good friends to this day and Truex noted that he was happy for Earnhardt after his retirement announcement and looks forward to seeing what the future holds for him.
“I’m happy to see that he was able to go out his own way, on his own terms,” Truex said. “I think as a driver that’s everybody’s dream – to not have something or someone make that decision for you. Very happy that he was able to figure out what he wants, where he’s headed next and we’re obviously going to miss him here at the race track, but he’s been a great competitor to race with. He’s been a great teammate. He’s been a great friend over the years. Most of those things are not going to change, but we’ll definitely miss him on the race track for sure.”