Monday, June 24, 2024

Ryan Truex finally a NASCAR race winner

The last time Ryan Truex stood in a NASCAR Victory Lane, he was an 18-year-old prospect wrapping up his second straight championship in what is now the ARCA Menards Series East. Now 31, he is finally back on top, but in one of the top three divisions.

Truex dominated Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Dover Motor Speedway, leading 124 of 200 laps and sweeping the stages. He took the lead from Sheldon Creed, who was operating on an alternate pit strategy that allowed him to stretch his fuel as much as possible before pitting, with eleven laps remaining and stomped the field in the process. Only the top ten finished on the lead lap while Truex beat Josh Berry by over four seconds.

“I was waiting for the caution,” Truex commented. “I think I held my breath for thirty laps there at the end. When I got out (of the car), I was completely out of breath because I was just like, ‘What is going to happen this time? What is going to be the flat tyre or two guys run into each other? What was going to happen to bring that late caution out?’ I knew we were in control of the race, and I knew we had a big lead and I was trying to just manage the gap really, but I was definitely waiting for something to happen and luckily, it didn’t.”

He has been racing in the Xfinity Series—and by extension the national tiers—since 2010, mainly as a part-timer save for a full campaign in 2018. Despite his pedigree and regional success, he always came just short of winning; infamously, he started on the pole at the 2012 Dover Xfinity race for Joe Gibbs Racing but was passed late and finished second.

He rejoined JGR for a limited slate a decade later, and the move has ultimately paid off.

“People that know me, know that I’m not an emotional guy,” he commented. “It took me a minute before I could key up and say anything because I couldn’t really talk. It has been such a long road and a lot of self-doubt along the way and wondering if it is ever going to happen, am I good enough to do this? It is so easy to doubt yourself and be down on yourself, but you just keep digging, keep pushing through, just a huge relief to get the white flag. When I got the white flag, I knew it was over. I just was trying to get it back around as smoothly as I could. I was definitely choking up coming to the checkered for sure.”

Fittingly, his older brother Martin Truex Jr. also scored his maiden Cup Series win at Dover in 2007, doing so in convincing fashion with 216 of 400 laps led. Dover even serves as the family’s NASCAR national series home track as New Jersey natives.

Martin currently races for JGR as well.

“I think when he won that day, he dominated that race too, from what I remember,” the younger Truex continued. “It is cool to do it like that, make a statement like that at one the hardest tracks on the circuit. It’s nicknamed the Monster for a reason. It is a tough track. A lot of people struggle to figure it out. I’ve had my moments of trying to figure out how to get around this place. I’ve learned a lot from Martin as well. That has been a huge help. Obviously, JGR has great cars, and they are always great here.

“I’ve had this one circled for a while, it’s pretty special. Of all the places to get it, to be at the place where I gave it up ten years ago with six to go or whatever it was. I felt like that could have been a huge turning point in my career, and it’s been a battle ever since. To finally come back eleven years later with the same team, and get it done is really rewarding for me.”

Parker Kligerman started on the pole but wrecked out with Corey Heim during Stage #2. Creed had his own spin on lap 101, and he had hoped his ensuing stop would be the last time he visited pit road as he stayed out and stretched his fuel. Although the fuel window at Dover could run into the nineties, Creed conceded the lead to Truex in order to reach the finish; he placed eleventh.

Two other cautions were flown, both in the first stage, for Jeremy Clements‘ spin and Anthony Alfredo‘s car suffering a flat tyre. Alfredo was able to continue before his brakes failed on lap 123.