The 2017 Monster Energy Series final race at Homestead-Miami will for sure go down in history for many reasons, of course the obvious being Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last race as well it most likely being Matt Kenseth’s last race and Danica Patrick’s last full time race to the new champion and team.
The sport we love has seen some great champions like Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jimmy Johnson and many others but has our sport ever seen a champion and team like the one that was crowned Sunday night in Homestead.
I think that there is way more to learn from our 2017 Monster Energy Cup Champion Martin Truex Jr and Furniture Row Racing.
You see it all started with a vision from none other than team owner Barney Visser. In 2005 his vision became a reality as the team would make its first start in the then Busch Series race at Nashville Superspeedway and then the Nextel Cup Series debut at Dover and again at Phoenix. Once his vision became reality Visser would soon hear statements that his team would never make it. You see his vision started out of a waterbed store in Denver, Colorado. Many made these statements due to them not being based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2006 the team attempted to start the Daytona 500 and failed. Despite the team’s poor performance Visser continued his vision and persevered with a never give up attitude. In 2009 that vision seemed to be dashed when the team announced it would be cutting back to a part-time schedule due to money constraints. Visser again would not let his vision of owning a championship race team go, in early 2010 the team would resume full-time duties.
This time the vision looked a little different as they were now aligned with Richard Childress Racing. The team would purchase the owner points from the team’s number 07 entry giving them the top 35 honors for the first five races of that season. Again, Visser and his team would be given a blow when their transporter and motor coach was destroyed in a accident only forty miles from their shop in Denver. Childress gave the team a transporter and motor coach to use to finish the season.
In 2011 at the Daytona 500 Furniture Row would get its first top ten finish with Regan Smith behind the wheel. Despite the performance and even giving the team their first win in 2013 the team would announce that it would be making a driver change to Kurt Busch.
Busch would continue the up swing of the team until 2014 when Martin Truex Jr would take the helm.
Martin began his driving career racing go-karts at the New Egypt Speedway located in Central New Jersey before the speedway was switched to dirt. In 1998, Truex would make his move to the Modified division at Wall Stadium as soon as he was old enough to race in that division. Truex began racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2000, and won 5 races in 4 years. After moving south, Truex rented a home from Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Mooresville, North Carolina, later to be found that Dale had offered Martin to “just move in” before he purchased his own home.
In 2000, Truex, following in his father’s footsteps, began racing in the Busch North Series (now the K&N Pro Series East). He ran three full seasons (2000 to 2002) and made limited starts in 2003. During his time in the Busch North Series, Truex claimed 13 poles and 5 wins driving his family-owned No. 56 Sea Watch Chevy.
Truex made his first Busch Series start in 2001 at Dover International Speedway in his father’s No. 56 Chevy. He started 19th but finished 38th after an early wreck. In 2002, Truex drove one race for Phoenix Racing at New Hampshire International Speedway, starting thirteenth and finishing twenty-ninth.
In 2003, he began the season with his father’s team, before he was hired by Dale Earnhardt Jr. to drive his No. 81 Chance 2 Motorsports Chevy. He made his debut with Chance 2 at Richmond International Raceway, where he qualified sixth and led eleven laps before transmission failure forced him to a 31st-place finish. He split time between Chance 2 and his father’s team for the balance of the season, except at Dover, where he drove for Stanton Barrett.
Truex raced full-time for Chance 2 in 2004. At Bristol Motor Speedway, he would earn his first career victory, and he would later add 3 more victories over the next 7 races. This would include a victory at Talladega Superspeedway which broke his car owner’s streak of winning restrictor plate races in the Busch Series and a victory at the final NASCAR event held at Nazareth Speedway. He took the lead in the championship after Nazareth, but lost it to rookie Kyle Busch a few races later. However, a series of top 5’s and top 10’s in the second half of the season would allow Truex to pull away from Busch, clinching the Busch Series championship with a race to spare.
Truex stayed in the Busch Series to defend his championship in 2005, winning the title for the second season in a row. 2006 thru 2009 saw a move to the No. 1 DEI Chevy full-time in the Nextel Cup Series. During this time Truex would record two Top 5 finishes and finished 19th in points. Truex got his first win of the 2007 season in the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Open, securing a spot in the 2007 Nextel All-Star Challenge, where he finished 10th. A few weeks later, he won the Autism Speaks 400, scoring his first Sprint Cup Series win. He would not go to victory lane in 2008, but he did have 11 Top 10’s and finished 15th in points. In 2009 Truex began the year by winning the pole for the Daytona 500. 2009 would be his final season with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. In 2010-2013 Truex would find him self with yet another team.
Michael Waltrip Racing is where Truex would land for 2010-2013. With poor performance and set backs all along the way with Michael Waltrip Racing it seemed as his career was heading in the wrong direction. Then late in the 2013 season, Truex would find him self battling in the points to make the chase. He would have made it into the Chase that year until allegations of Michael Waltrip Racing manipulating the out come of the race would cost him that birth. Michael Waltrip Racing would announce later that it would become a R and D team in 2014 and Truex was free to offer his talent to other teams and that’s where this fairytale match started.
2014 he would start with Furniture Row Racing. Truex and team owner Barney Vissers shared a great deal of heartaches in this sport. Most, including himself, doubted if Martin’s career was over. Truex Jr’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex would be diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer. Despite the tuff roads and news like cancer would bring little did we all know he and this little team from Denver, Colorado would give us so much to learn.
In 2015 Todd Berrier, Truex’s then crew chief, was removed and a young gun named Cole Pearn was put in to replace him. The duo would start strong finishing in the top ten in 14 of the first 15 races including a runner-up at Las Vegas. At Pocono, Truex started third, and ran up front for most of the race, a late race re-start would try and change that but Truex would take the checkered flag. For Truex, this snapped a 69 race winless streak It was the second win for Furniture Row Racing and the first for crew chief Cole Pearn. It is considered by many to be the most popular victory in years. The duo would continue to gain strength in the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
2017 was the year despite a engine failure knocking them out of contention in 2016 many felt the year was Martin Truex Jr’s. 2017 would be anything from perfect off the track. Sherry’s Cancer would return, Truex fighting back tears in victory lane in the fall race at Charlotte without Sherry due to treatment, and Cole Pearn would loose a longtime best friend to a rare bacterial infection bouncing back winning Sonoma and dedicating it to his friend in victory lane. Then in Kansas fabricator Jim Watson would suffer a heart attack and pass away less than 24 hours before the green flag battling back from a loose wheel and a restart violation they would rally back for the victory! On the radio after the flag fell you could hear Truex doing what he has always seemed to do put someone else first like starting his foundation for pediatric cancer and by saying ” this ones for you Jim I love ya buddy.” Then yet another heart attack effected yet again another Barney Visser. Barney would have to under go by pass surgery and would not be able to travel with the team the rest of the year. Yet again another set back for this team and Truex.
On track it was a different story it was what championships are made of recording 8 wins, 19 top fives, 26 top tens and 3 pole awards. Leading 2253 laps and multiple stage wins.
There is one thing for sure, there is way more this champion and his team has taught us. That is one word perseverance.
Perseverance is defined as doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
This team and Champion allowed us to watch as the definition played out on our television screens every week for 36 weeks. They had every reason in the world to give up but they did not they persevered. It took 14 years for Martin and 12 year for Furniture Row Racing to get what they deserve.
That’s not all they have taught us though. They have taught us its ok to show emotion even if it’s with tears, the belief in God and belief that good things come to those who wait.
A sport can only hope for a champion like Martin Turex Jr. especially in this day and age where there is so much negativity with sports stars. He is a true champion off the track with his work threw his foundation The Martin Truex Jr. Foundation and then the addition of the Sherry Strong campaign and all the visits to hospitals for children with cancer. To on track actions giving Children the positive roll model they need. This champion and his team has proven that all that stands in our way is our self’s.
Congratulations to Furniture Row Racing and Martin Truex Jr. your 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series Champions.
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images