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Analysis: Martin Truex Jr. Built Hall of Fame Worthy Legacy Over Illustrious Career

Martin Truex Jr. will officially retire at season's end, and Truex has unquestionably built a NASCAR Hall of Fame-worthy legacy over the years.


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No matter how the remainder of his final NASCAR Cup Series season shakes out, Martin Truex Jr. has unquestionably built a résumé worthy of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Truex officially announced his intentions to step away from the NASCAR Cup Series at the end of the 2024 season in a press conference at Iowa Speedway on Friday afternoon.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has amassed 34 NASCAR Cup Series wins over his 673 starts to date, he was the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion, and before making the move to the Cup Series full-time in 2006, Truex was a back-to-back champion in the NASCAR Busch Series (now known as the NASCAR Xfinity Series).

Those numbers are certainly NASCAR Hall of Fame-worthy, and when you look at the statistical totals from Truex's career, you'd expect it was smooth sailing as the driver from Mayetta, New Jersey got to this point.

It was far from that.

After winning the NASCAR Busch Series championship in 2004 and 2005, Truex was promoted to the NASCAR Cup Series full-time with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in 2006. Unfortunately for Truex, the once proud organization was not what it once was when he arrived.

Truex would score his first career NASCAR Cup Series win in the Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway on Monday, June 4, 2007. Truex, driving the No. 1 Chevrolet for DEI, would lead 216 of the race's 400 laps that day en route to the stirring win.

However, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. departed the team after the 2007 NASCAR Cup Series season, and Dale Earnhardt Inc. went through a slew of mergers and ownership transfers, the good results on track diminished for Truex.

After a 23rd-place finish in the championship standings with the rebranded Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team in 2009, Truex departed the team to drive the No. 56 entry for Michael Waltrip Racing.

From 2010 to 2012, while he didn't pick up any wins with Michael Waltrip Racing, Truex and the No. 56 team steadily improved year-in and year-out as Truex ranked 22nd in the NASCAR Cup standings in 2010, 18th in 2011, and 11th in 2012, which tied his career-best at the time, which he set in his Sophomore season of 2007.

After much uncertainty, Truex was finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel at Michael Waltrip Racing, and the 2013 season was set to be his breakout year.

And it was until it wasn't.

Truex would pick up his second-career win in a dominating performance at Sonoma Raceway, and at the end of a hard-fought battle for the final Wildcard spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Chase for the Cup, which saw him take the final spot in a tie-breaker over Ryan Newman despite suffering from a broken wrist for a chunk of the year, Truex's season was flipped upside down on the Monday after the final race of the regular-season.

NASCAR determined that Truex's Michael Waltrip Racing team conspired between its No. 15 and No. 55 teams to manipulate the outcome of the race at Richmond to ensure that Truex would make it into the NASCAR Cup Series Chase for the Championship.

As a result, Truex was assessed a 50-point penalty, and removed from the Chase field. Newman would lock into the Chase as a result, and NASCAR would take the unprecedented move in adding Jeff Gordon as the 13th Chase contestant that season (the Chase was only supposed to have 12 drivers under that season's format). It was an absolute disaster situation for everyone involved.

Due to the negative publicity from the penalty, and Truex no longer being a Chase contender, Truex's primary sponsor NAPA Auto Parts opted to not return to Michael Waltrip Racing for the 2014 season, and as a result, Truex was once again left to look for a new place to race.

Truex would land at Furniture Row Racing, a team that was once the butt of a lot of jokes in the NASCAR Cup Series garage but had just made the Chase for the Cup with Kurt Busch as its driver the season prior. Truex and Furniture Row Racing's team owner Barney Visser had high hopes for the 2014 season, but ultimately, Truex and the No. 78 team underwhelmed massively.

Truex recorded just one top-five finish, and five top-10s on his path to a 24th-place finish in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings -- his lowest ranking of any full-time season in his career.

"You know, 2014 when we started out together, it was tough, and we struggled together," Truex admitted at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2017. "We couldn’t find anything, and they’d [just] come off their best year. [We thought] All they changed was the driver..."

It felt like Truex, a once-promising prospect, had hit rock bottom, and that his NASCAR Cup Series career was just about done.

Then, Cole Pearn was promoted from car chief to crew chief for the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team in 2015. Instantly, the pairing of Truex and Pearn proved to be lethal.

After Pearn realized that the team had made drastic changes to the chassis between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, he got to work on improving the overall product that Furniture Row Racing was putting on the track in the closing months of the 2014 season.

As they unloaded the No. 78 car from the hauler in Daytona the following February, Truex and Pearn were ready for battle.

Truex would erupt to record 14 top-10 finishes in the season's opening 15 races, and he would pick up career win No. 3 at Pocono Raceway, the 14th stop on the schedule that season. While Truex and Pearn wouldn't find victory lane again that season, they would string together an impressive run of consistency, which would result in them making it into the Championship 4 of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

12 wins, and two seasons later, Truex finally reached the mountain top in the NASCAR Cup Series as he took home the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series championship with an electric eight-win season, which was capped off by a win in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The man, who looked like his career was over just three years earlier, had somehow, someway, battled back to realize the potential that everyone expected he had when he blasted onto the NASCAR Busch Series scene driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2004.

"Some things are meant to be, and there is something to be said about luck and fate and putting yourself in the right position and being a good person, and I believe that that’s what we’ve seen here tonight," Truex said in his champion's press conference after celebrating in victory lane at Homestead.

In what was an emotional exit for Furniture Row Racing, Truex finished runner-up to Joey Logano in the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series championship standings. Due to a lack of sponsorship, and increasing costs related to putting out a championship-contending effort, Visser announced mid-season that he would need to pull the plug on his race team at season's end, and Truex was once again left wondering what was next.

But he wasn't left wondering for very long as Joe Gibbs Racing, a team that had a technical alliance with Furniture Row Racing, swooped in and took Truex and Pearn under their wing for the 2019 season.

"You know, to go from a two-race winner to a 19-race winner, a championship, fourth in points, a second in points, it’s just been amazing," Truex said following his final race with Furniture Row Racing. "Everything about it has been great. Everything about it has been the best thing I’ve ever been a part of. You know, I feel good about my future and going to a great place, and I know we’ll have more success. But it’s going to be different. You know, it’s going to be a different team, a different cast of characters, and these guys were a special group, and I’m very thankful to get to work with all of them."

Nothing is forever, and by the 2018 season, Truex knew that probably more than anyone after his stints with Dale Earnhardt Inc., Michael Waltrip Racing, and then FRR.

It was onto Joe Gibbs Racing now, where Truex and Pearn would score another seven wins in 2019, and would again find themselves in the Championship 4.

After leading 103 laps in the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway that season, Truex would be defeated in the closing laps by Kyle Busch for the championship. After an emotionally taxing few years for Truex and Pearn, and at the end of the runner-up points finish in 2019, Pearn called it a career.

After five additional solid seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing with James Small as his crew chief, Truex has decided to do the same at season's end. When the checkered flag flies at Phoenix Raceway to signal the end of his NASCAR Cup Series racing career, Truex will await his eligibility for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, where he is a certain lock to be enshrined.

And the only reason he is a future NASCAR Hall of Famer is perseverance. It's as simple as that.

When the going got tough over the last 19 years, Truex didn't waver. He didn't run away. He stuck with it. He knew what he was ultimately capable of behind the wheel of a race car, and he knew that if he got that right opportunity, he would make it to the top of the NASCAR world.

And when given that opportunity, Truex did just that.

His career should serve as a perfect example to fans and team owners not to give up on a blue-chip talent, even if they fail to pile on wins right out of the gates in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Over the first half of his NASCAR Cup Series career, Truex had just two wins in the NASCAR Cup Series, and he had a career-best points finish of 11th. In the second half of his NASCAR Cup Series career, Truex amassed 32 wins, a championship, and eight Playoff berths.

And he has a chance to add to those impressive numbers in the final 20 races of the 2024 season.

Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade, LAT Images for Toyota Racing

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