Martin Truex Jr. shares special championship night with old friend Dale Earnhardt Jr.


HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Martin Truex Jr.’s rise to the pinnacle of NASCAR has had a co-driver of sorts: Dale Earnhardt Jr., who gave Truex his big break nearly 13 years ago.

The two friends shared a special night Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway as Truex won his first NASCAR Cup title with a victory in what was most likely the final race of Earnhardt’s NASCAR Cup career.

Earnhardt and his wife, Amy, made their way to the championship celebration stage well after the checkered flag to congratulate Truex.

“It meant a ton that him and Amy came over and said congratulations [with] just genuine happiness,” Truex said. “That’s what friends are all about, true friends.”

To say Earnhardt played a role in Truex’s life would be an understatement.

Truex won two championships (2004-05) competing in the Xfinity Series for Chance 2 Motorsports, a team co-owned by Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Inc.

It also was in the Xfinity garage that Truex met Sherry Pollex, daughter of race-team owner Greg Pollex. They have been together for about 12 years and started a foundation in 2007 that focused on pediatric cancer. Pollex was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer in 2014, and her battle (she is going through chemotherapy for a recurrence) has been a source of inspiration in the NASCAR community.

“There’s a lot of things that would be different if it wasn’t for Dale, and just the friend he’s been over the years, the mentor that he’s been to me over the years, it’s been amazing,” Truex said. “He’s such a great person.

“He’s changed a lot throughout the years, I will say, from when I met him to who he is now, but he’s always changed for the better, and he’s just been an amazing friend and always been there no matter what I needed.”

Earnhardt announced in April that this would be his final Cup season. He finished 25th Sunday and likely will spend part of his Thanksgiving weekend at a hunting property he co-owns with Truex.

“The sport needs drivers like Martin Truex Jr.,” Earnhardt said. “They do. I mean, he’s just a really good guy, very easy to relate to, easy to talk to.

“And everything that he’s went through as a driver, and beyond that, everything he’s went through in his personal life, everything Sherry has went through, the whole sport has been behind them for so long and supported them for so long.”

While Earnhardt is retiring from Cup racing, he will be at many races next year as part of the NBC broadcast team.

“Dale has meant so much to me, and to see how happy he was, genuinely happy tonight to come to Victory Lane — I love him like a brother, and I’m so proud of his career and who he is and the fact that this sport means so much to him that he’s going to stay around next year and do TV,” Truex said.

“We had hours of sitting around at our hunting property together drinking beers a couple weeks ago, and he’s so excited about that, and that just made me feel so good for him that he was ready to move on and do something different. He was so passionate about it.”

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