Sometimes, NASCAR drivers and crew chiefs work for years trying to develop a relationship or get on the same page, spending months working to understand one another. From their first test together, Martin Truex Jr. and Pat Tryson felt comfortable with each other and their fledgling relationship.
The two united forces in the offseason as Truex moved to Michael Waltrip Racing after four full seasons of NASCAR Sprint Cup competition at what is now Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Tryson shifted from Kurt Busch’s championship-contending Penske Racing team to MWR. They quickly found their footing.
Truex, 29, has one career win and made the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2007; Tryson, 45, has eight career wins and has worked with Geoffrey Bodine, Elliott Sadler, Mark Martin and Busch in recent years. Together, they forged a quick bond and got down to the business at hand — winning races and making the Chase.
In their opening race together last weekend, Truex led three laps and ran with the leaders throughout the day before finishing sixth. Further boosting the team is that teammate David Reutimann finished fifth.
While his former EGR team and driver Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500, that opening MWR performance offered concrete benefits of the work put in during the offseason, and gave the team an early confidence boost.
“I think it helps a lot,” Tryson says of the early run. “There’s a lot of new guys, just for the whole company to have two cars that finished well. That was great for our team because we ran up front all day. It just gives everybody confidence."
Even prior to that run, though, this group was optimistic about the team’s potential this season.
From the moment he made the announcement that he was joining MWR, Truex has spoken of the potential of this team. It’s a group that challenged for a Chase berth with Reutimann last season — and one that has slowly built over the past three seasons.
For Truex, making the move to a new team after spending his entire Cup career tied to one group could have been intimidating. Instead, he seems to have seamlessly united with Tryson and his MWR team. Throughout the preseason, he has spoken often of how well things have gone and how comfortable he is with his new group.
“The transition for me has been really fun,” he says. “It’s been easy, seamless, a lot easier and a lot smoother than I thought it would go. I’ve been with the same team a long time and it’s hard to imagine going somewhere else and then when you’re getting ready to make the move, it’s like, ‘Oh man, you have all these questions, how’s this going to go, how’s that going to go, what’s this going to be like, is it going to be difficult?’ But it went really well, it was smooth, easy.
“The folks at MWR have done a great job of putting people in places that they need to be and making decisions and making things run smoothly and I’ve been impressed with every aspect of the organization so far."
The addition of Tryson, and their rapport, simply added another element to the mix.
Both say early tests together highlighted what they already knew — that they could work well together. Truex says that each change made to the car left him with an improved machine. By the end of the day at each test, he had a car he wished he could be racing. The tests did more than show the team’s potential, they helped further solidify the relationship of Truex and Tryson.
As they embark on their first full season together, each points out the impact the MWR system can have on their potential for success.
“The structure is awesome,” Tryson says. “It’s awesome. That’s the best part about it is everybody sits down in a room and it’s not any one group dictating to another group, it’s everybody sits down and figures out how they‘re going to do it and we all agree on how we’re going to do it and go forward."
The team is glad to have added the talented pair as well. Waltrip points out the caliber of both and Reutimann clearly feels they can boost the organization.
“We have the addition of Martin Truex and Pat Tryson — Tryson being a guy whose won races with all different kinds of drivers, been with a lot of good organizations, brings a fresh set of eyes to be able to look at things differently,” Reutimann says.
Both, too, are capable of winning races.
Already, they seem to have melded their personalities and ideas into building a competitive team. They speak respectfully of what existed at MWR when they joined the group and aren’t taking credit for things they didn’t build. They are merely trying to take what is already there and tailor it to their styles and craft a winning formula.
They point to their comfort and ease in discussing the car and finding ways to make it better.
“The relationship with Pat has been really easy,” Truex says. “There was no, ‘Well, we need to go hang out and get to know each other,’ we just kind of started talking and hanging out at the shop and walking around and when we went testing, I was blown away with how well everything went. … It’s been so easy for me just to go in there, be myself, do what I do and they just take the ball and run with it, so it’s been fun.”
That could be key as they attempt to contend with the elite teams in the sport this season — and to have a shot at breaking the four-year Hendrick Motorsports hold on the championship.
Prior to the Daytona 500, Truex was asked about MWR’s potential this season. He showed the confidence a solid offseason had developed.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, with the support they get from Toyota and the people they have leading their company, their team, with the team that Pat has assembled … all the things that they’ve done, put together and put in place to me this year just have been really impressive for me to be a part of,” he said.