Truex blends charity with racing effort

Ah, the month of May.

After running on overdrive since the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the next two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway offer drivers and crew members the opportunity to settle in around home base for a while and catch up with family and responsibilities.

For Martin Truex Jr., May also signals the annual Catwalk for a Cause to benefit the MTJ Special Needs Fund at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. Truex’s long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex came up with the concept for the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation four years ago.

“Yeah, it’s a pretty big honey-do list,” Truex said. “I just do what she tells me. I’m just like any other dude. She says, ‘Jump.’ I say, ‘How high?’"

On Wednesday night, Truex was non-stop buzzing around Michael Waltrip Racing as the shop was transformed into a magical venue for a fashion show and gala.

Although Catwalk for a Cause is presented by Toyota and carries the name of his foundation, Truex acknowledged that his effort compared to that of Pollex is only “about 10 percent” on the project.

“She works it,” Truex said. “She is the show. She’s been going non-stop for about two weeks to finish up all the ends. She and Sandy (Plemmons), our foundation director which we hired about five months ago, put it all together.”

And since the first show in 2010, when Truex held the event at his race shop with less than 100 guests, the event has grown dramatically. Wednesday’s benefit attracted over 500 supporters to watch as eight children from Levine shared the runway with models and volunteers.

“This year is so much bigger than last year,” Truex said. “Our numbers are looking like close to $100,000 – and that’s money that will go straight to Levine’s Children’s Hospital. We have a special-needs fund and all the money we raise goes to that. I don’t remember what we raised last year — maybe 50-60 (thousand dollars) so we’re projecting almost double that. It’s pretty huge.”

On Friday, Truex will return to his day job as driver of the No. 56 NAPA Toyota and the challenge of trying to get into the field for the Sprint All-Star Race. Since Truex has not won a Cup race in 214 starts and is not a former winner of the All-Star Race, he will be forced to earn a berth in the race by either winning or finishing second in the Sprint Showdown (the transfer race for the All-Star event) or earning the fan vote.

As of Thursday, Truex was among the top five drivers in the fan vote, which will be closed and tallied at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, shortly before the races begin.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Truex said. “It’s like any other weekend. There’s not really pressure but on the other hand, we expect to win that race and anything less is going to be disappointing for us. We expect to be in the big show. We’re putting a lot of effort into it, so hopefully, it works out for us.”

Although Truex has posted two top fives and three top-10 finishes in three races at intermediate tracks this season, he doesn’t consider Charlotte Motor Speedway one of his better tracks. In 15 starts, Truex’s best finish was seventh in his 2005 debut on the 1.5-mile speedway. In eight previous All-Star races, Truex won the fan vote to advance into the race in 2005, earned one berth due to his 2008 Dover win and won the Showdown qualifying race in 2007 and 2010. After the other four All-Star races, Truex understands the disappointment of not making the show.

“Charlotte has not been one of our better racetracks,” he said. “I sometimes wish we could go to like Atlanta and have the All-Star race but I love going to Charlotte. It’s a great event. It’s something that none of us want to sit on the couch and watch.

“Last year, I didn’t make it. I drove home, watched it on the couch and I was miserable. This year, I’m going to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”