Truex reaps rewards of career year

Michael Waltrip Racing officially announced three-year contract extensions with both driver Martin Truex Jr. and sponsor NAPA on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Truex, who is on track to make the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup this season, will continue to drive the organization’s No. 56 Toyota. Team owner Michael Waltrip said that re-signing Truex was a priority for the organization this season. Clint Bowyer also drives full time for the organization, while Mark Martin, Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip are sharing the team’s third car.

"Obviously, our cars are performing well,” he said. “Our commitment to partner with Toyota and work closely with Joe Gibbs Racing as well has elevated our game. I think the key thing about today is Martin’s attitude toward getting it done. He came to (team co-owner) Rob (Kaufmann) in April and said, ‘I want to drive this car next year. Y’all figure it out. I’m your guy.’ That’s the kind of guy you want driving your race car.”

He added that in addition to Truex’s interest in renewing the contract, NAPA signing on has helped the team focus on moving forward and on efforts outside of the contract, such as the run to the Chase.

He, like Truex, believes that the team’s cars are good enough and the teams are good enough to be a factor in the Chase. The contract signing just boosts that effort.

“This news is just confidence,” Waltrip said. “I know Martin when he puts on that NAPA uniform today is going to feel better than he ever has about who he is and where we’re going. We’re just really happy to have this commitment. Think about where we’ve come from — you can imagine. I don’t really need to explain it to you."

Truex and company are off to a stellar start and a career year this season. Truex is currently fifth in the points standings with 13 top-10 finishes, five of them top fives. Truex, who is a two-time Nationwide Series champion, debuted in the Sprint Cup Series with Dale Earnhardt Inc. He joined Michael Waltrip Racing in 2007.

Truex has 249 career Cup starts. He has seven pole positions. He has one career Cup win as well as 69 top-10 finishes, 22 of them top fives.

When asked what made him want to stay with the team, Truex pointed to the opportunity Waltrip had given him. He said that he gets to actively participate in and impact the team and he enjoys that.

“I don’t go home on Sunday night and sit there and wait for them to build my race cars better or bring me better stuff on Thursday — I go to the shop on Monday and I’m part of a team and part of building that process,” he said. “It’s been an awesome road — it’s been a lot of fun to be a part of. It’s been a lot of work, a lot of ups and downs, but Michael and I got together last year at Texas in April and he said, ‘Look, we’re going to get our cars better, but I need you to help me.’

“Ever since, we’ve been on an awesome road to improvement. With those guys integrating me into the team and giving me some say and making me feel like I’m part of something has probably been one of the coolest and proudest moments of my life. It’s been a lot of fun and I just want to keep it going. My biggest fear this year was this deal falling apart and us not being able to realize our potential. I feel like we’re not where we can get to yet and I’m very, very happy that we’ll be able to continue down that path."

NAPA has been with Waltrip since 2001 when he earned the first of his two Daytona 500 wins. The company has been with Waltrip since he formed his own Sprint Cup team in 2007.