Martin Truex Jr. looking to move past trying 2014
Martin Truex Jr. says 2014 was "without a doubt" his toughest year both personally and professionally since joining the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full time in 2006.
"Nothing even comes close," he added.
It’s easy to see why.
In addition to dealing with an extremely disappointing year on the track, Truex faced a far tougher situation when longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer in early August after falling ill earlier in the summer.
Racing with a heavy heart over the season’s final months while the love of his life spent most weekends back at home in North Carolina in the fight of her life, Truex actually found strapping in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet car to be the perfect escape from all his grief, stress and fears.
"Honestly, there was times last year that I felt like when Thursday came around and it was time to go to the racetrack, I really enjoyed that," Truex said Thursday during the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "I needed that getaway. I needed to get to the racetrack and take out some frustration and get with the guys and be a part of the team, even though it wasn’t good. At times it was still therapeutic just for me to be there and be doing my thing and getting in the zone and trying to kind of forget about everything else that was going on."
Being at the track also allowed Truex to witness firsthand the outpouring of support and care from the NASCAR community.
"It’s special," Truex said. "There’s no other way to say it. It doesn’t matter who has an issue, who has a problem or what anyone’s going through, people in this industry always stand behind each other. It doesn’t matter what it is, and it’s been great to see. I can’t thank everybody enough for what they’ve done, for the prayers they’ve sent to God, for just the support to know that they’re there behind us.
"My team owner Barney Visser’s the perfect example. When Sherry got diagnosed, he called me and said, ‘You don’t have to race. You can take off the next 10 races and the car will be there for you next year.’ That’s the kind of guy he is, and to have somebody like that stand behind you and say, ‘Hey, we’re here for you, we’ll do whatever it takes,’ that means the world to me, and I’m going to do my best this year to make that up to him."
Much to the delight of everyone in the room, Truex announced Thursday on the media tour that Pollex on Monday underwent what is expected to be her final round of chemotherapy.
Her prognosis is good.
"Basically, she’s clear right now," Truex said. "I guess they don’t really say she’s in remission until — I don’t know what the timetable is — they wait a little while after the chemo is finished. But she’s done with chemo. Her last scan was clear, doctors feel good about everything. Really from here on out it’s just you hope and pray it doesn’t come back, and get back to normal life, go have fun, live your life and see what happens."
Part of normal life for Truex is racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series where in 2015 he’ll try to bounce back from a rough 2014 when he ranked 24th in the final standings — his worst finish in nine full seasons as a Sprint Cup driver.
Truex, who also failed to win a race in Year One with Furniture Row, is excited about his team’s outlook and being paired with a new crew chief in former team engineer Cole Pearn.
Pearn, who replaces veteran Todd Berrier, has set the bar high.
"We want to make the Chase, and I don’t see there’s any reason why we can’t," he said. "Whether it be through consistency or wins, the first thing in the forefront of my mind is to be consistent. I mean, you can’t win if you’re not consistent, so they kind of go part in parcel together. I think just being able to knock out consistent top 10, top 15 finishes in terms of performance will be the key, and then the other side is just not having any technical failures. That was the thing that really hurt us last year is, I felt, even when we were struggling, if we did have a good run going, something bad would happen. You’d blow up or break a part or something. Sometimes those things are outside your control, but we’re trying to control as many of those as possible."
Even though Denver, Colorado-based Furniture Row is a single-car team and the only Sprint Cup organization based outside the greater Charlotte, North Carolina, corridor, general manager Joe Garone said he believes the perception of Furniture Row as a perennial underdog is somewhat misleading.
It was just two seasons ago — in 2013 — when the team made the Chase with driver Kurt Busch. Garone expects the group to accomplish just as much and more with Truex and Pearn in 2015.
"What we went through last year, our performance was horrible and we hadn’t gone through that as a team yet," Garone said. "We’ve been through that, we looked at where we were weak, where we had things where we were off base, and we’ve realigned it and we’re going to prove it this year."