NASCAR Cup Series
Martin Truex Jr. leaves lasting legacy and big seat to fill at JGR
NASCAR Cup Series

Martin Truex Jr. leaves lasting legacy and big seat to fill at JGR

Published Jun. 17, 2024 11:38 a.m. ET

NEWTON, Iowa — Martin Truex Jr., in true Truex fashion, wouldn't say what his racing schedule would look like after 2024 beyond that it wouldn't be a full-time slate.

The future for the 43-year-old Truex, a driver who each of the past three years has weighed heavily whether to retire or not, is still a little murky. The future of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 car appears much more clear.

As competitors lauded the mild-mannered (at least most of the time) Truex for a 19-year full-time Cup career as a competitor, JGR seems close to landing Chase Briscoe, who is losing his Stewart-Haas Racing ride with the organization ceasing operations after this season, as his replacement.

"I feel like I'm pretty close [to a 2025 deal]," Briscoe said Saturday at Iowa Speedway, a day after the Truex announcement, without specifying a team. "I feel pretty good about it. There's a lot of different [factors in the decision]. Performance is one thing that definitely [in] weighing the options is something that is important, the future and what the future looks like.


"And then obviously, the other part is, what's going to be the best to provide for my family. With twins on the way, I'm going to have three kids. That is a real thought now, just what's going to set us up for the future in the best way."

Briscoe coming to JGR would give the team a balanced driver lineup of a veteran close to the end of his career in Denny Hamlin (age 43, 54 Cup wins), two relatively young drivers with a strong Cup base in Christopher Bell (age 29, eight Cup wins) and Briscoe (age 29, one Cup win) and Ty Gibbs (age 21, second year in Cup).

"We're still working on all of that," team owner Joe Gibbs said as far as Truex's replacement.

Gibbs indicated he wanted Truex to stay.

"I did everything I could to keep it going," Gibbs said.

But Truex said it felt just as the right time to end the weekly grind of 38 races over 39-41 weekends that the Cup schedule typically requires.

"I'll miss all those people for sure, but I won't be gone," Truex said. "I'll be around still. We're going to do some stuff together, have some fun and enjoy life a little bit and wind down."

And the relationship will continue with Truex remaining as an ambassador for the team and ... possibly back in a race car?

"He's got Xfinity cars," Truex said when looking at Gibbs. "Coach, I'm bored I want to race."

Martin Truex Jr. on why right now is right time to retire from full-time racing

Truex has accomplished pretty much it all in his career as a Cup champion (2017) with 34 wins but has never won the Daytona 500. He wouldn't rule out another start in that race when asked.

His answer, again typical Truex, in not wanting to make a definitive statement: "Maybe. I don't know. I'd be open to it."

If he does want to come back, Hamlin said his 23XI Racing team would not hesitate to put him in a race car.

"I told him that I will have his Daytona 500 car ready immediately," Hamlin said. "Just tell me the word. ... He's a great driver. Why wouldn't I? Anytime Martin gets bored and wants to run Cup, we would have a seat for him for sure."

Hamlin, who has had run-ins with several drivers, marveled at the fact that he hasn't had one blowup with Truex as well as Truex's natural talent.

"It's hard to believe I've been teammates with Martin as long as I have and I've never had a ‘What the [expletive] Martin' moment," Hamlin said. "I'm sure that he's said that to me about me in his head because of things that I've done as a teammate. But I've never had that moment.

"I don't think that anyone has. ... He's so underrated as far as the natural ability to drive a car fast. I have to work tremendously hard week in and week out to run the speed that Martin Truex runs."

Denny Hamlin said 23XI would have a Cup car ready for Martin Truex Jr.

Chase Elliott noticed the same. When asked of a memorable interaction with Truex, the introverted Elliott quipped: "No. And, honestly, that's why I like him. I wish we had more of that."

"I've always had a lot of respect for Martin," Elliott said. "We've always gotten along well. We probably have never spoke more than 20 words to each other in my nine years. And we don't have to. There's always been a mutual respect there."

Truex has always had confidence but has raced to a code of he isn't going to wreck another driver to win.

"Most of the drivers don't have a lot of chill," Keselowski said. "Martin is a very chill guy, so I've got a lot of respect for him, and I don't know what his next chapter is — maybe he doesn't know either, but that's OK."

The drivers recognize that, even the ones who maybe aren't so chill. An unchill driver, Kyle Busch, remembers being teammates with Truex and also remembers Truex winning the 2017 title with Furniture Row Racing as part of an alliance with JGR.

"[I remember] him kicking my ass at Furniture Row and being so mad about that all the time," Busch said. "Him and I came into [Xfinity racing] at the same time. ... We've always had a great relationship, a great understanding and respect for one another. 

"It was always fun working with him and being part of the same team with him. His skill level and how good he is at what he does — [doing it in a way] I would say the lesser of the effort that he puts in [compared to] others and yet he can still get good results."

Joey Logano is one of the few who has raised the ire of Truex. In 2018, Logano had contact with Truex on his way to a win at Martinsville in the playoffs and went on to capture the championship despite Truex saying Logano would not.

"We get along fine — we are very different people," Logano said. "The only thing we have in common is we both drive race cars. ... I respect what he's done over the years."

Chase Elliott and Joey Logano have great respect for Martin Truex Jr.

Briscoe, in some ways, as far as chill, is in the same mold of Truex but has different roots as his was in sprint-car racing while Truex went the late model route. One of the caveats of racing for Gibbs is that Gibbs does not let its drivers race in other series.

While Briscoe has his own sprint-car team that he occasionally races for, he said if a team has that restriction, it would not hinder his desire to sign with the team.

"Every time I go sprint-car racing [or] midget racing, it helps me on Sundays feel like it's slower [to be able to react to situations]," Briscoe said. "But honestly ... with us having three kids now, I don't know how much I'm going to be able to go dirt race anyway. With one kid, I already feel like it's hard enough and I just don't know how I can be a great father being gone all the time.

"That's something that, honestly, I'm probably going to scale back in whatever happens next year."

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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