When NASCAR devised its current iteration of how they crowned their champion, some people criticized the elimination format because it was “too random.” The system didn’t necessarily crown a championship based on their work over the entire season but just on the final 10 races and especially at Homestead where it’s essentially “winner take all.” Despite that, in 2017, the best driver and best team all season long still won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Whatever you think about Martin Truex Jr., you can’t say he didn’t earn his first MENCS championship at Homestead. Along with Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch, Truex was consistently up front and was a factor to win in almost every race. Even so, Truex was on an even higher level than Larson and Busch.
Truex and Furniture Row Racing focused on perfecting themselves on the 1.5 mile tracks that NASCAR races the majority of the time. And they were definitely rewarded. On 1.5 mile tracks, Truex scored seven of his eight wins on those tracks (Watkins Glen was the other) and scored top 10’s the other times. With eight wins, 19 top 5’s and 26 top 10’s in 36 races, winning the regular season championship and having a staggering 54 Playoff points, Truex had a dominant season.
But it sure wasn’t easy for Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing. It’s not easy to win anything in NASCAR but it was especially tough for Truex and the team. Yes, Furniture Row Racing is based out of Denver, Colorado and are away from the rest of the NASCAR teams in Charlotte, North Carolina. But while that makes things a bit tougher, Truex and the team have had to undergo way more serious things than that throughout the season that caused them to be closer than any other team.
Over the past couple years, Truex’s girlfriend Sherry Pollex has been battling stage three ovarian cancer. Just a few months ago, Pollex had a reoccurrence of her cancer and had to undergo more chemotherapy. Truex has devoted his life to taking care of Pollex and the two have faced this in a positive and strong way. When Pollex is able to, she comes to the track and was there when Truex won Sunday night.
Pollex has a blog, sherrystrong.org, that chronicles her medical treatment as well as raising money for the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation as the NASCAR community supports her fight.
Last month in Kansas, Furniture Row Racing mourned the loss of one of their own as Fabricator Jim Watson unexpectedly died of a heart attack at the age of 55. Truex and the team bandied together to score a very emotional win in remembrance of a great friend.
Just a couple weeks after Watson died, team owner Barney Visser checked himself into a Denver hospital after experiencing numbness. Doctors discovered Visser was suffering a heart attack and immediately underwent successful bypass surgery. Because of that, Visser couldn’t attend the final two races of the season and will not be able to attend the end-of-season banquet in Las Vegas.
Quite honestly, amid everything going on, competing on-track seemed kind of trivial. With everything the team has gone through, what they went through off-track was way more important than whether or not they won or lost on the track. When Martin Truex Jr. crossed the finish line first at Homestead, maybe this season as a whole gave Truex and the team a new perspective.
People may claim they are put under pressure when they go for something like a championship. They think about the potential tragedy of losing and the potential triumph of winning. But those words seem inappropriate to say here. Pressure is the unkown while Barney Visser is having bypass surgery and you’re praying he comes out of it healthy. Tragedy is when Jim Watson unexpectedly dies and you can’t believe it. Triumph is when Sherry Pollex finally beats cancer once and for all.
Martin Truex Jr. won a championship and it’s well deserved. And maybe, just maybe, that will give a team who has been through it all this year just a little bit of happiness.