DOVER, Del. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. grew up in New Jersey wanting to follow his dad into racing. Martin Truex, though, mostly raced on free weekends when he wasn’t running Sea Watch International, which harvests and processes clam products.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver worked as a teenager on his dad’s clamming boat, often rising before dawn ahead of a day spent on choppy waters, knowing even then that life at sea wasn’t for him.
“I’m glad I figured out how to go fast so I could get the hell off that boat,” Truex said.
Truex got off the boat, into stock cars and — after a bumpy start to his career — became one of the more dominant drivers of his era. He had achieved just about all he could — except celebrate with his brother as winners on a NASCAR weekend.
With dad at the track, Truex mastered the Monster Mile on a Monday for the third time in his career, the former NASCAR champion snapping a 54-race winless streak overall in the Cup Series at Dover Motor Speedway.
Thanks to a race postponed a day because of rain, it was a long weekend sweep for the Truex brothers. Younger brother Ryan Truex won the second-tier Xfinity Series race on Saturday for his first NASCAR victory across all three national series in 188 career starts.
“Ryan has been through a lot. He’s really worked hard, and he’s gotten beat down and knocked down a lot and been through some tough times that he’s had to kind of persevere through,” Truex said.
Big brother was the first one to poke his head in Ryan’s Toyota as he pulled it into victory lane. Dad was there to celebrate with both sons.
“He’s pretty quiet when he’s at the track and all that,” Truex said. “But just obviously really excited, really proud of his two sons going to victory lane.”
Ryan Truex was unable to attend Monday’s race.
“We would love to have Ryan in the car,” team owner Joe Gibbs said. “He does a lot of simulation work for us. He’s a dedicated young guy, and as everybody knows, it’s hard to get sponsorship.”
Gibbs made repeated phone calls and FaceTimed friends in victory lane — “I’m going to talk to my wife first,” he said as he momentarily rejected one interview request — and told everyone on the other line “it was a Truex weekend!”
“We just won the race at Dover with ol’ Martin Truex!” the team owner nicknamed Coach bellowed into his phone.
Truex Jr. certainly knows how to get to victory lane on the concrete-mile track about 130 miles (210 km) from his hometown of Mayetta, New Jersey. Truex, who contemplated retirement last season, has long considered Dover his home track.
Who knew it would be the setting for a victorious family reunion?
The 2017 Cup champion has the blueprint on how to win at the Monster Mile on a Monday. Truex raced to his first NASCAR Cup win on June 4, 2007, at Dover and 12 years later used another rainout to take the checkered flag on May 6, 2019.
Truex also won a regularly scheduled Sunday race here in 2016.
He held strong on the outside lane Monday off the final restart to hold off runner-up Ross Chastain by a half-second. Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Denny Hamlin completed the top five.
Byron fell short after he led a race-high 193 laps in the No. 24 Chevrolet.
“In our history, this hasn’t been our best track,” he said. “We came with something a little bit different to try and help that. I think it did for the majority of the race, but just got too loose.”
Truex bristled at questions that suggested he was in a bit of a long losing streak. The 42-year-old driver had endured much worse than the 0s in the win column over the last two years. His 2007 win at Dover was the only one for him from his Cup debut in 2004 through 2012. It wasn’t until he joined the now-defunct Furniture Row Racing that he blossomed into a star.
He won a career-best eight times in 2017 and 23 times overall from 2016 to 2019. Truex, who made the jump to JGR in 2019, had been winless since his last Cup victory on Sept. 11, 2021, at Richmond Raceway.
“You have all these races throughout that period where you’re like, we were good enough to win, we should have won,” Truex said. “It’s not like we can’t do that, we just need to put it all together.”
Truex opened his 18th full season with an exhibition victory in the Busch Light Clash in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
He did have three top-10 finishes this season in the No. 19 Toyota but couldn’t find his way to victory lane until Monday. He earned his 32nd career Cup victory and became the 10th driver to win four or more Cup races at Dover.
And he doesn’t have to answer to anyone about a losing streak.
“Such a long winless streak,” Truex said. “I’ve only won 32 of these things now, you guys. It’s really, really hard to win these races, you guys, OK?”
SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE?
Noah Gragson made the cut.
No, not to victory lane, but to his head when he shaved the sides and left only a mop-topped shock of hair on top.
Gragson joked, “I’m gonna put it right on black, baby,” as he flashed an autographed $100 bill from fellow NASCAR driver Austin Dillon as part the payout for the bet that the Legacy Motor Club driver would get a bowl cut.
“Some say I lost a bet,” Gragson said. “I think I won.”
Gragson finished 34th because of an early wreck and hasn’t finished better than 30th in any of his last five races.
NASCAR heads to Kansas Speedway. Kurt Busch won likely the last race of his career there after it was cut short because of a head injury suffered in a crash at Pocono last summer. Bubba Wallace won the fall race at the track.
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