Martin Truex Jr., once known for his friendship and affiliation with Dale Earnhardt Jr., is now making a name for himself in the No. 56 Toyota of Michael Waltrip Racing.
After winning the Busch (now Nationwide) Series championships in 2004 and ’05, Truex made the step up to Sprint Cup and spent four seasons at Dale Earnhardt Inc., which eventually became Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. He made the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2007, the year he won his only Cup race, to date, at Dover International Speedway.
This year Truex has moved into Chase contention in his first season at MWR, where he has been paired with veteran crew chief Pat Tryson.
"We’ve just been steady as a race team, doing all the things we need to do to get points and finish races," said Truex. "There have been a few races where we’ve had really good cars, and a few races where we were off but still managed to get good finishes, and that’s why we’re sitting here (in Chase contention).
"Pat (Tryson) and all the guys on the (sponsor) NAPA team have done an awesome job. I feel like the last month, month and a half, we’re starting to gel and figure out our race cars, find some speed and know where to go to get that speed when we need it. I’ve been very happy with that and still continue to work on our stuff to try to get better."
Before making the move to MWR and Toyota, Truex had a close relationship with his previous crew chief, Kevin "Bono" Manion, who now works with Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray. He compared Tryson with Manion.
"They’re different in a lot of ways, but I wouldn’t say they’re like night and day," said Truex. "Their personalities are a little bit different. ‘Bono’ is more quiet and kind of strict. If you do something wrong, he’ll probably yell at you.
"Pat is a little more laid back, kind of likes to have fun. Both of them do a great job, obviously, and they’re both good at calling races and they both understand the race cars well. They’re different, but at the end of the day, they are both out there doing the same job, and both do it well."
Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (N.C.) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week (http://nascar.rbma.com) features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at email@example.com.