Race Weekend Central

Only Yesterday: Ryan Truex’s Path to Victory Lane

Dover Motor Speedway has always meant quite a bit to the Truex family.

It has always been touted as the family’s home track, the Monster Mile being the closest track to their hometown of Mayetta, N. J., and brothers Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Truex can now look back at what happened this week fondly for the rest of time.

Starting in 2008, Ryan Truex made his first NASCAR-sanctioned start in what was then the NASCAR Camping World East Series, now known as the ARCA Menards Series East. He ran for Dale Earnhardt Inc., the same team brother Martin raced for at the time in the NASCAR Cup Series. He got his start at Stafford Motor Speedway in Conn., where the young 17-year-old finished 11th.

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Up to Speed: Will Ryan Truex Find Stability After Xfinity Win?

The next two years, Truex made waves in the lower series with Michael Waltrip Racing, collecting five wins and two championships in the process. Dover was a standout track for the younger Truex, as he finished eighth there in 2009 and third in 2010.

It didn’t take long for him to move up.

Due to his success, MWR called Truex to make select starts during the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series (now Xfinity). His runs in the Nos. 00 and 99 combined for seven starts and a best finish of 12th at Michigan International Speedway.

Little did Truex know that he had caught the eye of a big-time team.

Truex hopped out of the East Series and ran half the Xfinity schedule that year with two Toyota teams, MWR and Joe Gibbs Racing. He grabbed a best finish of fourth at Richmond Raceway and made his first two series starts at Dover that year, with a best finish of eighth in Gibbs’ No. 20.

His consistent performance with the team locked him into a part-time ride with Gibbs the next year, and that spring’s Dover race looked to be the breakout performance Truex was looking for. Truex led the race’s late stages, but had to outrun another fast JGR Toyota in Joey Logano. Unfortunately for Truex, with six laps to go, his teammate passed him for the lead after the No. 20 ran into lapped traffic.

“You got to be kidding me,” Truex yelled over the radio.

Logano won while Truex had to settle for second place.

“It’s just frustrating,” Truex said in his post-race interview with ESPN. “I’ll get one eventually. It’s just tough.”

Back then, I thought that this race and his overall part-time 2012 performance would warrant Truex a good full-time ride to branch his career in Xfinity and help him reach the Cup Series. Unfortunately, that opportunity never flourished for Truex.

After a very quiet 2013, Truex ran a part-time Cup Series schedule with the now-defunct BK Racing in 2014, garnering a best finish of 20th at Pocono Raceway.

2015 saw Truex flounder in four starts for Fred Biagi in the Xfinity Series before a much better opportunity rolled Truex’s way.

In 2016, Shigeaki Hattori gave Truex a call to run the majority of the Craftsman Truck Series schedule that year in hopes to run the full-time schedule, and it couldn’t have started better. Truex made the most of his opportunity by placing his No. 81 second at Daytona International Speedway, leading at the white flag but being edged just prior to the caution that flew for Christopher Bell‘s tumbling truck.

Seeing Truex’s interview after the race gave fans hope for his career, and in a way, this was the turning point for his career in my eyes. Truex had confidence, he was happy where he finished and was optimistic on where things were going.

“It feels good to be back,” Truex said in his post-race interview with FOX Sports 1.

He placed the truck in the top 10 three more times, including a top 10 at Dover.

Truex ran full time with Hattori in 2017, where he finished a series-best ninth in points. He collected eight top fives and 13 top 10s, one of those at Dover, and also led his most laps of the year at — you guessed it — the Monster Mile.

Upstart Xfinity team Kaulig Racing came calling for 2018, as Truex’s only full-time year in the series yielded solid results, including a top five, 11 top 10s (one at Dover) and a 12th-place points finish.

In 2019, Truex made a move back to part-time racing, as his ride JR Motorsports brought things full-circle from his first East start with DEI in 2008. Things started with a solid run at Phoenix Raceway, as he finished second once again to a JGR driver in Kyle Busch. No starts came at Dover for the driver of the No. 8, but Truex finished in the top 10 three more times in his six starts that year.

Truex returned to the Truck Series with Niece Motorsports in 2020 part time and in 2021 full-time but found little success with the team in both years. Highlights included a top five at Talladega Superspeedway and a top 10 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He finished the season 16th in points.

After his last full time Truck Series season, Truex returned to Toyota with Sam Hunt Racing at Daytona, and Joe Gibbs had him back for a part-time slate. 2022 showed good promise for Truex, as he finished seventh at Martinsville Speedway, sixth at Texas Motor Speedway and third at newly configured Atlanta Motor Speedway. He made sure to not squander his second chance with JGR.

Right off the bat in 2023, Truex replicated both his 2019 Phoenix and 2022 Atlanta results, finishing second and third at both tracks respectively. After two more starts at Martinsville and Talladega, Dover was up next for Truex, and he made sure to make the most of his visit to his home track.

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After 13 Years & 5 Second-Place Finishes, Ryan Truex Finally Has His Win

Truex started 12th after qualifying rained out and began slicing through the field. Fighting through RCR teammates Sheldon Creed and Austin Hill, Truex took the lead and was the strongest car in the field. Despite some late battles, after 14 years of hard work, effort and patience and a combined 188 national series starts, Truex captured his first checkered flag in the Xfinity Series and his first win in NASCAR’s top three divisions of racing.

“Most people didn’t believe in me, and I still did,” Truex told FOX Sports. “My girlfriend, Leah, my family, parents, brother, everybody. Just so thankful to be here. So amazing.”

Truex knew how important it was to his career to secure this win for his career, and it was captivating seeing how big of a moment it meant to him.

“I belong here, and I just proved that,” Truex said. “I’ve known it for a while. People around me have known it for a while, and now everyone in the garage knows it. My goal is to drive one of these cars full time next year, and hopefully we can make it happen.”

“I always felt like if I could go back to Dover and redeem myself for that race all those years ago, that it’d be pretty special,” Truex told Frontstretch.

To top things off this weekend, the elder Truex snapped his 54-race winless streak, beating a fast Ross Chastain to claim his fourth win at the Monster Mile. Dover was also the site of his marquee first victory in the Cup Series in 2007.

“It’s just special,” Martin Truex Jr. told FOX Sports. “This is a special place. It was such a big day for our family to see Ryan to get to do that on Saturday. He’s worked so hard for so long to get good opportunities, and it was awesome to see him take advantage of that. For us, we’ve given away a few here over the years, and it feels nice to get one to come around our way for once.”

This is the first time that brothers have swept the weekend at Dover since 1994 when brothers Rusty Wallace and Mike Wallace accomplished the feat. This is also the first time that brothers have swept the weekend since 2010 when the Busch brothers did it at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600 weekend. The Truex brothers are the fifth family to do it, along with Ward and Jeff Burton and Darrell and Michael Waltrip.

Seeing Martin and Ryan Truex share the moment together in victory lane this weekend will live on in fans’ hearts. It’s a special moment for those who know the path the younger Truex faced to find victory lane as well as the long streak Martin Truex Jr. faced for the past two years. The hardships, trials and long wait paid off for the younger Truex in the end, and it truly seems that a new, exciting chapter in his career has started.

For Martin Truex Jr., the worries of making the playoffs this year have been quelled after missing them last year.

How fitting is it that the Truex brothers got to celebrate together at their home track in the same weekend?

About the author

Wyatt Watson has followed NASCAR closely since 2007. He joined Frontstretch as a journalist in February 2023 after serving in the United States Navy for five years as an Electronic Technician Navigation working on submarines. Wyatt writes breaking NASCAR news and contributes to columns such as Friday Faceoff and 2-Headed Monster. Wyatt also contributes to Frontstretch's social media and serves as an at-track reporter, collecting exclusive content for Frontstretch.

Wyatt Watson can be found on Twitter @WyattGametime

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