Truex Jr.: 'Dale Gave Me My Opportunity'

Martin Truex Jr.

"I wouldn't be here today without him. My path would surely be different. There are a lot of things that would be different if it wasn't for Dale and the friend he's been over the years, the mentor he's been to me." (Photo: Getty Images)

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Through his role as a team owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has helped start the successful careers of many drivers, including his friend and 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr.

Earnhardt played a part in helping get Truex's career going in 2003, when he gave him the opportunity to move from New Jersey to North Carolina and race for Chance 2 Motorsports. Truex spent his early days living on Earnhardt's couch before moving to a house located on his property.

"Dale gave me my opportunity…to race cars for a living," Truex said after winning the championship. "I wouldn't be here today without him. My path would surely be different. There are a lot of things that would be different if it wasn't for Dale and the friend he's been over the years, the mentor he's been to me. It's amazing. He's such a great person."

Truex made his first start with Chance 2 - a team Earnhardt co-owned with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. - at Richmond Raceway in 2003 and then went full-time the next year, when he proceeded to win the first of two consecutive XFINITY (then Busch) Series championships.

"I believed in him since the first race we ran together," Earnhardt Jr. said. "The way he ran in our cars in those two seasons when he won the championship ... he's always overachieved and always at least gotten everything out of the car that the car was capable of giving, if not more."

Truex's Cup Series championship came on the same day Earnhardt made his last start as a full-time NASCAR driver.

"Dale has meant so much to me," Truex said. "I'm proud of his career, who he is and the fact that this sport means so much to him that he's going to stay around next year and do TV."

After climbing out of his No. 88 Chevrolet for the last time, Earnhardt enjoyed a few beers with his crew and then headed to the championship stage to congratulate Truex.

"It's so good to see him win this title," Earnhardt said. "He's a professional, a gentleman and a perfect friend. I was glad to have a hand in getting his career going. I can't take all the credit. Richie Gilmore also was a big part of that. I told him, 'Man, we're going to have fun in Vegas celebrating your championship.' I'm so proud of him."

To go with Truex's two XFINITY Series titles, Earnhardt continues to enjoy success as an owner but under a different company - JR Motorsports, which launched its NXS program in 2006. JR Motorsports won the XFINITY Series championship the night before Truex took home the Cup crown with William Byron, who will drive the No. 24 at Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series next season.

Chase Elliott, who just finished his sophomore campaign in the Cup Series, won the XFINITY title with the team in 2014. Brad Keselowski also drove full-time for the team for two seasons, scoring six wins, before moving to Team Penske - where he won the 2012 Cup Series championship.

 

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