Maybe it’s hard to view someone who shows up on your television most weekends, counts Dale Earnhardt Jr. among his friends and whose career winnings top $50 million as being like you.
Maybe there’s nothing you think you have in common with Martin Truex Jr. other than a desire to drive a car fast.
Maybe you think you’ll never know the life Truex lives.
You’d be wrong.
Truex is like you and others. It’s what made his victory Sunday at Pocono Raceway one that so many could celebrate. His win serves as a reminder that sometimes there can be joyous moments among life’s struggles.
In less than two years, Truex lost his job, had a loved one face a serious health issue and just this week dealt with the death of a grandparent.
No matter how large or small your bank account is, many of you have faced at least one of those issues – if not more – within the last few years.
Truex understands how humbling it can be to lose a job through no fault of your own – just as many NASCAR fans have experienced since the economic collapse a few years back.
Maybe it was a decision by a so-called bean counter that left you out of work despite years of service and loyalty instead of a scandal as Truex faced, but the result was the same.
Truex was trying to make NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup in Sept. 2013 at Richmond when his teammates made suspicious moves that aided him.
The result was a penalty that took away Truex’s chance to race for a title and caused his sponsor to leave Michael Waltrip Racing. Coming so late in the year, there was little chance for the organization to find another sponsor. That left Truex – who was not implicated in the misdeeds – temporarily without a job.
While he found one maybe sooner than many of you, it wasn’t easy. His first year at Furniture Row Racing was a disaster. There was much hope after the team had made the Chase in 2013 but Truex didn’t come close to doing that last year.
“Nothing went our way, nothing,’’ Truex said. “We couldn’t make the cars work. They felt terrible to me. They were so inconsistent, you just never knew what you were going to get.’’
How many of you later found jobs that didn’t quite fit, that just weren’t as good as what you had before, that were unsatisfying?
In the midst of his struggles on the track, Truex’s longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer last year. Doctors removed her ovaries, spleen, appendix, fallopian tubes and part of her stomach in August.
“She showed me what she was made of, and I was like, ‘Wow, if she can do that, I can do this,’ Truex said . “Honestly, I just learned a lot from her and worked hard, never gave up, believed in myself the whole time, and that’s what it takes.’’
Things turned for Truex this season. His car was fast immediately. He opened the season with seven consecutive top-10 finishes – more than he had all of last season.
It is the last month that has been so remarkable. Sunday marked the fourth consecutive race he led the most laps. The first three races, though, he didn’t win. Pit strategy, fuel mileage or a fading car conspired against Truex in each of those instances. He was grateful to again be competitive but frustrated at not winning.
As he led Sunday, it was easy to wonder what might happen next. How much more could he endure?
“I’ve kind of got used to the disappointment, honestly, and I’ve learned to deal with those days where it didn’t go your way, even though you didn’t do anything wrong,’’ Truex said.
Sunday, he didn’t do anything wrong. This time, there was no disappointment. Instead, there was a deep embrace with Pollex in Victory Lane, followed by hooting, hollering and a good bit of fist-pumping.
While you may never have TV cameras recording your best moments, chances are you also understand how Truex felt Sunday at Pocono because you’ve felt the same way.