NASCAR celebrates its new champion, a thankful Martin Truex Jr.

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Martin Truex Jr. celebrated his Cup championship Thursday night by thanking those who helped him reach the sport’s pinnacle.

Truex was honored at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Awards at Wynn Las Vegas.

Before his moment, close friend Dale Earnhardt Jr. introduced the champion.

“Tonight we celebrate our championship driver,’’ Earnhardt said. “But to me and many who know him, he’s a champion in so many ways. Like when his professional career turned challenging, his options limited, he blamed no one. He kept his head high, he persevered because he’s a champion person.

“While the love of his life battles the most evil of diseases and he stands with her to make her fight his fight, he’s a champion partner.

“When he’s away from the track, perhaps enjoying his true passion for hunting or fishing, you realize this, he’s a champion friend. He’s the man. The champion in so many ways and no one more deserving of this night.’’

Truex started his speech by thanking his parents and family.

“Dad we did it!’’ Truex said.

“This is a childhood dream for me. The 78 race team has carried the same motto throughout the season and that’s ‘never give up.’ No one has lived that out more than my life partner Sherry. As we all know, Sherry was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014. Today, she is still fighting her disease with tenacity and a never-give-up attitude that inspires millions of people to do the same. She is the true champion.’’

Sherry Pollex’s health battles were only part of what Truex and members of Furniture Row Racing faced throughout the year. Truex noted that this “has been an emotional journey.’’

When he got to car owner Barney Visser, who was unable to attend as he recovers from bypass surgery after a heart attack in early November, Truex said: “Barney Visser is the heart of this team. People thought he was crazy 12 years ago starting a NASCAR team in Denver. Barney, who is crazy now?’’

After thanking others on the team, Truex asked the crowd to raise a glass and offer a toast to Jim Watson, the crew member who died the night before the Kansas race in October.

“Here’s to you ‘Wild Man,’ ’’ Truex said. “Cheers.’’

Truex went on to congratulate Matt Kenseth on his career, thanked the fans and many others before turning his attention to Earnhardt.

“To my buddy and hunting partner Dale Jr. … I wouldn’t be here without Dale,’’ Truex said. “He gave me my first break in NASCAR. I’m damn sure going to miss racing with him on the race track but we are going to spend a lot of time together away from the race track, and I look forward to that. Congratulations on an amazing career.’’

Truex finished his speech by talking about Pollex.

Finally, back to the love of my life,’’ Truex said. “No, not racing. Sherry. Babe, I love you and thank you for the change you’ve caused in my life. You’re an inspiration to all of us in this room. And winning is a great feeling, but spending my life with you is the real victory.’’

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