CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — It didn’t hit Martin Truex Jr. until just before Christmas.
At some point, the 2017 Cup Series champion likely will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The realization occurred to Truex in the halls of Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I never thought about it until Winston Kelley actually said it to me,” Truex said of the Hall of Fame’s executive director Wednesday during the NASCAR Media Tour.
“Every year, our foundation, we go to Levine’s and walk around and hand out toys to all the kids, and I put my Santa hat on. It’s a lot of fun, so I really enjoy it,” Truex said. “Winston Kelley always goes there and helps.”
The duo talked as they prepared to give out toys when Kelly made an “out of the blue” statement.
Kelley tapped the Hall of Fame logo on his shirt.
“You know, you’re pretty much a lock to get in here now,” Kelley said.
“He told me that, and I was like, ‘Well, I hadn’t even thought of that. That’s insane,'” recalled Truex, who won eight times in 2017 to bring his career total to 15 wins. “That was one of the moments this winter that I forgot about, what it was like. Yeah, I can’t believe that. Just to think ‑‑ yeah, that’s just crazy. Blows my mind.”
Last week, Truex got a taste of what it would be like to be inducted when he introduced the induction of the late Red Byron.
The Furniture Row Racing driver will get at least one unforgettable moment between now and the start of the Cup season next month.
Truex will get to attend his first Super Bowl next weekend in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Feb. 4 on NBC).
To make it better, his favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles, are vying for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title. They’ll play the five-time champion New England Patriots.
It’s only the third time the Eagles have made the title game in Truex’s lifetime.
“I was slated to go to the game before my team made it, which was kind of cool,” Truex said. “Yeah, going for NASCAR to do some NBC stuff with Dale Jr. (in) pregame, and excited about that. And then it was like, ‘All right, my team is pretty good this year, we’ve got a chance, we’ve got a chance,’ and the NFC Championship game was a pretty good celebration at my house last weekend … I’m really jacked about it. It’s going to be awesome.”
Truex has only seen the Eagles play twice in person.
“The fact that I’m going to the Super Bowl for the first time in my life, my favorite team is going, as well, for only the (third) time since I’ve been born, that’s pretty cool.”