Fans have become accustomed to seeing teenagers rise rapidly through the NASCAR ranks, but that wasn’t always the case in the Cup series. Martin Truex Jr. was not allowed to race full-sized race cars in New Jersey until he turned 18 in 1998.
It took another four years for him to get on the radar screen of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his Chance2 Motorsports team. On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Truex and Earnhardt recalled their first meeting at a test in Richmond.
Chance2 was evaluating Truex, although the 2017 champion did not know exactly how seriously he was being considered. At that test, Earnhardt’s car was great, Truex’s was not. So Earnhardt offered an opportunity to test his car after the lunch break.
“So here I am, 22 years old and … Dale Jr., we’d just had a conversation and that was a big enough deal,” Truex recalled. “And he’s like ‘why don’t you just jump in there and drive mine.’ “
Truex wondered if that was some kind of prank.
Rain canceled the remainder of the test and Truex was not able to get into one of Earnhardt’s cars until the 10th Xfinity series race of 2003.
“This is still 2002,” Truex added. “It was the fall race, so it rained out. I didn’t get to … try his car out. He went on to win the race, but I didn’t get to do anything until the Chance2 deal in 2003. So it was a whole winter of waiting.”
Truex qualified sixth at Richmond Raceway in May 2003 and led 11 laps, but a broken transmission ended his day early.
For more, watch the video above.