His new Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was nowhere in sight, but Martin Truex Jr. seemed worried he hadn’t donned his helmet Wednesday night – at a hockey game.
The 2017 Cup champion spent the first period between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins benches as the featured guest of “Inside The Glass”, where he was “excited and nervous, maybe a little bit scared” to fulfill his goal of seeing “how close I can get to that puck without it actually hitting me.”
Truex was close enough that he ducked behind NBCSN’s Brian Boucher (a retired goaltender who knows about stopping pucks) as the action whizzed by a few times.
“I feel like this is a NASCAR race,” Truex said. “It’s so intense, you’ve got to be here to see it in person.
“TV is awesome, but when you get here down by this ice, it’s amazing what these guys are doing. NASCAR fans say the same thing about racing all the time.”
It was the second visit to a Flyers game on NBCSN for Truex (three years ago, he said he remembered to bring a helmet), who rarely turns down the chance to pull for the Flyers, Phillies and Eagles.
During an episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast a year ago, Truex said his hometown of Mayetta was about 25 miles south of an imaginary line in New Jersey that divided his native state’s allegiances between pro teams in Philadelphia and the New York metro area.
With his family about a little more than an hour from Philadelphia, Truex grew up as a diehard fan of all professional sports in the City of Brotherly Love.
“Everyone I grew up around are Philly fans in general,” he said. “My dad. Aunts and uncles. I was born into it. It’s been fun.”
Last year, his obligations as Cup champ included a serendipitous trip to Super Bowl LII, where he took part in NBC’s pregame coverage and then watched his beloved Eagles defeat the New England Patriots 41-33.
He received the royal treatment again before and during a 4-3 victory for his favorite NHL team Wednesday, meeting the Flyers team and its beloved, irreverent and oft-viral mascot, Gritty (who presented Truex with a personalized jersey).
Truex left the Wells Fargo Center with many stories to tell crew chief Cole Pearn, a Canadian and avid Toronto Maple Leafs fan who played for rec hockey league teams in Denver while working with Truex at Furniture Row Racing the past five seasons.
With Furniture Row’s closure after the No. 78’s runner-up finish to 2018 champion Joey Logano, Truex and Pearn will move to Gibbs’ No. 19 in hopes of earning a third consecutive berth in the Championship 4.
“I feel good about the season coming up,” Truex said Wednesday. “(It’s) 32 days away from the Daytona 500. That’s hard to believe, but we’re really excited to race for a first-class team, that’s Joe Gibbs Racing, a championship team, year after year.
“We’re excited for the future, and hopefully it’ll be a great year for us.”