ABOVE: For crew chief Cole Pearn and Martin Truex Jr., the pressure of a championship was nothing compared to trials in real life.
If anyone was worried that Martin Truex Jr. would be overcome by the pressure of racing for a championship, fear not. The Furniture Row Racing driver had things under control all weekend.
He was so calm, in fact, that Dale Earnhardt Jr. laughed about his friend’s laid-back attitude. As Truex celebrated his crowning achievement Sunday night, farther down the track on pit road, Earnhardt revealed just 24 hours before the two had been talking about hunting.
“Saturday after practice he’s texting me about what’s on our deer [cameras]. I’m like, ‘Martin, man, you’re trying to win a championship,'” Earnhardt said. “That’s just the guy he is.”
Totally relaxed, Truex admitted.
“I was bored more than anything, especially last night,” Truex said. “When we got done with practice, done with our meetings, and it’s 5 o’clock. OK, watch the Xfinity race. This is fun, awesome race, on the edge of your seat, excited about that championship race. But then afterward I was like, ‘I’m bored, I want to race. What am I going to do all night?’
“Generally, when I’m at the track I’m pretty bored when I’m not in the car and we’re not working or having meetings or doing something. So yeah, I like looking at my trail cameras and watching my deer walk around and stuff. A big one pops up and I’m like, ‘Hey Dale, when are you going to Ohio?’ He said, Friday. I was telling him what standing to go to and stuff, to pass the time.”
Sunday was not the first time Truex had competed for the championship. As a part of the Championship 4 in 2015, the No. 78 team admittedly was just happy to be there. Anything past that was overachieving.
Returning this season as the emotional and statistical favorite, Truex knew many were going to keep a close eye on him – watching and waiting for it to come crumbling down.
Truex wasn’t fazed.
“Honestly when I got here this weekend, I did not feel any stress. I did not feel any pressure. I was ready to go race,” Truex admitted. “Everybody wanted to say, ‘Oh, what’s Truex going to do, he has no championships.’ ‘What’s the 78 going to do, are they going to buckle under pressure?’
“We’ve been here before. … We had a lot of stuff this year that could have derailed us, a lot of challenges off the track. [Crew member] Jim Watson passing away at the racetrack at Kansas during the weekend, all the things Sherry has went through. The team is part of that. They love her. She’s part of our team. [Crew chief Cole Pearn’s] best friend dying and we win Watkins Glen. I think we thrive under pressure.
“And all those crappy days we went through, we had to look at each other and hug each other and say, ‘I’ve got your back. You doing OK? What do you need? Do you need something?’ All those days that we had each other’s back like that, when the pressure of the championship – Ford Championship Weekend came along, it was like, let’s go show them who we are, show them what we’re all about – and we did it.”