Martin Truex Jr. found his visit to the White House on Monday afternoon to be a reminder. A reminder of what it means to be a NASCAR champion and the rewards that come with it.
“People have asked me, now that that you’ve won one championship is the desire the same? Do you want it as bad? And I’ll tell you, especially with things like today, you want it more. You want it worse,” Truex revealed after receiving a personal tour of the White House from President Donald Trump and being acknowledged during a ceremony on the South Lawn.
“That fire burns even more than it did before because now you know what it’s like and now you know what it means. So, yeah, for sure I’m fired up and ready to go to the [Coca-Cola] 600 this weekend, and hopefully we’ll be able to take it over.”
President Trump treated the driver and his Furniture Row Racing team like “family” during the visit, Truex said. And Truex felt honored to represent the NASCAR industry during the trip. In addition to his team, Johnny Morris from longtime sponsor Bass Pro Shops and Toyota representatives were in attendance, as was NASCAR president Brent Dewar, CEO Brian France and vice chairman Mike Helton.
During his brief public remarks, President Trump recited Truex’s accomplishments from last season, in which he won eight races and led over 2,000 laps on his way to his first title. The tragedy of losing crewmember Jim Watson to a heart attack in October, the heart attack and bypass surgery team owner Barney Visser dealt with in November and girlfriend Sherry Pollex’s brave cancer battle were also speaking points.
Truex gifted the president with a replica of his helmet.
“What a whirlwind it’s been, really, the past six to eight months,” Truex said of winning the title. “Our life, it’s been unbelievable. We’ve gotten to do a lot of really fun, neat stuff and just thankful for the opportunity for our team and sponsors. It takes so many people to put together a championship season, so I’m thankful to all of them for putting it all together and allowing me to do what I do, and obviously, reap the rewards today.”
A repeat championship performance is going to take some more work from the No. 78 team. The dominance Truex had shown last year in wins, playoff points and laps led has shifted to Stewart-Haas Racing and Kevin Harvick. Harvick has five wins through 12 races.
Ahead of the season’s longest race, Truex has one victory with 277 laps led. But he’s already grabbed three pole positions with seven top-10 finishes to position himself eighth in points.
Charlotte has been very good to Truex. He won the 2016 Coke 600 and the 2017 playoff race at Charlotte. In the last six Charlotte races, Truex has led 853 laps with 625 of those coming in the last two Coca-Cola 600 races.