NJ Native Races Up NASCAR Ranks

By Christine Valdez
Web Production Assistant

Ryan Truex. Photo by Getty Images, Courtesy of Ian Moye.

For Mayetta native Ryan Truex, racing may be a family tradition, but it also led him into a career with NASCAR.

After watching several family members, including his father, former NASCAR driver Martin Truex Sr.; his brother NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr.; and uncle race, Truex took up racing at the age of 14. Although he started racing, he wasn’t planning to make it a career, but more like a hobby.

“I went out and just had a knack for it and was able to be fast and win,” said Truex. “From then on, I knew it was what I wanted to do.”

The hobby later led Truex to a racing career in various racing series, including Bandolero cars and legend cars in Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall Township. After finding success with each series and races, Truex would work his way up into a new series, a suggestion made by his father.

“As soon as I started winning in a race car, he moved me up,” said Truex. “He didn’t want me to think it was easy or not challenging or get cocky and I think that’s kept me levelheaded.”

Soon Truex would get the opportunity to make his way into NASCAR, racing in the various touring series. His first attempt at NASCAR came in the sports’ developmental series, the K&N Series, where he found plenty of success by winning two K&N championships in back-to-back seasons in 2009 and 2010.

Photo by Tami Pope Photography, Courtesy of Ian Moye.

Moving up within the NASCAR ranks, Truex later transitioned into the NASCAR Nationwide Series with Michael Waltrip Racing in 2010 and 2011 and later on with Joe Gibbs Racing. During his time racing in the Nationwide Series, some of his time with MWR, plans began for Truex to run a full-time schedule in the series, but that fell through after difficulty securing funding.

“The plan was to go full-time with them in 2011 in Nationwide and I was only 18 at the time and we just could never get the funding together and sponsorship put together to go out and run full-time,” said Truex. “We were always so close and it seemed like we’d get right there and have something fall through.”

He then got to join JGR, but had a similar experience. But Truex says that his time with JGR was an awesome opportunity as the team has equipment that no other team had provided him with. For Truex, his time with JGR gave him some good runs and the closet opportunities at wins in the Nationwide Series.

Despite the lack of funding in the Nationwide Series, Truex got the opportunity to race in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races and also signed on to one of the well-known teams in the sport, with Richard Petty Motorsports under a developmental contract. Later, Truex got the opportunity to drive in the highest and most competitive level of racing within NASCAR — the Sprint Cup Series.

Starting in the 2014 season, Truex became one of two new drivers for BK Racing. The move into the Cup Series and BK Racing made Truex one of eight drivers racing for Rookie of the Year honors along with Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Cole Whitt, Parker Kligerman, Justin Allgaier, Michael Annet and Alex Bowman — Truex’s teammate.

While racing for Rookie of the Year, one of the most competitive rookie classes the Cup Series has seen in years, Truex plans to continue to learn to race in the series and compete for at least third in the rookie standings. Since the season began, both Dillon and Larson have been considered the favorites to win the award at the season’s end.

Truex signing autographs at the racetrack. Photo by Tami Pope Photography, Courtesy of Ian Moye.

“It’s definitely the most competitive in a long time and the crazy thing is every driver in it is proven in every level of racing up to this point,” said Truex. “It’s going to be hard to go out and beat guys like Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon with the high level equipment that they’ve got but I think we’re the underdogs, which is pretty cool. We have a lot to prove and a lot to learn as a team and I think there’s no reason why we can’t go out and easily compete for third in rookie standings.”

Although it may be his first full season in the Cup Series, Truex has had experience in the series because he got to race in three races in the 2013 season, including a race at Bristol Motor Speedway where he made his Cup debut. He also says that it’s challenging to keep a race car intact in races.

“At the same time you can’t go out and wreck your race car, so it’s kind of a bad thing and that was probably the toughest thing for me to learn as a rookie,” said Truex.

After racing in different series, Truex has faced various challenges throughout his career, including his first three Cup starts. The first couple races of his rookie season have proven challenging. He missed out on the season opener, the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway and the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Despite the early struggles, Truex has set some goals as the season continues. As a rookie in the Cup Series, he wants to gain the respect of the veteran drivers of the series, including current and past champions Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. He also wants to keep his race car in one piece during the races of the year. The season consists of 36 point races and Truex wants to go out and finish all his races without any DNQs (Did Not Qualify).

One advantage Truex might have is the advice he gets from his brother Martin. Both will be racing with and against each other on the track.

“Everything I’ve driven, he’s driven at one point and probably won in,” said Truex. “Now we’re in the same track at the same time and facing the same conditions and he knows exactly what he needs in a race car to go out and be fast. I think that’s huge for me to be able to walk over and ask him anything.”

Ryan Truex. Photo by Getty Images, Courtesy of Ian Moye.

As for the challenges ahead throughout the rest of the year, Truex will be making his first start at tracks he has never been at before including Pocono Raceway, Kentucky Speedway and Sonoma Raceway. He’s even looking forward to return to a track that has meant a lot for him, Dover International Speedway.

The track at Dover might be located in Delaware, but Truex considers it his home track, even if it’s about an hour and a half away from Mayetta. Being at Dover allows him to see family and friends while he competes. The track was even part of the championship seasons for Truex in the K&N Series.

His racing career may have started off as a hobby, but he has gone on to race within NASCAR’s most competitive racing series. Truex never thought he would be racing with his brother and the other drivers of NASCAR.

“When I first started I thought this will be a fun hobby, but I doubt I’ll ever be as good as my brother and be able to make it that far,” said Truex. “I was only 16, I was living part-time in North Carolina driving back and forth between there and New Jersey, so it’s gone fast and it’s hard to believe I made it this far. It’s awesome to be out there racing with my brother every weekend and racing against guys like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.”