I’ve been around racing for as long as I can remember. It has always been a way of life for my family. But growing up, I didn’t know it was something I wanted to do.
My dad (Martin Truex Sr.) was still racing when I was a little kid, but I don’t have any memories of it. (However, there are pictures of me at the track that prove I was there.) My first real memories of racing are from watching my older brother (Martin Truex Jr.) race modifieds at Wall Stadium in New Jersey. To this day, I can remember the smell of burnt rubber and race fuel, and the musty wooden bleachers that used to give me splinters.
Despite always being at the track, I didn’t feel the urge to race. Then, when I was about 12 or 13 years old, that urge started to creep in slowly. I began to wonder: “Can I do it? Do I have the natural talent to make a car go fast?” But I didn’t act on those thoughts.
From Go Carts to Bandaleros
Later, around the time my brother became a standout in the Xfinity Series, I spent a week during the summer with my brother’s motorhome driver, Ray Erwin. I’d known Ray forever. He worked with my dad back when dad owned a Busch North Series team. Since Ray also worked with Martin’s new team, I’d ride along with him as he drove Martin’s motorhome from track to track.
One particular day (I don’t remember which track we’d just left) we were headed toward Indy. As we got closer, Ray stopped at a go-cart track and asked me: “Wanna make some laps?” But I hesitated… The carts at this track were the real deal—I mean fast—like nothing I’d ever done before. I’d even have to wear a helmet! Ha! I was pretty nervous, but I decided to go for it. As soon as I hit the track, I felt right at home. Something finally clicked and I realized: “I want to keep doing this!” But first, I had to convince my dad.
Initially, dad said: “Nope.” But after much begging and pleading, I finally convinced him to let me get a Bandalero Car to race at Wall Stadium. That’s where I discovered how much racing against other drivers is a whole different challenge than making laps all by myself. It’s where I learned the importance of preparation, of setting goals, and of being optimistic—or, at least trying to be. You see, I tend to be a pessimist by nature.
Pessimism vs. Positivity
For years, I was the guy who complained: “I just have bad luck!” But since then, I’ve learned to drop that attitude (for the most part), and focus my energy on the task at hand. In the NASCAR world, you have to make your own luck. Bad things happen sometimes. That’s just the way it goes. Getting into the Xfinity Series has been a journey, and a bumpy road at times. But ultimately, my goal is the Cup Series Victory Lane. When I finally make it to the Cup Series, it will be that much more rewarding.
So whenever I’m having a rough day—whether I’m in or out of the car—I try to visualize THAT moment… The exhilaration of crossing the finish line in first place… My crew chief cheering over the radio… Burning cookies… Jumping up onto the roof of my car… The cheer of the crowd. I can see it and hear it in my mind. And I will get there. I WILL GET THERE.
The Pressure to Perform
Of course, it’s a lot of work and a ton of pressure. When your big brother is a successful driver—who has made it to the very top in NASCAR—the pressure to perform is intense. But most of the pressure is self-inflicted, because I know how hard I’ve worked to get this far. Most of all, I don’t want to let myself down. Challenging myself and setting these huge goals is what has kept me going during the rough patches of my career. During those times when I thought it all might be over. Or when I was so frustrated, I just wanted to give up and do something else.
Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone
One thing that’s helped me is challenging myself outside of racing. Doing things that help me prepare mentally and require that extra bit of effort. Whether it’s learning a new skill, running the extra mile when it feels like my legs are about to fall off, or stepping out of my comfort zone.
For example, I’ve always been a quiet person by nature. I’ve never felt comfortable with public speaking or being in front of a camera. I used to hate doing interviews. The anxiety I felt when forced to do one—especially in front of the camera—felt worse than any racing situation I’ve ever been in. It took me a while (and a lot of media training) but I finally overcame that fear. Which is a little victory that makes me feel like I can conquer anything now. Eventually, little victories add up to bigger victories. It just takes time.
I Will Get There
My next race is the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 28, 2019. I’ll be driving the Marquis No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro for JR Motorsports. And I’m so ready. In the meantime, I’m visualizing success. For this race… for the next race… and for every race after that… Until I get where I’m going. AND I WILL GET THERE.
HOW TO WATCH: The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 28, 2019 at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) will be broadcast on NBCSN and PRN (Performance Racing Network). Live streaming is available on NBCSports.com/nascar. A recording of the race, referred to as the “Drive for the Cure 250,” may be published later on NASCAR’s YouTube channel.