Lobster Hunting: Reigning Champion Martin Truex Jr. Chasing First Monster Energy Cup Win At NHMS

Martin Truex Jr. (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

LOUDON, N.H. – On July 16, 2017 Denny Hamlin raced to victory in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The story of the victory quickly became that of Hamlin’s trepidation when he got to victory lane and squared off with the massive live lobster trophy that has become a tradition in victory lane for Monster Energy Cup events at Loudon.

Suddenly the NASCAR world knew that Denny Hamlin was afraid of lobsters.

Reigning NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. knows when it comes to him there would be no fear. The Truex family has a long history in fishing and the seafood industry in his hometown of Mayetta, N.J.

“It bugs me a lot,” Truex said of not being able to raise a lobster yet in victory lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I really want to hold that lobster, and I won’t be scared of it like Denny Hamlin was.”

For Truex, who will start second in Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 in Loudon, winning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at the top level of NASCAR would be truly bringing dreams of childhood full circle.

Despite the fact that Truex grew up a lot closer to Dover, Del. than Loudon, N.H., when it comes to marking a “Home Track” on the Monster Cup schedule, Truex leans toward the Granite State.

“Just because of the history we have there, and the fact that the first big track I ever won on was at Loudon, it’s definitely up there at the top,” Truex said.

Truex literally grew up around the pit area at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. His father made his first Busch North Series start (now the K&N Pro Series East) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on May 13, 1992. Martin Truex Jr. was 11 years old at the time.

“I’ve been going there a long time and watching dad race there a long time as well,” Truex said. “For us, when I grew up, that was the biggest race of the year for the Busch North Series. That was kind of their Daytona going there so it was always a big deal to get to go and see a lot of my hero’s race. And we’d get to see the [Monster Energy Cup] guys come there as well. It was definitely a cool place and definitely our Daytona when I was growing up.”

From 1992 to 2000 Martin Truex Sr. made 135 career Busch North Series starts with one career victory.

On May 13, 2000 the torch was passed in the Truex family. Martin Truex Jr. made his second career Busch North Series start that day, and first start on the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The day also marked the final career Busch North Series start for Martin Truex Sr. Dad finished fifth that day, son was 29th.

“It was crazy,” Truex said. “I was 19 the first time I went there to race myself. It was kind of surreal just to know what that place meant to our family and what it meant to me. To be able to go there and race was just a dream come true.”

But that 29th place finish was hardly a forecast of what was to come for the young Truex in Loudon.

In his next start at Loudon, in the Thatlook.com 100 on July 8, 2000, Martin Truex got his first of his five career Busch North Series victories.

Truex spent three seasons running full-time with Busch North Series and did a partial season in 2003 when he split time between the Busch North and the former NASCAR Busch Series (now XFINITY Series).

His final Busch North Series victory came in the New England 125 on July 19, 2003 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Overall he made 10 Busch North Series starts in Loudon with five top-five’s and six top-10’s.

In 2004 Truex made the jump full-time to the Busch Series driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc. He went on to win Busch Series championships for the team in 2004 and 2005. On the way to his second series title, Truex got one of his 13 career Busch Series victories in the New England 200 at NHMS.

The two Busch Series titles propelled Truex to a full-time ride in 2006 at the top of NASCAR in what is now the Monster Energy Cup Series for DEI.

From 2006 to 2013 Truex spent time competing for DEI, Earnhatdt-Ganassi Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, during that span never finishing better than 11thin the Cup Series standings.

After being released from Michael Waltrip Racing following the 2013 season, Truex landed with the single car Furniture Row Racing team owned by Barney Visser and based in Denver, Col. It began the start of shaping the team from mediocre to championship contender.

After finishing 24thin the series standings that first year with Furniture Row, Truex vaulted up the charts in 2015 and was one of the last four drivers racing for the championship in the final event of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He ended up fourth, but it was exclamation to NASCAR that Furniture Row was now a team that couldn’t be looked past.

Before 2016 Truex had never won more than one Monster Engery Cup event in a season. In 2016 he recorded four victories, proving the 2015 arrival of Furniture Row was no aberration. An early exit from the Chase for the Championship left Truex 11thin the standings in 2016.

Then in 2017 it became clear that Truex and Furniture Row were the team to beat in the series. Truex raced to a series high eight victories in 2017 on the way to his first career Monster Energy Cup Series championship.

“It was just such a huge accomplishment,” Truex said. “It’s something that at times throughout my career I never thought was going to be attainable. And just to fight through it all and get to the top of the sport is just something that I’ve dreamed of for a long time and worked hard to get to So it’s just a huge accomplishment.”

Truex became the first former K&N Pro Series East regular to win a Monster Energy Cup Series title.

“I think it’s a huge deal,” Truex said of the the feat. “There’s so many guys that have come up through that series throughout the years and been great drivers. And they’re still coming. There’s still great drivers in that series and great racing. It’s a big part of NASCAR. You look at the Truck Series and the XFINITY Series today, there’s a lot of those guys still coming up through there. To be the first one to get that Cup title was definitely a feather in the cap, something I’m really proud of.”

But still left on the bucket list for Truex is that elusive Monster Energy Cup Series victory at NHMS. In 24 career Monster Energy Cup Series starts at NHMS, Truex has five top-five’s and 10 top-10’s. He has been a dominant force in the last four Monster Energy Cup events at Loudon. He has led 112 or more laps in each of the last four Monster Energy Cup events at NHMS. Of the last 1,166 laps of Monster Energy Cup competition run at Loudon since July of 2016, Truex has led 513 of them.

“I want to win there so bad,” Truex said. “I’ve been so close so many times. I’ve led a ton of laps and have had a lot of success there, just haven’t been able to put together that win. Hopeful the next time around is our time.”

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