Truex dominated the day on Pocono’s “Tricky Triangle,” leading 97 of 160 laps en route to a celebration that included a lengthy, tear-filled embrace with longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who has battled Stage Three Ovarian Cancer with a yearlong regimen of surgery and chemotherapy.
The victory snapped Truex’s personal, 69-race winless skid, and was the second for Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser, who ignored conventional wisdom a decade ago by headquartering his team in Denver, Colo. The team’s first victory – with driver Regan Smith in the 2011 Southern 500 at Darlington – seemed light years away Sunday, but after leading the most laps in each of the previous three races, it was clear that FRR’s next trip to Victory Lane was not a question of `if,’ but `when.’
“We've had a great season,” said Truex, whose previous Sprint Cup Series wins came at Dover in 2007 and Sonoma in 2013. “Throughout my career, I’ve gotten used to disappointment. I’ve learned to deal with days where it didn’t go your way, even though you didn’t do anything wrong. We have had everything it has taken to win races (this year), but we just hadn’t got it done. This team deserves to win and I’ve known that all year long.”
Truex was dominant on four late-race restarts Sunday, leaping away to large leads while his pursuers struggled to get up to speed. “The difference was one real good (restart),” he admitted. “Joey Logano gave me a good shot. I just tried to mix it up so they weren’t sure what I was going to do next. I think we picked the right gear ratio for restarts here, and that is critical."
Truex opened a 2.75-second lead with 12 laps to go, and cruised to a comfortable margin of victory that had even his fellow competitors expressing happiness.
"If you’re going to lose to somebody today, that’s a great person to lose to,” said runner-up Kevin Harvick afterward. “You look at everything -- personally and professionally – that Martin and Sherry have dealt with and you have to be happy for them. To see them have that bright spot is something I think the whole garage will support and be happy with.”
“He’s been through a lot of stuff, both inside the car and outside the car,” said longtime friend Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who stormed Victory Lane to douse Truex with an impromptu Diet Mountain Dew shower. “He’s been able to get into a good opportunity with good people. He’s got a team that believes in him. They’ve come a long way over the last several years.”
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Truex amidst the post-race chaos. “It takes time to heal things, especially with what Sherry and I went through. But this makes you forget all about it. I feel blessed to be with this group of guys. I’m just proud to drive cars for them and proud that Sherry is here, healthy. She is as excited as I am and everything is going well for her.”
"Oh, my God," admitted Pollex of their yearlong battle. "We have been through so much."
A year ago, the daughter of former NASCAR Busch Series team owner Greg Pollex lost her ovaries, spleen, appendix, fallopian tubes and part of her stomach to the surgeon’s knife, before yielding her hair and 25 pounds to the ravages of weekly chemotherapy. While her cancer is now in remission, Pollex still undergoes monthly chemotherapy treatments, including the day following Truex’s Pocono victory.
"I didn't want to get too excited the last two laps because we've been so close so many times this year,” she said. “Last year was tough, with my diagnosis and the car not running well. (But) this year, they started off with a bang. Everything has gone his way and the cars have been so good. He's been so close.”
Ironically, it was Pollex who delivered a critical pep-talk following a 2013 season that saw Truex lose his ride with Michael Waltrip Racing when sponsor NAPA Auto Parts departed in the aftermath of an on-track scandal that cost a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
“We knew it was going to take a lot of work,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a tough road. I felt really fortunate that there was a great ride open with the 78 (team). Then Sherry’s situation happened and it was like, `All right, this is when you show people what you’re made of.’
“She showed me what she was made of (fighting cancer),” he said. And I was like, `Wow, if she can do that, I can do this.’”