By Sandi Argo
When MENCS 2017 Champion Martin Truex Jr stepped out of his number 19 Toyota in Victory Lane on Sunday, he was ready to sip from the prized goblet they award each winner. Although the beverage of choice for Truex would have been something different, the win he claimed made the fruity dark red wine sweeter than anything else at that time. With teammate, Kyle Bush dogging him at the last few laps (with fresher tires on the 18) Truex knew he had some work to do.
“He was beating us there for a while and I knew I had to manage my car the best I could, and not burn my tires off trying to go faster than it wanted to go. I knew if we could just maintain a decent gap for long enough we would start to equal out and with 10 to go we were equal in lap times. Then from there it was ‘Alright, you just have to run 10 perfect laps…and don’t screw up’ and that was the key”
Though Truex did run the perfect 10, lap cars did not make the challenge easy. Trues stated “Luckily we were able to catch them at the right time and not lose too much time to Kyle. Feels great, feels amazing to win here two in a row and um the thought that maybe it could be three is pretty phenomenal.”
Truex gave kudos to his teammate (and “rival”) Kyle Bush for racing him the way he did stating that he and Bush had been racing together for a long time, since the Bush Series. Competition is nothing new to either and now that they are teammates the mutual respect they show each other puts the past in the past.
When asked about the wine being sweeter due to the fact that the win made him the only other driver to get back to back wins since Jeff Gordon in ’98, ’99 and 2000, though, Truex never hesitated. Well, not much…
“I’d like to say yes…but I can’t. I just, uh, I just don’t like wine! I’m sorry, but I just don’t” with the room laughing in shock he added “It’s the best damn wine I’ve ever had, but I still don’t like it”!
Asked about his view of the re-opening of the carousel, Truex said “It definitely added another element to the racetrack”. “I will say that, the first time, it was uh…kinda scary”. adding later “It took a while to get used to and it added something unique to the Cup Series”.
A blown engine in 2017 kept the back to back wins from being three in a row, with two wins in the books the next race at Sonoma will be one to keep the Truex fans holding their breath. A victory would tie Truex with Gordon, and add yet another goblet to the collection. With the luck and skills combined, perhaps it might be a good idea for Truex to seek the advice of a sommelier* before that occurs. Perhaps then he will be able to completely enjoy the spoils of battle in wine country!
*A sommelier, or wine steward, is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing. The role in fine dining today is much more specialized and informed than that of a wine waiter.