What’s it really like to race against Martin Truex Jr?

No matter how many NASCAR Cup Series drivers were asked about what they’ll remember about racing against Martin Truex Jr., the responses were all pretty similar.

“I tried to think… it’s hard to believe I’ve been teammates with Martin as long as I have and I’ve never had a, ‘What the [expletive], Martin?’ moment,” Denny Hamlin said. “Never. I’m sure he’s said about me in his head because of things I’ve done as a teammate, but I’ve never had that moment, and I don’t think anyone has as a teammate to him or anything.”

Hamlin was spot-on. Away from the heat-of-the-moment rivalries on the racetrack, Truex has garnered the respect and praise of his fellow competitors. After the 43-year-old announced on June 14 that he would retire from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition at the end of the season, it gave those competitors a chance to share those sentiments.


“I don’t know how you could say he’s not the best teammate you could possibly have,” Hamlin continued. “He’s so respectful. He reminds me of Jimmie Johnson; I think he’s so underrated as far as the natural ability to drive a car fast. I have to work tremendously hard week in and week out to run the speed that Martin Truex runs. I have to work really hard to keep up with him, and so I just think he’s one of the most naturally gifted drivers that our series has seen in quite some time.

“But he’s just not flashy about it. That’s the only difference between him and others who have been great in the Cup Series. So, when I think about Martin, I try to think have I ever had a moment where I’ve said, ‘Man, I can’t believe he did that.’ The answer is no. He’s always done the right thing 100% of the time, and that’s just hard to do.”

Hamlin has been a teammate of Truex for six seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing. However, Truex has been a Toyota driver since 2016, when his former team, the now-defunct Furniture Row Racing, switched from Chevrolet to Toyota and formed a technical alliance with Gibbs.

A common theme that emerges when talking about Truex is his personality. Truex has always been one of the garage’s more down-to-earth, straightforward drivers. He is easy to talk to, gets along with everyone, and is respectful in his interactions.

‘Unbothered’ would be another way to describe him. No matter the situation, Truex does not come off as getting too high or too low with his emotions.

“He’s got no ego,” Christopher Bell said. “He’s got no ‘I’m better than you’ attitude. He’s just a very normal person who does himself, and I respect the hell out of him because he is a superstar in the Cup Series, but he just does himself. He’s not flashy.

“He (Truex) has got no ego,” says JGR teammate Christopher Bell. “He’s not flashy.” Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

“He doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks. He is Martin Truex Jr., and frankly that’s who I want to be (in the) same style.”

Erik Jones spent his rookie season in the Cup Series as Truex’s teammate at Furniture Row Racing. The two then worked together for two seasons when Truex came in-house to Gibbs, and now again as Jones and Legacy Motor Club are under the Toyota banner.

Jones was 21 years old in 2017 at Furniture Row. Truex was 37 and had plenty of advice for his young teammate.

“I always remember him trying to explain how different Cup was and how hard it is, and I wasn’t really buying into it at the time,” Jones said. “But he was right. That was one of my first interactions with Martin – him telling me the difference between Xfinity and Cup. He was just always really straightforward and always no-nonsense and right to the point. He was a good teammate and easy to work with. A nice guy.”

Jones and others were glad to hear about Truex’s decision. Not that anyone in the sport wants to see him leave, but because it’s Truex’s decision, made when he was ready. But it’s not an easy decision, Joey Logano pointed out. Once it’s made, there is no telling what the future will hold.

“There’s a good chance that you may feel you made the wrong decision when the races start next year, and you’re not involved for the first time in 30 years,” Logano said. “It’s a hard decision to make, but I think he’s thought about it for many years, and I can’t speak for it, but it must feel like the right time.”

Logano went on to say that Truex is “obviously” a NASCAR Hall of Famer. For the record, part of the eligibility to be nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame is that a driver must be retired for at least two years. And Truex didn’t rule out competing in something somewhere next season.

One of the most memorable chapters of Truex’s career involved Logano. A year after winning the championship, Truex and Logano crossed paths in the postseason at Martinsville Speedway. Logano put the bumper to Truex for the win, which didn’t sit well with Truex and his team. Truex promised that Logano wasn’t going to “win the war.” But a week later, the two raced without issue, and Logano won the championship with Truex in second place.

“We get along fine,” Logano said. “We are very different people. The only thing we have in common is we both drive race cars; I don’t think there is anything else in common we have. But I respect what he’s done over the years and obviously, we’ve competed against each other in very tough ways and various situations.”

As he is wont to do, Brad Keselowski gave an in-depth answer about Truex. The two have competed against each other since the early 2000s. Personally, Keselowski finds it hard to see a fellow champion leave, and believes it will be a loss for the sport. Keselowski broke down how Truex has earned his stature through his off-track reputation and results – two Xfinity Series championships, and then paid his dues in the Cup Series for some time before landing in a great situation he could take advantage of.

Keselowski, who has raced against Truex for two decades, says the 2017 Cup Series champion is one of the last links to an era when drivers still had “chill.”. Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images

Truex’s talent, consistency and patience are admirable. As it stands, Keselowski and Truex have similar resumes, with championships in NASCAR’s top two series and Cup Series victories. Truex has 34 career victories and Keselowski has 36.

“He’s a little bit of a throwback in the sense that Martin is one of those guys that I thought was really good at taking care of his equipment and being there when it mattered,” Keselowski said. “So with each one of these drivers that goes away, it’s kind of the end of its own little era. Martin was probably one of the last of the drivers that had chill to him. It seems like everybody new that comes in… most of the drivers don’t have a lot of chill.

“Martin is a very chill guy, so I’ve got a lot of respect for him. I don’t know what his next chapter is, maybe he doesn’t know either, but that’s OK.”

Chase Elliott didn’t use the “chill” word, but the lack of controversy and excitement around Truex is precisely what stands out. Elliott doesn’t think he and Truex have said 20 words to each other in the nine years that Elliott has competed in the Cup Series, but there is nothing wrong with that. There is mutual respect between the two without having a deep relationship.

When it comes to the professional arena, Elliott feels everyone should respect that Truex is someone who has kept his head down, does the job, and focuses on the things that matter. Elliott made bystanders break out in laughter when he was asked if there was an interaction with Truex that he remembers:

“No, and honestly that’s why I like him,” Elliott said. “I wish we had more of that.”

Martin is just Martin. He does his own thing in his own way. And with retirement, Truex can do even more of what he wants.

Tyler Reddick might have the best outlook for Truex.

“On Mondays when we’re doing our debrief at Joe Gibbs Racing, I envision him out on the boat fishing as he’s doing his post-race debrief,” Truex said. “I imagine he just fishes all week, and then when he gets bored of that, goes and does a little bit of hunting. He’s a very outdoorsy guy, so I feel like that’s what he does all week.

“Maybe he’s living life better than all of us and finally decided that five out of seven days hunting and fishing is not enough, and now he can do it seven days in a row.”

Story originally appeared on Racer