While Ryan Truex’s Sprint Cup Series debut might not have turned out exactly as he had hoped, the 21 year old development driver for Richard Petty Motorsports and past K&N Series Champion left Bristol feeling ‘fortunate and lucky’ to be where he is at currently in the sport today.
First and foremost, the youngest racing Truex feels lucky to be able to get back in a race car after a dirt bike accident over the Easter holiday left him injured with a broken collar bone.
“I went to the doctor and we hoped it would heal on its own,” Truex said. “We went six weeks and it hadn’t healed so then we had to have surgery.”
“I have a plate and twelve screws in there,” Truex continued. “It’s fine now but it wasn’t fun at the time.”
“I had to go through the surgery plus the physical therapy, which was twelve weeks from the time I had surgery to the time I was cleared to race.”
“And that didn’t include the six weeks of hoping that it would heal on its own,” Truex said. “It’s been a challenge and I’m apparently now banned from dirt bikes.”
Truex also feels fortunate and lucky to have signed with Richard Petty Motorsports as a development driver and to have been able to maintain a relationship with Phoenix Racing that allowed him to make his Cup debut in the No. 51 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“Before I signed with Richard Petty Motorsports, I was supposed to drive the No. 51 in Richmond and Dover,” Truex said. “And then I went and got hurt and messed those plans up.”
“Phoenix Racing was able to plug me into their schedule later in the year and Bristol was the first opening,” Truex continued. “So, that was the first one we chose being a half mile and I was approved for it by NASCAR to run in the Cup Series.”
After being out recuperating from his injury, the opportunity to be back behind the wheel of a race car, especially in the Cup Series at one of the most noted tracks on the circuit in a race under the lights was not only exciting but a bit overwhelming for the young up and coming driver.
“It was really cool but a little intimidating being in a field with guys like Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson, all those guys who have proven themselves in the Cup Series,” Truex said. “And that was my first race since the Daytona Truck race so it had been about six months since I had raced anything.”
“The week before, I practiced and qualified Marcos Ambrose’s Nationwide car so I had a little seat time in something but other than that, that was the first weekend back in a race car and the first time in the Gen 6 car at all,” Truex continued. “So, it was a bit of a curve ball for me and it was a steep learning curve.”
Truex did indeed have challenges in his Cup debut, struggling with his car race, hitting the wall and finishing 42nd in the Bristol Irwin Tools Night Race.
“We qualified really well and I was really happy with that,” Truex said. “We practiced pretty good and I thought we were a top-20 car at least.”
“In the race, we started off the first few laps and did alright but for some reason our car was just really, really loose and I ended up getting up out of the groove,” Truex continued. “I got up in the marbles and got freight trained.”
“Once I gathered it back up and got the junk off my tires, we started riding and were way back,” Truex said. “I was biding my time and then we started to get really, really tight and, being a rookie, I didn’t realize the problem at the time but it turns out that we ran over some debris and we had a cut in the left front tire.”
“It was slowly going down and then it blew out and ended our night.”
Fortunately, the rookie driver did not re-injure his collar bone although his older brother Martin Truex Jr. did not fare so well. After Martin’s hard hit late in the race at Bristol, an MRI showed that he had broken his right wrist and will have to wear a special cast for the rest of the racing season.
Although Ryan’s Cup debut race night was shortened by the blown tire and wreck into the wall, the younger Truex did learn some lessons from the evening and even got some advice and counsel from some of the biggest names in the sports.
“The biggest lesson for me is that I just need to be out there every weekend,” Truex said. “Since I stepped up from the K&N Series to Nationwide in 2011, I’ve been running part-time, once or twice a month at the most.”
“Last year, I had seven races with Joe Gibbs Racing, plus a couple of other races with some other teams, which added up to about eleven races for the year,” Truex continued. “That’s been the biggest challenge for me is just having some repetition in my racing and going out every weekend in my race car and be familiar with it.”
“One of the people that I talked to before driver intros standing in the tunnel at Bristol was Jeff Burton,” Truex said. “I thought that was really cool.”
“Mark Martin came up to my car and talked to me for a few minutes and told me what to expect and what to do,” Truex continued. “So, there were a couple of guys that I respect who talked to me and I thought that was awesome.”
“I grew up watching them race so for them to come over and give me words of advice was really cool.”
Another of Truex’s idols has been Richard Petty and the young driver feels especially fortunate and lucky to be invited into the fold of the ‘King’ and a part of Richard Petty Motorsports.
“It’s a huge deal for me to be with Richard Petty Motorsports,” Truex said. “In the past few years, I’ve been jumping around between teams and had some one-off deals, but since I’ve left Michael Waltrip Racing, I’ve never really had a true home.”
“So, they’ve taken under their wing and committed to developing me as a driver in the Cup Series,” Truex continued. “I’ve signed a multi-year deal with them with the goal of running full-time in the Cup Series one day.”
“So, that feels really good to just have one place to focus on and not have to worry about where I’m going to race week to week.”
For this year, Truex will continue to run some races in the No. 51 car for Phoenix Racing and hopes to be back in that car as early as the Richmond race. But his real focus is on the 2014 season when, sponsorship pending, he hopes to race full-time for Richard Petty Motorsports in the Nationwide Series.
“That’s the goal for me personally and for the team to be out there next year running for a championship,” Truex said. “But the biggest thing is finding the funding to do that.”
“Now that I have a team out there searching and helping me find the funding to run full-time, it takes a lot of pressure of me and makes me feel more secure with my future.”
Most of all, Ryan Truex is feeling fortunate and lucky to be a part of a family that has supported and nurtured his racing career every step of the way.
“My brother has always been there for me my whole career, and my parents are at my races every single weekend giving me support,” Truex said. “My dad always tells me that if you work as hard as you can and take advantage of every opportunity, there is no reason why you can’t reach your goal.”
“That’s been my philosophy too,” Truex continued. “There has been plenty of frustrating moments but then you step back and look at how far I’ve come and at the people I have around me, and it’s a pretty awesome deal for me.”
“I’m fortunate and lucky to be able to be where I’m at,” Truex said. “And I know that if I keep working at it, never give up and get down on myself that eventually it will work out.”