March 30, 2024: NASCAR races at the Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. (HHP/Chris Owens)
Martin Truex Jr. will retire after 19 full-time NASCAR Cup Series seasons. (HHP/Chris Owens)

Truex On Retirement: ‘Time To Slow Down And Do Something Else’

Martin Truex Jr. tossed around retirement for a really long time. Media continued to pelt the Mayetta, N.J., native with the same question during his weekly media sessions.   

With a multi-year deal expiring in 2022, Truex agreed to return to Joe Gibbs Racing for another season. But he wasn’t going to commit to anything long term.

Last summer, Truex faced the same questions. On a warm Saturday at Michigan Int’l Speedway, he casually strolled into the media center and delivered the news he’d be back in 2024.

So maybe that’s why he was so nervous to sit atop the media center stage at Iowa Speedway and announce his retirement from full-time racing.

For as long as he kicked the decision around, the 43-year-old says he feels good about it.

“I’ve thought about it a lot the past few seasons and just waited for that feeling in my mind to be positive, like ‘this is OK, I’m good, I want to do something else,’” Truex said during his announcement Friday in front of a packed media contingency. “Something just felt different this year for me. I felt like it was time to slow down and do something else.

“I’ve never missed a race, I never missed a practice, I’ve never been late for anything, I’ve never missed an appearance. I mean, you live your life by a schedule that somebody makes for you and it’s just time for me to make my own schedule.

“It’s a tough sport. It’s a long season, it’s a grind and you’ve got to be fully committed. I think everybody here knows that. I’ve put more than half of my life into this and I’ve gotten a lot out of it so I’m proud of that.”

Ultimately, the decision isn’t performance related, Truex said. The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion won three times last season but struggled in the playoffs, eventually finishing 11th in points. Through 16 races this season, Truex is winless but is fifth in points.

The series veteran just wants a chance to live a normal lifestyle. He landed on a final decision a few weeks ago.

“We’ve had some disappointments this year, for sure. But it’s not enough to make you stop doing what you want to do,” he said. “Totally not related to performance in any way, shape or form.

“Hunting, fishing, hanging out with friends. Everyone in my family that’s ever gotten married, I missed their wedding. You know what I mean? You don’t have a life. You’re married to racing. That’s all you do Monday to Sunday. That’s all you do. It’s just going to be interesting to just live kind of a normal life for a while and see what that’s like. It’s been – I’ve never done that.”

“I feel very fortunate to be in this position to be able to make this decision on my own terms.”

Though JGR owner Joe Gibbs could talk him into returning each of the last two seasons, he had a feeling that 2024 might be it for the future Hall-of-Famer.

June 9, 2024: at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, CA  (HHP/Jim Fluharty)
(HHP/Jim Fluharty)

“It was always up to Martin. We talked over the years as Martin, I think, thought about things and I think it was just different this year,” Gibbs said. “I could kind of tell when I called him to get the final result, he was totally relaxed and so I could read that in him.”

Truex broke onto the NASCAR scene in 2000, racing in the Busch North Series before transitioning to the Busch Series, now known as Xfinity. He won titles in 2004 and 2005 before going full time in the Cup Series in 2006.

In just his second season with Dale Earnhardt Inc., Truex made it to victory lane for the first time, winning at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway — not far from home.

It took six more years to return there.

Driving for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2013, Truex won his second career race at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

But that wasn’t enough for him to keep his ride. MWR downsized and his No. 56 ride got cut, meaning Truex needed to search for a job. He ended up at Furniture Row Racing beginning in 2014.

That may have been the best thing that ever happened to him.

After a winless first season, he won once in 2015 before turning into a superstar. Truex racked up four victories in 2016 before a dominant 2017 season that saw him lead nearly every major statistical category. He won eight races and held off Kyle Busch in a thrilling battle for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Truex won four more times and had a career-high 20 top fives, but he was again out of a ride as Furniture Row made plans to cease operations.

Enter JGR.

Truex made a seamless slide to JGR in 2019, bringing crew chief Cole Pearn and much of his crew with him to the No. 19 machine. He won seven times, but this time, Kyle Busch got the best of him at Homestead.

From 2017 to 2021, Truex finished worse than second in points just once.

Truex went winless and missed the playoffs in 2022, heightening some of the retirement rumors. But he went on a tear in the middle of 2023, winning three times in 10 races and checking off one of the biggest boxes for him personally — a win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Winning at Loudon was a full-circle moment. It connected the dots of his childhood, watching his father, Martin Truex Sr., win at New Hampshire to his Busch North days. That dot then got connected to a Monday afternoon in July, 20-something years later.

“When I was running up in the north series in my dad’s cars I was — honestly — moving to North Carolina and racing cars for a living was never on my radar,” Truex said. “It was on my dad’s radar I guess because he was talking to people and whatnot. I was just working on cars and building race cars and trying to go fast and win races and it all kind of played out.

“Thinking back to all those memories, it’s amazing to — talking to Johnny (Morris, CEO of Bass Pro Shops), talking about the memories we’ve shared together and the great wins we’ve had over the years. I never dreamed of any of this. Just very, very lucky.”

April 28, 2024: at Dover Motor Speedway in Dover, DE  (HHP/Jim Fluharty)
(HHP/Jim Fluharty)

But Truex’s ride isn’t over yet. After all, he’s still got 20 more races and a shot at going out on top with his second title.

He understands some of the emotions might start to kick in as the season begins to reach its dying embers. For now, it’s business as usual.

“I’m just going to do my job and do what I’ve always done,” Truex said. “I don’t think anything changes here. I’m here to win this weekend and I’m going to do the best job I can do.

“I don’t really overthink all of these things. I just make a decision, do my thing, go out and race and try to enjoy it and do a good job for the team. We’ve got a great team, great cars and we can win some races and that’s the goal.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

Though he won’t be donning a race suit full time in 2025, Truex isn’t going away, either. He’ll continue to have a role with the organization, which could lead to a few races here and there. He’d even entertain another crack at the Daytona 500, the only major unchecked box on his résumé.

Will he miss the competitiveness of racing each week?

“He’s got Xfinity cars,” Truex said of Gibbs, to a roar of laughter in the media center.

“We’re working on that,” Gibbs fired back.

But no matter how the 2024 season ends, Truex feels good about everything. Maybe he won’t get to win the Daytona 500. Maybe he won’t get a second championship.

He’s just grateful.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done,” he said. “I feel like I’ve given it everything I’ve had, and I feel like I was really, really good and what I did.”

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