Martin Truex Jr.’s career at NASCAR’s top competitive level has been a study in the tentacles of circumstance. Name the obstacle, and he’s probably had to deal with it in the Monster Energy Cup Series. So, it only seems fitting that in the midst of Truex’s best season, he’s dealing with the most difficult of conditions.
Love and cancer.
As Truex marches toward a first Monster Cup title, the journey has been mostly without his most trusted companion, his girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who this summer has been dealing with a recurrence of ovarian cancer.
“It’s an incredible juxtaposition,” said NBC Sports analyst Parker Klingerman. “To have this success on the race track and her fighting cancer. There are a lot of things he has experienced in his career that have made him mentally tough enough to deal with this situation and still perform at a high level.”
Truex enters Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway atop the standings in the circuit’s final eight drivers vying for the season championship.
The field will be whittled to four after next week’s race at Phoenix International Raceway. Those four will battle in the playoff and season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19.
It’s difficult to find anyone who doesn’t believe the championship of the NASCAR playoffs is his and his team’s to lose.
The No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota has a series-high seven victories in 2017, as well as 16 top five and 23 top-10 finishes, both season highs. His team dedicated his most recent victory, Oct. 22 at Kansas, to a crew member who died of a heart attack the night before the race.
No one has consistently run as well this season. Truex has run particularly well on the mile-and-a-half tracks, such as TMS.
“It’s hard to pick a favorite with a one-race-take-all type of deal,” Truex said. “I don’t know if you can have a favorite with that format. I feel good about where we’re at. I feel good about the next couple of weeks.
“I feel like we can win anywhere, and we’ve shown that. For whatever reason, the mile and a halves, we’ve put together the whole race and got the win. We ran really good here in the spring.”
Truex led 49 laps of the April race in Texas before settling for eighth at the finish.
Truex’s path to the top of Monster Energy Cup has been quite a drive.
After a first-career victory in 2007, Truex didn’t win again for six years.
Sherry was with him every step of the way until 2015, when Truex and his team found something, speeding into the playoffs for the first time.
Sherry was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in August 2014. After a radical surgical procedure in which doctors removed her ovaries, spleen, appendix, fallopian tubes, and a portion of her stomach, she underwent chemotherapy treatments for the next 17 months.
The two shared a touching moment in November of 2014 with a kiss and long embrace at Martinsville.
Though Sherry announced her cancer was in remission in January 2016, in June the couple announced that it had returned.
Since 2010, Sherry and Truex have hosted “Catwalk for a Cause,” a fashion show and campaign that has raised millions and untold awareness for children with pediatric cancer.
“This second time around has been a little easier because I know … been through it,” Truex said. “In 2015, it was so much harder because it was so new and it was shocking.”
Sherry’s recuperation from surgery in June has gone as planned, Truex said.
It’s corporate speak to say the professional has to check his personal life at the elevator. That’s easier said than done.
Sherry will be on the forefront of his mind, if not at the track in two weeks, if he indeed ultimately rises to the apex of his career.
“This is their championship to lose in so many ways,” Klingerman said. “I just believe this team really can’t find a way to do wrong at this time. It’s such a contrast to what we saw the first couple of years.
“It’ll come down to them not making mistakes and not have some crazy circumstance taking them out of the championship.”
The unexpected circumstances. Truex has seen and done all that.