After the final Sprint Cup Series practice for the Food City 500 on Saturday, you’re as likely to see Martin Truex Jr. carrying a fishing pole as his helmet bag.
He explained finding that special fishing hole is an activity he shares with another Cup Series driver.
“(Ryan) Newman and I do a lot of fishing together when we get Saturdays off,” Truex said. “We have different places on the circuit we go fishing. Michigan and Pocono are a couple of places. It gets boring sitting in the motorhome or just going to dinner, so I like to have a good fishing hole to go to and hang out.”
While fishing is supposed to be a way to relax, the two friends can’t help themselves. They’re as likely to talk trash about who caught the biggest fish as whether the No. 56 Toyota or No. 39 Chevrolet outrun the other one on the race track.
“It’s competitive when we fish,” Truex said. “It’s the first, the biggest and the most.”
Truex has the honor of the biggest catch. It came when he was fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of his native New Jersey.
“The biggest fish I ever caught was a 120-pound yellowfin tuna,” he said. “On a rod and reel, those things will wear you out. You catch one and you want to go home for the day and sit on the couch.”
It’s truly a passion for Truex as there are fishing trips he would like to take during one of the season’s breaks or once he retires as a Cup Series driver.
“I’ve never been to Alaska, but I really want to go to Alaska,” he said. “It’s on my bucket list. I haven’t been to Canada either, other than one time for a NAPA appearance. I really want to fish in Canada, but winter time isn’t a good time to go up there. Hopefully when I retire one day, I’ll get up there.”
Retirement is likely a long ways away for Truex, a two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and a one-time winner on the Sprint Cup Series.
Truex, 32, is coming off one of the best seasons of his career when he matched a 2007 record of seven top-five finishes and an 11th-place finish in the point standings.
After suffering through some lean years with Michael Waltrip Racing, Truex is finally reaping the rewards for his loyalty.
He credited team co-owner Rob Kauffman for bringing in resources where Waltrip could concentrate on taking care of the team members and sponsors.
“With Rob Kauffman, he’s allowed Michael to do different things,” he said. “In 2007, Michael was focused on keeping the team alive and raising money. Today, he can put his efforts more into other things. The way he’s treated his sponsors has rolled over to the team, to take care of those folks. It’s definitely one of our first priorities.”
There were times when Truex questioned if he made the right decision to join the Waltrip team. While the team always showed speed, evident by Truex’s seven career poles, they weren’t always able to back it up with performance.
One of the highlights came at the 2011 Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol where Truex fended off a challenge from Jeff Gordon to finish second behind race winner Brad Keselowski.
Although he’s yet to reel in a victory for the Waltrip team, at least he feels he now has a chance.
“I can’t explain how much I missed going to the race track every weekend thinking we can win this weekend,” he said. “A couple of years you were thinking what can we get out of it, instead of thinking we can win. It’s fun to go to the track every week with that confidence, thinking you know what you’re doing. That’s all you ask for as a driver. Hopefully, we can stay there.”