Truex named NMPA Driver of the Year

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Jan 22, 2018 at 9:22 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Defending NASCAR champion Martin Truex Jr., has been named the recipient of the Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award for 2017 by the National Motorsports Press Association.

Truex, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, won a career-best eight races this past season. His victory in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway clinched the series championship for the 37-year-old Mayetta, N.J., driver.

Seven of his eight victories came on 1.5-mile venues; Truex also scored one win at Watkins Glen International, one of two annual road-course stops for the series.

“The year I was born Dale Earnhardt won it,” Truex said. “For me, I still look at myself as an outsider, I always have. … I have a hard time seeing my name next to those names.

The Richard Petty Driver of the Year award has been presented annually since 1969 to recognize the season’s most outstanding driver. It is named in honor of the seven-time NASCAR premier series champion.

Truex is the 26th driver to receive the Driver of the Year honors. Jimmie Johnson is a seven-time recipient of the award. Truex talked about being honored with others who have won the award.

“Because I look up to all those guys so much, “he said. “I’ve never really put myself in that category, so to be in it is unbelievable.”

ETSU alum honored

Deb Williams, a longtime journalist and ETSU graduate, has been named the recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association’s Joe Littlejohn Award.

Williams is currently a senior writer for the website RacinToday.com and a regular contributor to espnW.com. Her career in journalism has spanned almost four decades.

In addition to a six-year stint with United Press International, Williams is a former editor of NASCAR Winston Cup Scene, has worked as the director of public/media relations for Team Penske and is the author of five NASCAR-themed books — including “The Evolution of NASCAR” and “From Granite to Gold,” a history of Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Getting ready for the Royal

The first stop on the annual NASCAR Media Tour was at Charlotte Motor Speedway to promote the Bank of America 500, which will be held on a 2.28-mile layout that incorporates most of the 1.5-mile oval and an infield road course.

Scheduled for Sept. 30, it will be the first road-course race in the 14-year history of the Cup Series playoffs. Truex, who competed on Daytona’s road course and oval as part of the IROC Series in 2004, found it to be a unique layout with a big drop as part of the infield course.

“Everybody is excited about it, but the drivers are a bit nervous,” Truex said. “We don’t like wild-card races, but it makes things interesting. I had a chance at the end of last year to do some testing here and it’s completely different than anywhere we race.”

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