Hurricane Irma Victims And Martin Truex Jr. Are On Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Mind During Final Full-Time Cup Series Weekendby Benjamin Sanders November 17, 2017
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Despite competing in his last Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had his thoughts on others, rather than himself.
NASCAR’s 14-time most popular driver was compassionate, compelling and above all, genuine pertaining to his mental and emotional state this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Obviously, we (he and wife Amy) enjoy the Keys,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “The Keys had a difficult past several months with (Hurricane) Irma. We have a lot of friends down there that were affected by that. On the drive from Key West all the way up here, oh man, they are still really, really struggling. A lot of people still displaced. A lot of people lost their homes. It is still a very difficult and challenging situation for a lot of people in the middle Keys.”
He took great strength in the people trying to rebound and salvage a life post-hurricane and understands what the people of southern-most Florida deal with being a property owner himself. Earnhardt Jr. has owned a vacation home in the Florida Keys since 2008.
“But one of the things that I saw that was really neat and kind of uplifting was not only Key West Old Town – the town itself, they are ready for people to come,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “They’re ready. It is as if they didn’t miss a beat. So, if everybody is wondering if the Keys are open for business, they are. And those people are ready to serve you. On the drive up here, every mile there is a make-shift sign out of plywood with whatever business name is painted on it with big OPEN spray painted on there. Those people are resilient, and they need people to go down there and vacation and help the economy in that particular area. It looks like they are working hard to get back on their feet. That is really fun to see.”
Earnhardt Jr. was also thinking about competitor, protégé and great friend Martin Truex Jr. regarding his championship chances. Truex Jr. got his break in the sport in 2003 after racing nine times for Earnhardt Jr. under the Chance 2 Motorsports banner. The duo went on to great success including 12 wins and two NASCAR XFINITY Series championships.
“I am Team Martin for this weekend, for sure,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “He’s the guy. Me and Brad (Keselowski) are great friends. I love to see Brad do well. But, with what Martin, just as a driver, with what he’s been through, it would just be awesome to see him put his name on that trophy. We know about what Sherry (Pollex) has dealt with and how difficult that’s been on her and Martin; and how dedicated he has been to her. Martin is just a great guy.”
Martin Truex Jr.’s unbelievable character is something else Earnhardt Jr. respects.
“He has zero ego,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I love spending time with him. We go hunting together, although we haven’t had much of a chance to do that because he’s been so busy winning races and being a championship contender. We just have a lot of great memories together.”
Both drivers have been there for each other in the good times and the tough times and have become life-long friends because of it.
“He slept on the couch when he first came down here,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I let him stay in one of the bedrooms of the house for several months and then he moved into the house about 100 yards away inside the gate and lived with a buddy of mine. Then him and Sherry got close and they moved in together. We’ve just always been friends and as drivers, I think I’ve said this, it seems like I’ve said it every week, drivers have such big egos, all of us do. But Martin is not on that list. He just doesn’t abuse the opportunity and what the sport has provided him. He is a great example to follow. He has impacted my life in a positive way with his character. I don’t know how you put into words what it would mean for him to win.”
Matt Kenseth also will not be racing in NASCAR’s top-level in a full-time ride next season, and Earnhardt Jr. is excited to have one last race against his former XFINITY Series foe.
“I’m looking forward to taking pictures with Matt (Kenseth) later today with our cars,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “It is something that he and I have been talking about trying to organize to be able to do sometime.”
Earnhardt Jr. may not be in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car next season, but his presence and impact in the garage will remain in the years to come.
The Ford EcoBoost 400 will broadcast live on NBC and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Photo Credit: Camille Jones/TheFourthTurn.com