In the Fast Lane with Ryan Truex

By and large, Ryan Truex is enjoying his new racing home at Kaulig Racing. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

By and large, Ryan Truex is enjoying his new racing home at Kaulig Racing. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

In terms of a racer who’s gritty, tough, and driven, Ryan Truex certainly meets those qualities.  The Mayetta, NJ native has fought tenaciously to be a staying power in NASCAR since 2010.

To say the least, the road to stock car happiness hasn’t always been easy for Truex.  As a matter of fact, much like older brother Martin, the 26-year-old racer has worked ardently to make a name for himself.

Arguably, Truex realizes to make the most of his opportunities in NASCAR.  All things considered, his new racing home, Kaulig Racing, seems to be the appropriate place for his talents and swagger.

Presently, Truex sits seventh in the NASCAR Xfinity Series points standings heading into round eight at Richmond Raceway.  By the same token, the driver of the No. 11 Bar Harbor/Sea Watch International Chevy Camaro wants to win races and contend for the series championship.

Working with crew chief Chris Rice, Truex has that old school driver’s mentality with searching for his car’s peak performance.  Moreover, he and his No. 11 team have a solid connection with the Richard Childress Racing organization, a valuable asset to say the least.

Even so, Truex does not take his situation for granted.  As he points out in this interview, some valuable advice from his father reminds him to take the initiative.

Consequently, Truex expresses confidence with his team’s chances at Richmond and Talladega.  Recently, I caught up with Truex to talk about his journey, family, and his unmistakable sense of humor – just don’t call him “Junior!”

As a matter of fact, let’s get to know more about this young racer!  Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get “In the Fast Lane with Ryan Truex!”

Rob Tiongson :  It’s been a good start to the year for you and the No. 11 Kaulig Racing team with top-15’s in all seven races, including three top-10’s.  How’s it been like to race with this fast-growing team in the Xfinity Series?

With three top-10 finishes heading into Richmond, Truex and Kaulig Racing are off to a good start this year. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

With three top-10 finishes heading into Richmond, Truex and Kaulig Racing are off to a good start this year. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

Ryan Truex :  It’s been fun.  It’s been a learning process.  Me, Chris Rice, and all these guys are just kinda trying to figure each out.  Any time that you go to a new team, there’s always those growing pains where the driver and the crew chief kinda have to be on the same page with communication and my feedback and what I’m trying to get out of the car and him knowing what to give me.

I think we’ve made a lot of progress on that side of things and I think we’ve gotten our cars a lot better in the short amount of time we’ve had.  We’ve had a few more top-10 runs in our cars than the finishes show, I think.

California was one where I felt like we could’ve finished seventh or eighth if things shook out right.  We had a little bit of luck there in Vegas.  Our finishes don’t quite show how strong we’ve been I think.  It’s been solid.  We’ve been consistent and that’s what it takes to get points and make it to the playoffs.

Tiongson :  This month offers a variety of different tracks as the Xfinity Series made stops at Texas and Bristol.  With Richmond and Talladega coming up, what’s your take on these two venues and where do you feel like you and your team have your best shot at winning your first race of the year?

Truex :  Richmond is one of my favorite tracks and it always has been – I always seem to run well there.  I have a top-five and a top-10 in the Xfinity Series there so I’ve got some decent confidence going into the race.  I think I know the feel I’m looking for in my car which is huge to have going in so we can focus in trying to find that feel with our car and get it where it’s driving like I want it to.  So, I think at Richmond, we’ll a good shot as any and this team has run strong there so that also gives me a lot of confidence going in.

Talladega should be good.  We have really good superspeedway cars.  The last time they were there, this team was on the pole so there’s a little bit of pressure there.  But we should at Daytona that we have a lot of speed at those tracks and if we can make it to the end of that race, we’ll for sure have a shot.

I think that Dover is probably the one I have circled in my calendar just cause it’s my home track and my favorite track.  I always run really strong there.  It’s kind of the same deal as Richmond.  I know the feel I want in the car so if we can find that feel, we’ll be in really good shape.

Tiongson :  It seems like you know what you want out of these cars.  Compared to racing in the Truck Series last year, just how much more competitive is the Xfinity Series in terms of the field differential?

Truex looks forward to seeing what his team can do in these next two Dash 4 Cash races. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

Truex looks forward to seeing what his team can do in these next two Dash 4 Cash races. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

Truex :  There’s more competitive teams in the Xfinity Series and there’s more Cup affiliated teams.  You’ve got Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports with the Hendrick connection, Roush, and all those other guys.  So, you’ve got a lot more depth in the field.  JRM and RCR account for seven of the cars out there.  You’ve got the Gibbs cars that are really strong every weekend.

The depth of the field is a lot stronger.  It’s tough just to run in the top-10 just because there’s so many good cars and good drivers.  So, I feel like these next few weeks with the Dash 4 Cash races and not having any Cup drivers in the field will give us a chance to see where we truly stack up with all the Xfinity regulars and to see the strengths and weaknesses are and focus on them.

I’d say the biggest thing from the Truck Series is the depth of the field and the more competitive teams, the Cup affiliated teams, and the drivers with more experience to lean on, you have all of that coming together.

Tiongson :  That’s a great point that you brought up with the Dash 4 Cash races.  You guys get to feel out how strong you guys are compared to the other teams.  With you guys having that Richard Childress Racing connection, how helpful or important has it been to tap into their resources?

Truex :  I think that’s been really key to this team’s success and that’s how they’ve been able to be so successful in their short amount of time of existence.  In 2016, in their first year, they almost made it to the final four.  A lot of that is having that RCR alliance and having those teams to lean on.  By kinda having that foundation already there, we can take the car and tune on it and try to make it better.  That’s been huge.

For me, having those drivers like Hemric, Tifft, Austin and Ty Dillon, who’ve been running these cars for a while now, having them to lean on has been big for me.  It’s been a few years since I’ve been in these cars and with all the rules changes and things, they’ve changed a bit.

It’s nice to be able to go right next door and get as much info as I need from those guys and just to pull from all those resources from RCR has to offer.  That’s been huge for us.

Tiongson :  As a young racer in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, how important is it for you to resonate with new fans along with longtime enthusiasts of the sport, in terms of engagement at the track or away from it through an appearance or on social media?

Truex certainly appreciates being with one of the top teams in the Xfinity Series. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

Truex certainly appreciates being with one of the top teams in the Xfinity Series. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

Truex :  For me, it’s my first time running Xfinity full-time.  I’ve been part time at the national level since 2010 and last year was my first full season in anything, in the Truck Series.  Really, I’ve had to focus on self-promotion and being really active on social media and engaging with the fans and really, just doing everything I can to keep my name out there.

In 2015, I only raced five times.  I had to do a lot of things outside of the car just to get back in the car.  For me, social media has been the biggest tool you can use to help yourself in keeping your name out there and try to stay on people’s mind.

It’s very easy to get forgotten when you’re not out on the race track every weekend.  There’s always new guys coming in filling seats so social media and doing everything you can to keep your name out there is important for sure.

Tiongson :  You do a good job with that and you have a good sense of humor.  How often do people mistakenly call you Ryan Truex Jr?

Truex :  Too often. (laughs) Way too often.  It all started with TV.  I don’t know who it was but one of the announcers said it.  I forget who it was, but I started giving them some crap for it and the fans picked it up and ran with it.  So, it’s now just kind of a running joke.  I don’t think I’ll ever get away from it now. (laughs)

Tiongson :  You’re quite active with your presence with showing more of the behind the scenes moments, especially on Twitter.  That autograph line with you and your brother was a bit sad for your case – did you eventually get some fans your way?

Truex :  Well, that was more of a joke than anything.  I was there on time and Martin wasn’t.  Everyone was in my line.  When he showed up, he was supposed to sit next to me and then he decided to go to the table behind me.  So, the whole line moved over.  Before I actually moved over and sat next to him, I just stayed at that table. (laughs) For a few minutes, I was alone with zero people in the line.

Tiongson : (laughs) Oh, good lord. I know that you’re quite the prankster, especially with your brother Martin.  What’s been some of your neatest or more memorable high jinxes with Martin?

It's possible that Truex mulled over his car or his next prank with older brother Martin. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

It’s possible that Truex mulled over his car or his next prank with older brother Martin. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

Truex :  Oh, there’s been a lot.  I mess with him a lot when I can.  The thing is, he doesn’t get phased by anything.  Nothing bothers him.  He’s got like nerves of steel and just rolls with the punches.  Any time I try to mess with him, I just fail.  It’s kind of frustrating.  I don’t understand it.

I think at Homestead last year, before practice, he was in the final four and the favorite for the championship, he woke up five minutes before practice, and he’s like, “I guess I’m gonna be a little late.”  He just went out and wasn’t worried about it at all.  He got in his car and he went to P1 on the board.  Nothing seems to get him.

Tiongson :  Man, that’s tough.  Just once, I’m sure you’d like to break “The Iceman.”  But, that’s the cool thing about your brother and I can see that quality with you.  You’re also very smooth with things like that so I guess it runs in the family.

Truex :  Yea, I think we get that from our dad.

Tiongson :  I’d say that’s a good quality to get from him.  If you could come up with some superlatives for your peers in the garage area, which drivers would be the class clown, the class apple polisher, and most likely to solve a Rubik’s cube?

If Truex had a class superlative, it'd likely be "Most Likely To Succeed (At Racing and Making You Laugh)." (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

If Truex had a class superlative, it’d likely be “Most Likely To Succeed (At Racing and Making You Laugh).” (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

Truex :  Oh, man.  That’s tough.  I think Clint Bowyer’s the class clown.  That goes without saying.  That’s a definite.

The Rubik’s Cube one?  I think that might be Daniel Hemric because he’s a very hands-on guy and very focused on his car setup all of the time and all of those little things.  That’d be him.

I don’t know on the rest, that’s tough.  I’d have to revisit that one and think about that.

Tiongson :  So, no kiss asses in the garage area? (laughs)

Truex :  (laughs)  Yea, I don’t know.

Tiongson :  That’s a good answer.  I don’t want you to get wrecked next weekend! (laughs) Now, you and your family have endured so much but are exemplary examples of what it means to be perseverant no matter the circumstances.  Whether it’s with racing or real life, would it be safe to say that all of you draw strength from each other to see the positives with any situation?

Truex :  The biggest thing is my dad’s always told us, “You can lose your ride tomorrow and lose all of this tomorrow so don’t take it for granted.  Take advantage of every opportunity and be grateful.”

With everything that went on with Sherry and Martin losing his ride around the same time in 2013, the way he kinda pulled himself up and went about his business and did his thing, that was more motivation for me than anything.

At that time, I was running in Cup in 2014 and struggling pretty bad with a backmarker team.  To see him go through all that, Sherry going through all of that, it kinda put it all in perspective for me, you know?  It made me realize that things could be a lot worse.

In 2015, like I said, I only raced five times.  It helped me get through that a lot better and be a lot more positive about it.  Seeing all of that and being around all has helped me really appreciate when I get the opportunities like the one I had last year and the one I have this year.  I’m just doing everything I can to take advantage of them.

Tiongson :  And you’re doing an awesome job with that.  When the moment comes that you win your first race, will your dog Bristol be in Victory Lane?

Ultimately, Truex and his No. 11 team have the makings to win races this year. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

Ultimately, Truex and his No. 11 team have the makings to win races this year. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Photography, Inc.)

Truex :  (laughs) I hope so.  I hope I can bring my dog in Victory Lane.  That’d be awesome.  She probably won’t behave very well.  She’s a little crazy around that many people as she loves getting pet by people and if there’s people around, she’ll just around and go to everybody.  If I can get her there, I’ll definitely have her there for sure.

Tiongson :  If you make it happen, it’ll make the hat dance a lot faster!

Truex :  Yea, exactly. (snickers)

Author’s Notes

Special thanks to Ryan Truex and Kaulig Racing for their time to talk about this season to date and more!  Photos accompanying this feature are courtesy of Action Sports Photography, Inc.

Be sure to “Follow” Ryan on Twitter, “Like” his Facebook page, and “Visit” his official website now!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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