On July 8, under the lights at Kentucky Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. won his third NASCAR Cup Series race of the season, although, in this case, the word “won” might be a bit of an understatement. He obliterated the rest of the field.
Popular, R-rated and very outspoken, the late comedian George Carlin had a famous bit in his standup routine based on the premise that “It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for.”
Carlin was playing for laughs, of course, and he got them, but in some ways, I guess he was on to something. How many times, not just in the movies but in real life, as well, have we seen blustery blowhards bested by smaller, quieter voices who, rather than bragging about what they planned to do, simply went out and got it done?
The sports world is all about big personalities, often with big mouths to match. Muhammad Ali constantly reminded anyone who would listen that he was “the greatest. The double-greatest.”
Floyd Mayweather Jr. came along a little later and disputed that claim, saying “Yup, I’m better than Muhammad Ali. Sugar Ray Robinson? Yup, I’m better than Sugar Ray Robinson. I would never say there’s another fighter better than me.”
Let’s not forget about Terrell Owens, who once said, “I’ll watch the highlights every now and then but, as far as watching the game, I feel like I am the game,” or the always-entertaining “Sir Charles” Barkley, who said, “You got to believe in yourself. I believe I’m the best-looking guy in the world and I might be right.”
Last but not least, here’s what Martin Truex Jr. had to say after his win at Kentucky: “You can have all the money in the world and all the best equipment and parts and pieces, but if you don’t have the right guys together and the right driver together with all those guys, it’s not going to be successful.
“I’m very lucky to be in the position I’m in. I’ve been on the other side of it. Five years ago, I thought my career was over … I’ve been fortunate to have an awesome bunch of people around me from top to bottom, and you know, without the right team, without the right people around you, it’s hard to be successful. I’m very thankful for the guys I have and what we have going on right now.”
It is no secret that Truex has much more on his mind than racing. His fiancée, Sherry Pollex, was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer in 2014, and recently experienced a recurrence. While Martin was competing in Kentucky, Sherry was recovering from yet another surgery (everything went well and Truex was able to bring her home on the day after the race).
“Sherry is everything to me,” Truex said on TV. “We do everything together. She’s my best friend. I’m so proud of the person she is and what’s she been through and the inspiration she’s been to so many people, including myself.”
Rather than being distracted by personal turmoil and tragedy, Truex is driven even harder to excel, to help bring awareness to the disease that has so intimately affected him. Some fans, however, are not particularly inspired by his success. How do we know this? Yep … Twitter.
“So sick of Martin Truex Jr. winning everything … making NASCAR not even fun to watch anymore,” said one.
“Martin Truex Jr. is just too dominant tonight. Boring races when they’re like this,” said another.
We get it, people. You like Junior. I like Junior. Heck, EVERYBODY likes Junior. But it’s important to remember that tearing down one guy because the guy you’re constantly building up isn’t performing to your satisfaction is no excuse for being mean-spirited. Grow up.
Even the guy whom disgruntled fans like these would be over the moon to see in Victory Lane sent out a little tweet of his own.
“I like this,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. “If you lap the field or win by an inch, there is something to admire about it. It’s a race. Not a tee-ball game.”
He later elaborated in his weekly podcast, saying, “This crawls under me. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s when everybody said, ‘Oh, the racing in the ‘80s was so awesome,’ Bill Elliott — you couldn’t even touch him at some of these race tracks. You couldn’t. It was no competition.
“You know, Dad would dominate races. Even in the ‘70s, (Richard) Petty and (David) Pearson and all those guys — they’re literally the only guys left on the lead lap at the end of the race. People loved the sport back then but don’t seem to like it when it happens today. And it’s more rare today to see a guy really dominate a race. Cars are so evenly matched so when a guy goes out and does that, to me, it’s incredibly impressive.”
Earnhardt’s comments were what the kids these days would call a “sick burn” for all the naysayers out there. Like Truex, Junior doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, it’s worth listening to.
Maybe it’s the quiet ones who have the most important things to say.
Cathy Elliott writes a weekly NASCAR column and was a contributor to “Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.