Although the wait has been excruciating, the fashion in which Saturday’s A-GAME 200 at Dover Motor Speedway unfolded, makes you wonder if things were just supposed to happen this way for Ryan Truex.
Scoring his first-ever victory in NASCAR’s top-three series, Truex put on a dominating performance in the No. 19 Toyota GR Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing, leading 124 of 200 laps en route to a final margin of victory of nearly five seconds.
The victory in itself is an exciting accomplishment, but when you consider the 13-year journey that the New Jersey native has endured, the story becomes even more monumental.
In 2010, at just 18 years old, Truex secured his second straight championship in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, while also making select starts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Over the next two years, the two-time K&N Pro Series East champion would be given 13 opportunities to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. However, it was one Saturday in June 2012 that provided Truex with the biggest heartbreak of his career.
Taking the lead in the closing stages of the event, it was a pair of side-by-side lapped cars that slowed the progress of Truex, allowing Joey Logano to quickly catch his teammate, and eventually make the pass with six laps remaining.
While Truex was still able to finish in second – an impressive result, no matter how close he was to a victory – that race has defined his NASCAR career over the last decade, as he’d continued on his quest for his first NASCAR National Series victory.
His next legitimate shots at scoring victories came at superspeedways, finding himself in the hunt for victories in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events at Daytona in 2014 and 2016, but ended up with fourth and second-place finishes.
As the years passed, and Truex continued to jump between organizations, there were several solid opportunities to score wins, and even some close calls, but the opportunity would never perfectly materialize.
Among the highlights, are a season of eight top-fives with Hattori Racing Enterprises in 2017, and a runner-up finish with JR Motorsports at Phoenix in 2019, alongside a pair of top-five results with Niece Motorsports in 2021.
Though, in 2022, things started to turn around for Truex, as the younger brother of NASCAR Cup Series champion, Martin Truex, Jr., inked a five-race deal to drive the No. 18 Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing.
That began his so-called resurgence, and even though the part-time schedule didn’t net him a victory, it kept him relevant in the eyes of drivers and teams, by virtue of three top-10 runs.
In 2023, Truex and Joe Gibbs Racing decided to run it back, once again, inking another multi-race deal that would see the 31-year-old driver compete in six NASCAR Xfinity Series events.
Starting the campaign with back-to-back top-three results, Truex and Joe Gibbs Racing were poised to be contenders in their limited time together this season. That leads us to Saturday’s event at Dover, Truex’s fifth start of 2023 in the No. 19.
Leading 124 of 200 laps, Truex had the dominant car in the A-GAME 200, a fact he easily demonstrated to the NASCAR Xfinity Series field with sheer force, extending his gap to nearly five seconds at the end of the event.
The victory was an emotional one, in part because of the journey to get here, but also because of the allure of Dover Motor Speedway, the home track of the Truex family, and the site of brother Martin’s first Cup Series victory.
“This is for everyone that doubted me,” Truex said after the race. “I belong here, and I just proved that. I’ve known it for a while, the people around me have known for a while, and now everybody in this garage area knows it. My goal is to drive one of these cars full-time next year, and hopefully, we can make it happen.”
With five starts in the books this season with Joe Gibbs Racing, Truex is scheduled to have just one more opportunity to prove that this victory isn’t a fluke, but rather an indicator of what he can do given the proper opportunity in NASCAR’s National Series.
Should Truex achieve his goal of running full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2024, it’s difficult to imagine his win total will become stagnant at one, and while it’s too early to know much about next season, fighting for a championship probably wouldn’t be off the table, either.
One thing is for certain, though: Ryan Truex belongs in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and after today, there isn’t a single person questioning that.