MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — For Martin Truex Jr., the 2018 championship would be more than a back-to-back title, a trophy and his name in the history books.
Sunday’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway is a chance for the No. 78 driver to win a final championship for team owner Barney Visser and Furniture Row Racing, a small group that persevered from a one-car, under-the-radar shop in Denver, Colorado, to a championship-winning organization.
Truex wants to win it for them, too.
“I’ve never been on a team that I feel like makes me a better driver every single weekend,” Truex said Thursday at Championship 4 Media Day. “Always finds a way to make me better. … It doesn’t matter what happened last week. It doesn’t matter where people think we are. It doesn’t matter how we feel like our cars are. I feel like every week we can go to the track, we have a shot to win. And I felt that for four years, and it’s unbelievably fun to go to the track and feel that. …”
“It’s been a really cool thing to be a part of that, be an underdog story, kind of a single car team, David versus Goliath, all those things that have been talked about and brought up over the years. That’s been really fun to be a part of that.”
The chance for the sport’s David to beat the Goliaths again in the 2018 finale with the title on the line has got the team “fired up,” Truex said.
“A lot of emotions talking with the guys … and they feel like they’ve built one of the best cars they’ve ever sent out of there,” he said. “So, that’s really cool for me to hear, and to see their passion and their excitement for this weekend, it gets me motivated and pushes me to try to get all I can.”
When the team sent its hauler off to South Florida on Tuesday, the team members and their families gathered to watch. They told stories, smiled and embraced. They took photos and videos.
The emotion of Tuesday is something that they’ll feel Sunday, too, Truex said.
“You just get tunnel vision in this sport, and you get so focused on what you’re doing,” he said. “Short week, short turnaround, we’ve got to build this car. We’ve got to do this. We’ve got to do that. We’re not good enough here. We’ve got to figure out how to do this better. You just get so focused in on doing your normal routine, but it finally all caught up to them. It hit them at that moment when they all looked around and said, that’s the last car we’re sending out of here to go to the race track. I can certainly understand it.
“I’m sure Sunday night will be the same for all of us. I kind of look forward to it just to be able feel that and celebrate and let them know how special the time was and what they all mean to me.”
Truex wants to win the 2018 championship as much as anyone. But Sunday’s leaderboard won’t hinder the team’s celebration; they’ll rejoice in the journey and the people involved.
Because no matter the outcome, Truex said Visser and Furniture Row’s legacy to NASCAR is “champions.”
“I know no matter what happens, we’re going to give it our all, and we’re going to celebrate Sunday night as a group just because of the last five years have been an unbelievable ride,” Truex said. “It’s been, as far as racing goes, by far the time of my life. I’ve realized dreams I’ve had since I was a kid because of this group and this team and what we’ve done.
“So, I guess I would probably be OK, more OK than I would have been last year, but I think no matter what we’re going to celebrate and have a good time with it,” he continued on the possibility of not winning the title.”
“Hopefully, it’s up on stage with a big trophy.”