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Behind the Wheel: Truex Jr. recaps successful 2012 season

December 06, 2012, Martin Truex Jr., Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Martin Truex Jr. performs a burnout for the fans at the Victory Lap event on Las Vegas Blvd. during Champions Week. (Getty Images)

I am back from Las Vegas after a few days in NASCAR's Champion's Week. It really was a lot of fun. We shot an episode of the show Trip Flip on the Travel Channel with both Michael (Waltrip) and Clint (Bowyer) out at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

We aren't allowed to talk about it yet, but the three of us showed a really cool couple a good time out there at a really high rate of speed! I'm sure we'll publicize it once it's ready to air.

We did lots of cool stuff during the week. On Wednesday, all the Chase drivers played a game-show style show called "Smarter Than A Fifth Grader" at the Fremont Street Experience. I guess I found out that I am not smarter than a fifth grader. Me and Clint and were paired with a really smart young lady who saved us! She carried us the whole time. Man, those questions were hard!

"I feel like we learned a lot about ourselves and learned a lot that's going to help us be stronger in 2013. So, hopefully we can go out and finish what we started this year. "

--MARTIN TRUEX JR.

One of the highlights of the week for me was the NASCAR/NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon where my NAPA KNOW HOW pit crew received the prestigious Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew of the Year Award. It was voted on by all the Sprint Cup crew chiefs so I am proud that my boys were singled out for the $100,000 award. They deserved it. I had a lot of fun celebrating with my crew. We did it up big at the Encore club called Surrender. It was nice for Sherry and me to spend time with them away from the track. We had so much fun that we are already planning a bowling outing later this month for my crew and their families!

From the luncheon, I was off to the Victory Lap event where we all drove our cars down Las Vegas Blvd. and completed a burnout. How cool was that? Clint's car stalled out so I am assuming he was in fuel saving mode since he's had a tough time completing burnouts after winning some of his races in 2012. It was pretty funny because Jimmie Johnson had to give him a push to make it back!

After the Victory Lap we participated in a fan question and answer session hosted by ESPN's Jamie Little. I think the fans really enjoyed it and so did I. I didn't even mind doing the Jersey Shore fist pump for a cool $2,500 donation to my Martin Truex Jr. Foundation. I want to thank the NASCAR Foundation for offering up that stunt and I appreciate their support. We are still working hard to raise funds and collecting items for the Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort in my home state of New Jersey. They still need so much help in order to rebuild and get back to some sort of normalcy. I am proud to say that thanks to the fans, my Foundation has raised over $150,000 for this important cause.

After the event, Sherry and I packed our bags and flew home. We watched the banquet from home. I have to be honest. I really wanted to be one of the 10 drivers on the stage this year. I realize I am not known for giving speeches, but I wanted to at the banquet. It is a tremendous honor to have earned a Chase spot and then be able to thank all the sponsors like NAPA AUTO PARTS and all the MWR workers who helped contribute to our 2012 success. We may not have won the championship, but we certainly put Michael Waltrip Racing on the map and proved that we are an organization very capable of winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

All and all, it's been a great season for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team. Everybody I talk to, I just can't help but think what could've been. There were so many chances for us to really make it very, very, very special and we missed out on those. There's always room for improvement. We know the areas we need to work on for next year and we're going to work hard on doing that in the upcoming months.

I think that our expectations have definitely taken a huge turn to where we expect to be running up front each and every week and winning races. I think that the overall attitude of the guys in the shop and the people at Michael Waltrip Racing has been great -- phenomenal ever since I've gotten there and that's a credit to my team owners Michael Waltrip and Rob Kauffman along with the entire organization that they've built. The work ethic that they have instilled into our people is second-to-none. It seems like even when we weren't doing well, we were enjoying ourselves and really enjoyed what we were doing. It was just a matter of putting all of the right pieces together and getting the right combinations inside the company as far as people on the race track and things like that. It's been a good change, but certainly everybody has enjoyed working there even when we had our rough days.

I am extremely proud of my young NAPA AUTO PARTS team led by my crew chief Chad Johnston. Who would have known that a first time crew chief could have guided this team to our first appearance in the Chase?

I feel like we learned a lot about ourselves and learned a lot that's going to help us be stronger in 2013. So, hopefully we can go out and make our sponsors proud, make our team proud and go out there and finish what we started this year. If we can do that, I can polish the speech that I have written and deliver it at next year's Awards Banquet. Who knows, I may be coming to you from the head table!