Ryan Truex matches career-best with ‘badass’ car in JR Motorsports debut

AVONDALE, Ariz. — It’s been a long climb back to prominence for Ryan Truex, but the Garden Stater might finally feel at home in his new jersey fire suit.

Having driven for about as many different national series organizations as a 26-year-old in the sport possibly could at his age, the two-time K&N Pro Series East champion found himself once again looking for a ride this past offseason. Coming off a NASCAR Playoffs appearance in the Xfinity Series with Kaulig Racing in 2018, the organization shifted directions by putting Justin Haley in the No. 11 Chevrolet for ’19.

Faced with uncertainty over his future, Truex elected to go the Ryan Preece Route © and bet on himself and his talents — signing up for a handful of races with JR Motorsports and its re-branded No. 8 Chevrolet on a part-time, ride-sharing basis rather than land with a lower-caliber, potentially full-time opportunity.

What’d he do in his first crack at racing this season in Saturday’s iK9 Service Dog 200 at ISM Raceway? Nearly hit one out of the park.

“Felt good (to get back out there.) I kind of spent the first stage learning. It’s been a while since I’ve been in one of these cars. Well, not a while but it feels like a while,” Truex told NASCAR.com after matching a career-high finish of second.

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“Took a little bit to get my bearings and we were behind the 8-ball taking off and we were pretty free. I’m just proud of the team for being as young of a team as it is and Taylor (Moyer) being a first-time crew chief in these cars to make the right adjustments and we got the right restarts and in the right lanes and the car was just badass.”

With just a select few races currently on Truex’s schedule — he said his next start will come at Kentucky Speedway … in July — the need to maximize every opportunity is massive. Adding to that pressure are the difficulties that come along with sharing a ride with four other drivers (Preece, Jeb Burton, Spencer Gallagher and Zane Smith) and the obstacles to getting into any sort of flow.

“It’s a little tough (to share the ride with other drivers) but I think it’s a little tougher on the crew guys, really, because Taylor has to deal with different feedback and every one of us is from a different place, has a different accent, has a different personality, has a different amount of experience. Like, everything you could think of, and it makes it hard on him,” said Truex. “For him to come in here and do this well is a team effort, for sure.”

The driving talent clearly runs in the family — see: Truex Jr., Martin — and just like his older brother and former driver of the No. 8, it sometimes just comes down to having the chance to show what one is capable of in the right equipment.

Ryan Truex feels like he finally has that opportunity.

“Absolutely, absolutely (I feel validation from this),” he said.

“It’s one thing to say you can do it. It’s one thing for everybody to think you can do it. But to go out and prove it feels really good.”