Twenty years ago, the United States experienced a series of coordinated terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, a day that will live on forever as one we’ll never forget.
NASCAR had raced at Richmond Raceway three days earlier in the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 (featuring a runner-up by future Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick) but elected not to run a race the next weekend out of respect for those affected by what had transpired. The series returned to the track Sept. 23 with the MBNA Cal Ripken, Jr. 400 at Dover International Speedway, famously won by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
With NASCAR returning to Richmond for Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio), the sport will race on the 20th anniversary of the attacks. Several drivers were asked about what they remember about that day in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s Round of 16 middle race of the NASCAR Playoffs, including Martin Truex Jr. — one of a handful of drivers who were racing in NASCAR at the time.
The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing driver not only remembers what he was doing that day, he also was, to a comparatively very small degree, impacted.
“Yeah, so, crazy story. We were actually at Dover at the race track testing,” Truex said during NASCAR Playoffs Media Day. “I think it was around 11 o’clock, we got the news and the ambulance that was there for the test actually had to leave. They called it off, like, ‘You gotta go. We gotta go. We’re sending the guys to New York City for this tragedy that just happened.’
“And we’re all wondering what the heck’s going on. This was a long time ago, there wasn’t like social media and all this stuff on your phone. You didn’t know. You had to turn on the news and see what was happening.”
Truex, a 21-year-old K&N Pro Series East full-time driver at the time, was at the Delaware track in preparation for his upcoming Xfinity Series debut. He later made that start on Sept. 22, finishing 38th after a wreck in a race that also included Harvick, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson.
“Just couldn’t believe it,” Truex said. “It was like we were in some crazy nightmare. I remember it obviously like it was yesterday. Crazy time for sure. Crazy day and it’s hard to believe it was that long ago.”