Ryan Truex found himself in an unusual situation for a 17-year-old on Friday: Doing smoky burnouts with an expensive car while his parents and friends cheered wildly.
Truex, from the Mayetta section of Stafford Township, N.J., clinched the NASCAR Camping World Series East championship by driving to an eighth-place finish in the season finale at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del.
Truex claimed the title by 34 points over Eddie MacDonald, who finished ninth in the Sunoco 150.
Truex then did the traditional NASCAR burnnout celebration to the crowd's delight.
His championship came in his rookie year.
"I knew the car and the equipment would be good enough," Truex, speaking by telephone Friday night, said of his expectations before the season. "I really didn't think me as a driver would be able to do this good this quick in my career."
Truex, a development driver for Michael Waltrip Racing, or MWR, had three wins and eight top-five finishes in 11 races this year. He is the younger brother of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr., whose lone win in NASCAR's top series, the Sprint Cup, came at Dover in June 2007. The brothers will be teammates next year, as Martin Jr. switches from Earnhardt Ganassi Racing to MWR.
"I think we try a little extra hard here, being it's our home track," Ryan Truex said of his family's ties to Dover. His parents are Martin Sr., a former racecar driver, and Linda Truex.
Clinching the title at Dover was "pretty cool," Ryan said. "I had a lot of my friends and family here. When I was doing burnouts, I could see them up in the stands waving and stuff."
Truex entered the season finale with a 30-point lead - comfortable, but certainly not too much for MacDonald to overcome if things went badly for the series leader.
"You're always gonna be nervous. ... He's been running good every week," Truex said. "I had a lot of confidence in all my guys. I knew my car would be all right. We didn't have the best car today but we made adjustments."
Brett Moffitt, another rookie, won Friday's race. MacDonald finished 34 points behind Truex in the standings.
Among the supporters offering Ryan Truex congratulations afterward: NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Michael Waltrip, the teenager's team owner.
"He was just happy that I got them their first championship and everything. Just happy for me. Pretty cool," Truex said.
Truex would be a senior at Southern Regional High School now but instead shifted to home-schooling to accommodate the travel and other demands of his racing career. And it's certainly been a year of learning for him.
"I learned a lot," he said. "First of all, I learned how to drive these cars. I learned a lot about the media side of things. I learned a lot from Martin about how to handle myself with the media. And just learned how to be a better racecar driver."
The season is over, but the learning should continue. Truex said he will do some testing and find an occasional race, such as in the Late Model class, to get more seat time heading into 2010.
Plans are not final yet, but Truex said he won't be surprised if he returns to the Camping World East series to defend his championship next year. He also could get some starts in NASCAR's Nationwide series, which is one step below Sprint Cup.
"Hopefully (winning the championship) got me enough exposure that sponsors want me," he said. "You need sponsors to race."
Truex and the other NASCAR touring series champions will be honored at the Touring Series Gala in Concord, N.C., on Nov. 14.
Martin Truex Jr. will start 32nd in the Sprint Cup race at Dover on Sunday.
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