In the midst of the best season of his career, Stafford Township native Martin Truex Jr. agreed to a three-year contract extension with Michael Waltrip Racing, the NASCAR team announced Friday.
MWR also announced a three-year extension with NAPA, which has been Truex's primary sponsor of the No. 56 Toyota since he joined the team in 2010. The company will continue to sponsor all 36 Sprint Cup races each season and both non-points events.
The announcement was good news for NASCAR, which has struggled to land full-season sponsorships since the economic downturn.
"Thank you for believing in our sport," NASCAR president Mike Helton told a top NAPA official who was on hand for the announcement in Hampton, Ga.
"Driving the NAPA Auto Parts Toyota means the world to me," Truex, 32, said in a statement. "I knew when I signed on for the 2010 season that we had a lot of work to do to get the performance to where NAPA would be proud of us, and I also knew I had big shoes to fill in that NAPA uniform because Michael (Waltrip, the team owner) is the best at being an ambassador for sponsors."
Truex is fifth in the Sprint Cup standings with two races remaining before the 10-race playoff Chase begins. He would be the first MWR driver ever to qualify for the Chase. Truex can clinch a berth in the Chase by finishing 14th or better in Sunday night's race in Atlanta. On Friday, he qualified to start 28th in the 43-car field. He's made the Chase only once previously, in 2007 while racing for Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Truex said he is confident of winning his first Cup championship, perhaps as soon as this year.
"My biggest fear this year was this deal falling apart and us not being able to realize our potential," he said.
He also pointed to the closeness of the team, saying he wanted to remain with an organization that valued his input.
"The guys have given me a great opportunity here to be part of a team," he said. "I don't go home on Sunday night and sit there and wait for them to build my race cars better or bring me better stuff on Thursday. I go to the shop on Monday and I'm part of a team and part of building that process. It's been an awesome road."
Waltrip, whom Truex replaced as a driver on the team, said the deals were a priority for his three-car Cup operation.
"Re-signing Martin was huge for us," Waltrip said in statement. "We've given him competitive racecars and engines this year and he's been able to showcase his talent.
"Where I am most proud of Martin is off the track. He has dedicated himself to be a leader in our organization and has accepted his role as an ambassador for our sponsors. His work with NAPA, Toyota, AAA, along with his foundation work, has shown his maturity as a person and he makes me proud."
(Paul Newberry of The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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