Once his broken collarbone heals, local racecar driver Ryan Truex will no longer have to shoulder the burden of trying to find financial and moral support from a major NASCAR team.
The 21-year-old native of the Mayetta section of Stafford Township signed a multi-year contract over the weekend to join the development program of North Carolina-based Richard Petty Motorsports.
"I'm very happy and excited about joining the team," Truex, the younger brother of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Martin Truex Jr., said Monday in a phone interview from Charlotte, N.C. "All I've ever wanted was the opportunity to be able to assert myself and show what I can do, but I've been kind of hog-tied for the last 21/2 years. Now I finally have a home with a team that is willing to take me under their wing and do everything they can to help me progress."
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Truex and Corey Lajoie, who also signed with RPM over the weekend, are expected to compete in the Nationwide Series for the rest of this year and then run a full Nationwide schedule for the next year or two before moving up to Sprint Cup, which is NASCAR's top series.
Sammy Johns, RPM's director of motorsports, did not return phone calls seeking comment Monday but told FoxSports over the weekend that their schedules for the rest of this season would be "based on sponsorship." Truex has been struggling to find financial support in recent years, but having the backing of RPM should improve his chances significantly.
"Now that the drivers have a home and know where they'll be racing, it will be easier to put a (sponsorship) deal together," Johns told FoxSports.
Petty Motorsports, whose namesake and co-owner is the winningest driver in NASCAR history, already fields a Nationwide team with Michael Annett in the No. 43 car. Its Sprint Cup team features Aric Almirola in the No. 43 and Marcos Ambrose in the No. 9.
The deal gives Ryan Truex a chance to move away from home.
He had been living with Martin Jr. in North Carolina but moved back to Mayetta over the winter after some potential financial backing fell through. That's where he was on Easter Sunday when he broke his collarbone while riding a dirtbike. The injury knocked him out of a chance to race at Dover International Speedway over the weekend. He's expecting to be healthy enough to race again in late July or early August.
"I had moved out two years ago and moved to North Carolina, so it wasn't much fun staying in my old room again," Ryan said with a laugh. "I came back to North Carolina about two weeks ago and I'm staying with Martin for now until I find my own place."
Eventually, the brothers may become rivals.
A successful full season or two in the Nationwide Series would mean a promotion to Sprint Cup. Martin Jr. is now in his eighth season in Sprint Cup and drives for Michael Waltrip Racing.
"I think they may have raced against each other in a Nationwide event years ago," father Martin Truex Sr. said Monday in a phone interview. "When it happens again, I'm sure they're going to want to beat each other."
For Ryan Truex, the deal represents a sliver of hope that he will be able to fulfill his dream after months of frustration, disappointment and his injury.
He has enjoyed a measure of success in recent years, having earned nine top-10 finishes in 35 Nationwide starts. Last year, he earned the pole for the Nationwide race at Dover and finished second. Yet sponsors were reluctant to provide much support, leaving Truex and his family to scrap for the financial backing to get back on the track.
"We've been funding a lot of this out of our own pockets and it's been difficult," Martin Sr. said. "As a father, you want to do everything possible for your children, but you can only do so much. For Ryan to get this deal with Richard Petty Motorsports is a big relief for all of us. Now he finally has some stability."
Getting a full-time ride should also make him an even better driver.
Just as with almost any sport, consistency and experience often lead to success. Although he was productive in races, Truex's lack of a steady schedule may have hindered his progress.
Getting behind the wheel every week will give him more opportunities to showcase his considerable talent and perhaps even challenge for a Nationwide points title.
"When you only get to race every few weeks, it really prevents you from developing and asserting yourself," Ryan Truex said. "Right now Kyle Busch is in a league of his own in the Nationwide Series (he's won six of the 11 races) and that's partly because he gets to race every week. I couldn't beat him right now because I'm not out there all the time getting that experience.
"It's been a tough couple of years for me. I would do well and nearly win some races, but nothing would ever come of it. In the back of my mind, there were times when I wondered if it would ever happen for me, but I never thought about giving up. Those kind of negative thoughts don't do you any good. I believed that if I just stuck with it that I would get a chance and now I finally have it."
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