Two weeks ago, Ryan Truex had no idea what he was going to do this racing season.
But then the 23-year-old Stafford Township native got a call. He was going to race in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series.
On Friday, the younger brother of Sprint Cup driver Martin Truex Jr. will race for Hattori Racing Enter-prises in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway in Florida. He will drive in the No. 81 Toyota Tundra during the race, which begins at 7:30 p.m. It will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
“It was a relief and a surprise for sure,” Truex said Tuesday. “It felt good somebody wanted me to drive based on talent and really believed I could get the job done and honestly wants me to be their driver.”
The Truck Series features a 16-race regular season and a seven-race postseason. This is the first year the Truck Series as well as the Xfinity Series will use a Chase format similar to the Sprint Cup Series to determine its champion.
HRE is owned by former IndyCar driver Shigeaki Hattori.
“I’m still super young, and I think people know what I can do,” Truex said. “Obviously, Shige Hattori believes in that and is putting me in his truck this year.
“We plan on running full time. It’s not fully funded yet. There is still sponsorship things we need to put together, but we intend to run for the championship. We go into Daytona with intentions to run the full schedule.”
Truex has already had his fair share of ups and downs in the NASCAR world.
He is a two-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion, winning in 2009 when he was a 17-year-old student at Southern Regional High School and again the following year. In 2010, he made his Nationwide Series debut, now known as the Xfinity Series, which serves as NASCAR’s top developmental level.
But lack of sponsorship deals ended his short run with Pastrana Waltrip Motorsports in 2012.
Early in 2013, he raced the first of four times in the Truck Series. Later that year, he signed as a developmental driver with Richard Petty Motorsports, who he is still with today. He’s also had runs with BK Racing and Biagi-DenBeste Racing, the latter of which enabled him to race in three Xfinity races at the end of the 2015 season.
Truex hasn’t raced in the Truck Series since competing at Daytona in 2014 when he finished fourth.
He will have some familiarity going into Hattori Racing this season. His crew chief, John Monsam, used to work with his father, Martin Sr., back when the K&N East Series was known as the Busch North Series.
He also has known general manager Laerte Zatta for the past few years. It was Zatta who called Truex about two weeks ago, surprising him with an opportunity to race in the Truck Series.
“It’s probably the quickest it’s gone from a call to a signed contract driving, for me at least,” Truex said. “It just came out of the blue and ramped up really fast.”
If it weren’t for that random phone call, Truex had no idea how 2016 was going to play out for him.
“We had been working on some things and trying to put together the right program to run, whether it was (Sprint) Cup, Xfinity or Truck,” he said. “I had nothing solid.
“I knew I’d get something put together and obviously you can’t stop and give up. You have to believe it’s going to work out. It felt good having something to go into Daytona and build throughout the year.”
Notes: The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East added New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville to its race schedule for Sept. 17 this season. If presented with the opportunity, Truex said he would love to compete in a NASCAR race in his home state. “I wouldn’t mind (racing),” Truex said. “That would be cool. If not, and if I can, I’ll definitely come down to watch. It’s cool that they’re adding more races, and it’s cool New Jersey gets one for sure.” ... Ryan's older brother Martin also had an announcement Wednesday. His Furniture Row Racing team has added Auto-Owners Insurance as a primary sponsor on his No. 78 Toyota Camry for three Sprint Cup races — at Indianapolis (July 24), Darlington (Sept. 4) and Martinsville (Oct. 30). “Anytime you have a major and successful company come on board, it is definitely exciting for a driver because it tells me that we’re doing something right,” Martin Truex Jr. said in a statement.