DOVER, Del. (AP) — Ryan Truex joked that he held his breath in nervous anticipation during the last 30 laps of a race he had dominated from start. He worried when the caution flag might come out, when there would be a flat tire, a wreck, anything that could derail a 13-year wait for a NASCAR victory.
Nothing could deny Truex at the Monster Mile.
Getting choked up as he approached the checkered flag, Truex won for the first time in 188 career NASCAR starts across all three national series in the Xfinity Series race Saturday at Dover Motor Speedway.
“People that know me, know that I’m not an emotional guy,” Truex said. “It took me a minute before I could key up and say anything because I couldn’t really talk. It has been such a long road and a lot of self-doubt along the way and wondering if it is ever going to happen, am I good enough to do this?”
The 31-year-old younger brother of former NASCAR champion Martin Truex Jr. sure was good enough on the concrete-mile track. He swept the first two stages and cruised down the stretch, leading 124 of the 200 laps to win by 4.82 seconds.
“This is for everyone that doubted me,” Truex said. “I belong here. I just proved that.”
Truex is winless in 26 Cup starts (none since 2014), is 0 for 73 in the Truck Series and hadn’t won in 88 previous races in the second-tier Xfinity Series. He did have a second and a third among his four previous starts this season in the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“Most people didn’t believe in me and I still did,” said Truex, who is from nearby Mayetta, New Jersey. “Just so thankful to be here. Just amazing. I was just waiting for something to happen. I was praying, please God, let me get to the end of this.”
Once he did, big brother was waiting for him. Martin Truex Jr. stuck his head in Ryan’s window and offered congratulations before he parked it in victory lane.
“It’s been a long road. Honestly, I’m on cloud 9,” Ryan Truex said. “The weight off my shoulders is unexplainable. To dominate in a car that good, oh my God, it’s just amazing.”
Truex, who finished a season-worst 17th last Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway, shares the No. 19 and has only one more scheduled Xfinity start this season.
Truex made his first NASCAR start as a teenager in the second-tier series in 2010.
“It is so easy to doubt yourself and be down on yourself, but you just keep digging, keep pushing through, just a huge relief to get the white flag,” he said.
Josh Berry, who starts Sunday in the Cup series for the injured Alex Bowman, finished second. Justin Allgaier, Austin Hill and John Hunter Nemechek complete the top five.
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