NORMALLY, when a driver leads 392 of 400 laps, as Martin Truex Jr. did in winning the Coca-Cola 600 last Sunday night at Charlotte, we would stamp a big B on the race, for Bor-ing. Instead, Truex receives a big "attaboy!" for dominating the race and outperforming the multicar teams.
While Truex's team is affiliated with Joe Gibbs Racing, it is a single-car operation based in Denver.
Truex is part of another, much more personal team. His girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, is a Stage 3 ovarian cancer survivor. As they stayed together through Pollex's treatments, they won the hearts of NASCAR. When Truex won last year's June Sprint Cup race at Pocono, the crews of rival teams lined pit road and high-fived him, a sign of respect and affection. The same heartwarming scene occurred after he won at Charlotte, setting a NASCAR race record for leading 588 miles (of the 600).
"When I was sick, the NASCAR community embraced us so much," Pollex, 36, said by phone Tuesday from Mooresville, N.C. "When I was undergoing treatment, so many fans reached out to me. Everybody wanted to inspire me and empower women."
That's the reason Pollex launched www.SherryStrong.org.
"It's my way of giving back to everybody who helped me," the Michigan native said. "The website isn't just for women. It (lists) holistic treatments, healthy eating, how to create joy in life."
Pollex and Truex also are working on major women's health issues.
Truex, 35, has matured in many ways since he won consecutive Xfinity series titles in 2004-'05. The Mayetta, N.J., native is a better racer and more confident in interviews. Pollex's illness gave him a new perspective on life.
"He's a completely different person," Pollex said. "When you go through something like this with loved ones, it changes you. He realizes life isn't all about him and his race car. Having us be healthy is the most important thing.
"If he has a bad weekend at the racetrack, he doesn't throw a pity party for himself. Even a bad day at the racetrack is a good day in my life."
The couple met through racing. Pollex's father, Greg, owned a Busch (now Xfinity) series team. Driving for the Pollex team, Jeff Green won the series title in 2000. Sherry was working in sports marketing when she was introduced to Truex.
On Sunday, Truex and Pollex will return to Pocono Raceway for the Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400. With the Charlotte victory on his resume, Truex, seventh in points, can focus on the rest of the regular season and a position in the Chase. Last year, Truex finished fourth in the Chase.
Pocono is hosting its first Xfinity series race Saturday at 1 p.m. Daniel Suarez, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, leads Elliott Sadler by 14 points. Erik Jones (two Xfinity wins) is seventh in points.
Kyle Busch has the most Xfinity victories this year (four), but he is not eligible for the series championship. He is entered in the Pocono Xfinity race.
When it became apparent in the closing laps of the Indianapolis 500 that Alexander Rossi would win, I thought, "What a letdown, with all the other good story lines in the race" - James Hinchcliffe winning the pole a year after almost dying in an Indy practice crash; Helio Castroneves seeking his fourth Indy 500 win; Marco Andretti chasing his first Indy victory.
Then I whacked myself upside the head with my notebook and decided Rossi's victory fit Indy's theme of the unpredictable.
A survey of the 350,000 attending Sunday's 100th Indy 500 probably would've produced few who knew much about Rossi. He's a 24-year-old Californian who headed for Europe when he was 17 to pursue a Formula One ride. Last year, he drove in five F1 races for the Manor Marussia team.
Rossi collected $2.5 million for winning the 100th Indy and etching his name into racing history. Drivers typically keep about 40 percent of their race earnings, which is a cool $1 million for Rossi.
Rossi is the first American rookie to win the Indy 500 since Louis Meyer in 1928 (88 years ago!)
Driving for Andretti Autosport combined with Bryan Herta Racing, Rossi is scheduled to race the rest of the Verizon IndyCar season. Pocono hosts an IndyCar race Aug. 21.