WALL TOWNSHIP, N.J. — For Martin Truex Jr., it was the best kind of coincidence.
As the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, Truex was going to Super Bowl LII for promotional work for the stock car racing circuit.
Then the native of Mayetta, N.J., saw that his beloved Eagles had won the NFC championship. Truex had a prime seat in U.S. Bank Field in Minneapolis to witness the Birds' finally breaking their Super Bowl jinx.
"It was an unbelievable experience," said Truex, who is scheduled to race in the Poconos 400 on Sunday. "I had a great time just cheering the Eagles on, and then to see them win was the icing on the cake."
Truex, 37, was born in Trenton in 1980 – five months after the Eagles made their first Super Bowl appearance.
In 2004, when the Birds made it to Super Bowl XXXIX, he won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race and won the season championship.
Now, in the same season that the Eagles won their first NFL title in 58 years, Truex became the first driver from New Jersey to be crowned champion of the top circuit in NASCAR.
"That's kind of awesome," said Truex, whose father, Martin Sr., made 15 career starts in the Xfinity series. "For me personally, being the first one from Jersey is a pretty cool deal. I've followed racing my whole life. I know a thing or two about what went on. I owe a lot to guys from New Jersey who paved the way for me."
Last Saturday, 22-year-old Tyler Truex was preparing his car for a race during the MDW Country Music Night BBQ event at Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall Township. His Dover Contracting Company No. 69 car, which he races in the modified division, once belonged to his older brother, Curtis.
Two decades earlier, it was an 18-year-old Martin Truex Jr. prepping a modified for races at Wall Stadium. It was one he had purchased from his cousin Barney.
Tyler Truex is Martin Jr.'s younger cousin. Wall Stadium is a Truex family tradition.
"It's tough sometimes," said Tyler Truex, who moved up to modified after winning the 2017 Sportsman championship. "Because you have the [Truex] name, people expect you to be able to win. You deal with it. I'm proud of what he has done.
"My ultimate goal is to get where Martin is now. I've been in race cars since I was five years old, and every little kid's dream is to drive on Sundays like my older cousin is doing."
It's a difficult journey. Having a sponsor can defray costs, but sometimes, it takes the financial gamble of a lifetime to chase that dream.
A Monster Energy driver can have access to a fleet of team-owned and sponsor-supported cars.
At Wall Stadium, most drivers own one car. If it gets dinged up in one race, most drivers pull cash out of pocket to get it race-ready for the next week.
Jimmy Blewitt started racing against Martin Truex, Jr. when they were pre-teens in go-karts at New Egypt Speedway in Plumsted Township.
They arrived at Wall Stadium about the time New Jersey regulations finally let them race modifieds at 18 years old.
On the eve of Truex's racing in the Monster Energy Coca-Cola 600 last Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Blewitt won a 35-lap modified race at Wall Stadium.
There is pride, not jealousy, for the accomplishments of Martin Truex Jr.
"Martin has truly earned everything," said Blewitt, who has kept a team together racing on regional circuits, including the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, for two decades. "He has fought through so many ups and downs at every level of his journey. He obviously had talent, but he also had the day-to-day work ethic to succeed.
"Anytime you're on this side of that Mason-Dixon Line and you win something, you're in territory you are not supposed to be.
"It shows what kind of drive people from this area have. When he's racing, we're watching and he's racing for all of us. I feel like when I watch him, I'm a part of it."
Wall Stadium, a 1/3-mile oval track with 30-degree banking, is the only asphalt track in New Jersey. Parking is free, small coolers are allowed, and pets on a leash are welcome.
Still, while it offers the down-home charm for fans, it presents the type of test aspiring racers must pass to move up the ranks.
It's one of the biggest long-shot dreams in professional sports. The Monster Energy Series has 40 full-time drivers, and some don't retire until they are in their 40s.
Most regional racers have measured the odds. They race for decades at tracks such as Wall Stadium because they simply love the thrills that come from driving fast on Saturday nights.
"When I started, I remember that I never really thought about making it big-time, having a career in racing or winning the championship," Martin Truex Jr. said. "I just loved racing. I remember running my modified at Wall Stadium.
"It's crazy how fast it feels like it went by, looking back. I caught some lucky breaks and was able to take advantage of them."