MIDLAND, N.C. — Quietly, and almost unnoticed at the end of Saturday’s 14th annual John Blewett III Memorial North-South Shootout in memory of Charles Kepley, a rookie driver who had never sat behind the wheel of a tour-type modified before race weekend gutted out a top 10 finish at one of the toughest short tracks in the country.
Tyler Truex, cousin to NASCAR national series regulars Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Truex, turned his regular experience at the wheel of a Downs Ford Modified at Wall Stadium Speedway into one of the most-impressive rookie performances in recent memory at Concord Speedway on Saturday afternoon.
After qualifying 22nd in a 25-car field on Friday evening, Truex laid in the weeds during the first half of Saturday’s 125-lap feature event, saving his tires around the tricky half-mile and learning the differences between the crate power he’s used to at the Stadium and the tour motor he carried under the front of his No. 66 machine.
But as the laps wound down in the second half, regular North-South Shootout contenders like Burt Myers (fuel pump) fell by the wayside and other top runners like Steve Masse and Brandon Ward lost the handle on their race cars, while Truex stayed the course and smoothly moved his way forward, position by position.
By race’s end, the 20-year-old New Jersey native was sitting 10th, an accomplishment that even he was surprised by after pulling his machine back to his trailer and taking a few minutes to soak in simply finishing one of the most prestigious modified races in the country.
“What a day, huh?” Truex said with a huge smile. “That’s amazing that we just went out and did that.”
“I have to thank Kevin Kramer for everything he is doing on the wrenching end of the deal, if it wasn’t for him and his coaching, I wouldn’t be standing here right now. (Today) was just awesome, I can’t thank everyone enough.”
Truex started the weekend feeling like he wasn’t pushing the car nearly hard enough in practice, but by race time, the young gun was wheeling and dealing with some of the best in modified racing as he went to school during the race.
“I felt like I needed to grow a set of balls to get down there through the back (the first time out),” he laughed. “I knew it was going to be hard but I didn’t know it was going to be that hard. I thought I was getting after it and I was a half second off. It’s just unbelievable what these guys like Hirschman and everyone can do with these race cars.”
“Once I got 75 laps in, I got really comfortable. Something got bent up in the front end after I got tires … but I think if I didn’t bend up the bumper we would’ve had a top five car.”
Saturday was the longest race that Truex has ever contested in his career, and he said he took away a great deal from all the new experiences he had from start to finish in his Shootout debut.
“The most I have ever raced was 60 laps and this being 125 laps, you have to figure out how to save and it’s hard with all the horsepower and the big tire, because you want to go in the beginning,” Truex explained. “I learned a lot about saving tires and racing around these guys to figure out what you can get out of the car really helps. This is an evil track, especially with how rough it gets. I just can’t thank my dad enough for giving me the opportunity for coming down here, it’s his car and his trailer.”
With his first start in a tour modified complete, Truex is now looking down the road towards next season, with eyes of making select NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starts if he can find the sponsorship to do so.
“This deal came together in short notice and we came here pretty well prepared, so I’d like to take the offseason and try and find some sponsorship and hopefully get someone on board with this tour car so we can go run some of the (NASCAR) tour combined races with the north and south … however that all shakes out.”
“I don’t see why we can’t make half the shows if I can find a nice sponsor. I know I can win one.”
Hear from Tyler Truex after his finish in Saturday’s North-South Shootout at Concord Speedway:
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as both the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series and the co-track announcer at Millbridge Speedway.
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