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Truex eager to be top gun for DEI next season

Truex eager to be top gun for DEI next season

Truex eager to be top gun for DEI next season
By RICHARD HUFF
DAILY NEWS COLUMNIST

The departure of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. could have a positive impact on driver Martin Truex, Jr.

In fact, Truex, a native of the Mayetta section of Stafford Township, N.J., is looking ahead to Earnhardt's exit as a way to elevate himself within the DEI operation.

"I think it will kind of put me a little bit more in the limelight or spotlight, so to speak," Truex said. "I think I'll have more opportunities with some sponsors coming into DEI working with me instead of everybody wanting to come here and work with Dale Jr."

No doubt, being the No. 2 driver at a shop built by a legendary driver and fielding cars for the guy's son hasn't always been easy.

"It's kind of been a little difficult at times playing second fiddle to him," Truex admitted. "So in that aspect, it will open some doors for me, give me some new opportunities, which I look forward to."

Since Earnhardt, Jr. rocked the NASCAR world with news that he would leave the house his father built at season's end, the chatter has been about where he'll go and what he'll do.

Yet, DEI goes on, and unless DEI makes a blockbuster hire, Truex will be the No. 1 gun. That means, each week they're trying to win.

"To be honest with you, not really much has changed," Truex said of the post Jr. announcement. "We're still going ahead with all our plans, trying to make every department of the company stronger, trying to get our engines better, trying to get our engineering program better."

Little has changed since Jr. said he was leaving.

"I'm going out there, working hard, trying to get better each week," he said. "Our race team's doing a great job. That's the biggest thing I look at, is where we're at with our race team, and things are looking good. We're going forward, getting better each week. With a little bit of luck we could be sitting here with two or three wins already. We're excited about the rest of the year and the future here at DEI."

"I actually spent quite a bit of time around him since then," Truex said. "It's kind of one of those things we don't talk about. Business is business. We're great friends. We'll continue to be. We don't really, for some reason, talk about it."

Trouble is, as part of his departure, Earnhardt said DEI wasn't going in the direction he needed to be able to win a championship. That suggested something was amiss at the team.

But for Truex, the son of a racer Martin Truex, Sr., there's a lot to prove.

"Well, it gives us something to shoot for," Truex said. "I think it lights a fire under everybody's butt around here saying, 'Look, we've got something to prove. Dale Jr. didn't think we were good enough. Now go out there and win championships.' And if we do that, we'll just try even harder to do that now, just to prove him wrong and everybody else out there that thinks we can't do it."

They'll be working on that this weekend at the Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. for Sunday's Autism Speaks 400 presented by Visa.

Because he's from Jersey, Dover tends to draw a lot of Truex fans and friends to the 1-mile oval.

It's also a place Truex likes to drive.

"Really looking forward to Dover," he said. "That's the kind of race I've always got circled on my calendar as one I look forward to going to. Close to where I grew up. A lot of friends and family come to the race there. Got a good history of running well there, too. Really looking forward to it."

On My Mind

A planned New York area screening of the documentary film "Dale The Movie" seems to have been scrapped.

That stinks for local race fans - and fans of the legendary driver Dale Earnhardt - who will now have to wait until September when CMT airs the film.

Initial plans for the film were to have it roll out around the country in conjunction with NASCAR events. For instance, it was shown in Daytona at the start of the season and was to have been shown around the metropolitan area when the series moved towards Pocono Raceway next weekend.

The film documents Earnhardt's life and death, and does so in a way that will have race fans bawling. The film is loaded with archival footage, some of it intimate stuff of Earnhardt, away from the track. And it's full of new interviews from family members - Dale Earnhardt, Jr. talks about their relationship - and friends.

"I'm angry the sport took away one of my heroes," NBC News anchor Brian Williams said earlier this year. "I've got misplaced anger, there's nobody to see about that, no one to blame for it."

He's not alone. There are loads of fans just like him.

Williams is one of those interviewed in "Dale."

Narrated by Paul Newman, "Dale" uses the Daytona 500 as the skeleton from which to hang the flesh of Earnhardt's story.

He struggled there, he finally won there, and then he died there, in a last lap crash in 2001.

"Dale The Movie" - produced by CMT Films and NASCAR Images - goes behind the Intimidator facade Earnhardt had and shows him as a real person, one that will appeal to non-sports fans and racing nuts alike.

We know the ending going into the film. Even so, when it's over, everyone will be in tears.

It's just a shame New Yorkers won't get a chance to see it on a big screen.

Thankfully, CMT will show it to everyone Sept. 4.

Loose Nuts

Sexy actress Catherine Bell will get drivers' motors running Sunday at the Autism Speaks 400.

That's because Bell, who spent nine seasons on "JAG," and stars in the new Lifetime series "Army Wives" launching Sunday night, will deliver the words: "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!"

Bell is the Grand Marshall for the race, which gets underway Sunday at 1 p.m. on Fox.

TNT will use the rock band Hinder's remake of "Born to Be Wild" as its anthem to promote upcoming race coverage.

TNT's NASCAR coverage begins June 10 with the Nextel Cup event at the Pocono Raceway.

In July, with its telecast of the Pepsi 400, TNT will launch its "Wide Open Coverage" format, which will have no traditional national sponsor breaks.

Instead, national sponsors will appear on screen in animated messages, graphics and short segments. Beware, however, this won't be an entirely commercial-free telecast. Just one without the usual national commercial breaks.

Commercials sold locally by your cable operator - those typically for car dealers and restaurants - will pop up as usual at a rate of three an hour or about four minutes.

Those spots TNT can't control.

NASCAR Nextel driver Carl Edwards and his team owner Jack Roush will make a stop at the Orange County Fair Speedway Thursday night.

Edwards will compete in the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series main event before heading back to Dover, Del for practice Friday.

Also planning on being in attendance is David Reutimann, whose father Buzzie Reutimann was Orange County's 1972 Eastern States 200 winner and 1972 & 1974 track points champion.

For information call 845-342-2573 or log onto www.ocfsmotorsports.com.

Fines of the Week

NASCAR crew chief Chuck Meyers, who calls shots for the No. 1 Chevy driven by J.J. Yeley on the Busch series has been fined $1,000 for using a part not conforming to NASCAR rules. In this case, it was a right side window that was too thin. The infraction was discovered during practice on May 26.

And, Tyler Walter, a driver on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has been suspended from competition indefinitely by NASCAR, for violating the substance abuse policy.

www.nydailynews.com

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