Monster memories: Ryan Truex returns home to Dover as defending Xfinity Series winner

For the first time in his 10-year NASCAR Xfinity Series career, Ryan Truex will enter the weekend as a defending winner. And of all circuits, it’s at his home race track: Dover Motor Speedway.

Hailing from Mayetta, New Jersey — roughly two hours and 15 minutes from the Monster Mile — Truex is too young to remember the first time he visited Dover. It was when his father, Martin Truex Sr., competed in the Busch North Series. His earliest memory is sitting in the grandstands near the end of the frontstretch when his older brother, Martin Truex Jr., won his first Xfinity Series race with Chance 2 Motorsports in the fall of 2004.

Nearly 20 years later, the Truex family is still the talk of the town, sweeping the Xfinity and Cup Series events last season.

WATCH: Monster burnout at Monster Mile following Truex win | Truex discusses emotional Dover victory

“I don’t even remember my interview on the frontstretch,” Ryan told “I feel like I just blacked out and all the things that I’ve wanted to say over the years, I totally forgot all of them and said whatever came to mind.”

Truex’s career voyage has been filled with twists and turns. The former top prospect had his first shining moment in 2012 at the same concrete Dover track, leading 43 laps and being passed by Joey Logano for the lead with six laps remaining.

Ten years later, Truex returned to JGR after varying stops in all three series. In 2022, the results of his six races fell below expectations with a single top-five finish. But as part of his agreement with Toyota, he chose some of his events for the 2023 season. Dover was at the top of his list.

“That one stood out — and he talked about it a lot, so I knew it would be a big deal for him,” Jason Ratcliff, who crew chiefed the No. 19 car last year, said.

Monsoon-like precipitation washed out practice and qualifying that Friday at Dover, leaving Truex to go off his notes from a few hours in the Toyota simulator to prepare for the 200-lap race. While the simulator is a tool, he hadn’t competed in an Xfinity race at Dover since 2018 when he was driving for Kaulig Racing. As he said, “There is always that little bit of doubt — at least for me — when I haven’t been somewhere in a while to show up and be fast.”

The No. 19 Toyota started 12th but powered to the lead by the end of the opening stage. Truex cruised to victory in each of the first two stages.

“I kept passing cars and once I got towards the front, I felt, ‘This thing is pretty good,\"” he said. “Once I took the lead, that’s when it clicked to, ‘This is a car that is good enough to win.’

“From that point, my sole focus was to stay in control of the race. Once you lose control and lose clean air, it’s so hard to make that back up. I think we could have with how good the car was, but my goal from then on was no mistakes.”

Ryan Truex celebrates in Victory Lane following his NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Dover Motor Speedway.
Ryan Truex celebrates in Victory Lane following his NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Dover Motor Speedway.

During the 94-lap dash to the finish, Truex’s primary concern was making a green-flag pit stop. With 33 laps remaining, Ratcliff called his driver to the treacherous pit road for the final time.

“The most vulnerable spot for me was the green-flag stop,” Truex added. “I feel like pit road, in general, for me as a part-time guy, is my most vulnerable time of the race where I’m most prone to making mistakes. I was a bit conservative on pit road just to make sure I wasn’t the guy that threw the race away.”

Sheldon Creed came to pit road 11 laps shy of making it the distance, handing Truex the race lead. When the checkered flag flew, he became a NASCAR winner in his 188th national touring series start.

The triumph — and 124 laps led, to boot — was beyond validating.

“To do that as a part-time guy is a huge sticking point for me,” Truex said. “There are not many people who have done that over the years. If you look back at the past 10, 12 years of Xfinity, every guy that’s been able to win in a part-time schedule — especially this limited of a schedule at six races — is in Cup or were in Cup. I feel like that shows that if you can go out and do it, people know that and take value in that.”

Truex celebrated with roughly 20 to 30 friends when he returned home to North Carolina that evening. He had two weeks to celebrate it, with the next race — his final start in 2023 — coming at Darlington Raceway, which proceeded with a bye week.

“I didn’t know if I would be back this year or not, I didn’t know what was next or if I was done racing. I was going to be bummed out if I was,” Truex said. “You just have to take the opportunities and make the most of them and keep digging.”

While Truex’s day job is helping Toyota Racing Development with its Cup Series simulator, JGR upgraded him to 10 races for the 2024 season. This weekend’s race at Dover will be his fifth and just the second on a non-drafting-style track. Truex has a pair of top-10s in his four starts this season, with a best finish of seventh at Texas.

MORE: Dover weekend schedule

“I feel like my stock has risen over the past year and I’ve been able to create some value in what I can bring to the table and what I can offer to a race team,” Truex said.

The most challenging part of Truex’s job remains finding funding. Since the start of 2023, his new approach has been to hone his effort into driving instead of being a better salesman or marketing guy.

“I think on-track stuff for me right now has been an improvement and I’m the best I’ve ever been,” Truex said. “I think I can go out and win at any track any time we show up. We will see if that works out or if I end up with no sponsors and no ride.”

Should Truex end up getting a full-time ride, watch out.

“He’s a great driver,” Ratcliff said. “I think if you put him in something where he can build some consistency, he would win a lot of races and be a championship contender.”