Opinion: Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. see bigger picture beyond NASCAR rivalry

Martin Truex Jr. still has the journal that NASCAR Cup Series champions pass on to the next one with advice and praise.

More than two months into the 2019 season, the 2017 champion Truex has yet to give it to 2018 champ Joey Logano.

“I was making him wait a little extra long,” Truex said a couple of weeks ago. “I was waiting until he did something real nice to me so I could write something nice to him.”

Logano will do something nice for Truex next week, and it might or might not earn him some advice and the journal. Logano won’t sweat it. They’re competitors.

Joey Logano, left, and Martin Truex Jr. have been fierce rivals on the track but will come together at Truex's charity event for childhood cancer patients. (Photo: Matthew OHaren, USA TODAY Sports)

If Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. battle for the win Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, few would blink as they each have two career wins at the 1.5-mile track. Few would want to blink in watching a Logano-Truex battle, considering their contact at the end of the Martinsville playoff race last October stirred debate on rough driving versus rubbing is racing.

Four days after Kansas, the two drivers will be teammates of a sort as Truex on Wednesday hosts his annual children’s cancer research fund-raising event, which features drivers walking side-by-side with young cancer patients in a fashion show.

Truex never thought about not including Logano from walking the runway this year. And Logano never thought about not attending the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation Catwalk for a Cause despite their different views of Martinsville, which resulted in Logano winning and Truex fuming. 

“We need to be able to shut off our competitive vibes.” Logano said. “Not everyone can do it. … When you’re in a competitive environment, you have to be a different person to win — unless you’re a jerk all the time and then you’re the same person and you’re just a jerk.

“And who wants to be that?”

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Some might view that Logano has changed since October. Last month at Richmond Raceway, Truex outlasted Logano, who was catching Truex in the final laps, but Truex went on to win without any contact between the two.

“I couldn’t get there in time,” Logano said. “By the time I got there, the race was over. … I felt if I did get to him and bump him, there was a good chance I was going to spin him out.

“You don’t want to win somebody out. Contact is contact but wrecking somebody is a different story.”

That could seem strange coming from Logano, whose previous on-track rivalry prior to Truex was one with Matt Kenseth in 2015 that included Logano spinning Kenseth at Kansas for the win.

“I got fenced [before that],” Logano said about the Kenseth battle. “It was a different story.”

That incident resulted in retaliation from Kenseth at Martinsville Speedway, ending Logano’s 2015 championship hopes. But even that doesn’t have Logano and Truex consumed by the rivalry.

Truex couldn’t worry about how Logano would race him in the final laps at Richmond.

“At the end of the race, I was trying to do what I have to do,” Truex said “If I was thinking, ‘He is just going to hit me’ I would have screwed up before he ever hit me.

“We’re wired different, especially the top guys. We can be in really, really tough situations and still think clearly and make good decisions. That is what makes us good.”

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