For me, it was a happy occasion when Martin Truex, Jr., sprayed champagne in Richmond after apparently qualifying for the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup.
But then came the Rest of the Story, as the late Paul Harvey would have said.
Allegations arose that a couple of Truex’s cohorts on Team Waltrip conspired to knock out his competition in the Federated Auto Parts 400, qualifier for the Chase.
First, Clint Bowyer spun out to cause a caution that effectively eliminated Ryan Newman, who was leading with seven laps to go. Bowyer claimed his car wasn’t handling well, but in-car video indicated it was the hands on the wheel that were flawed. USA Today compared Bowyer to “a driver’s ed student.”
NASCAR’s vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, apparently agreed, because he issued a statement saying Truex had been disqualified
There were other factors besides the dubious spin.
Bowyer and another Michael Waltrip driver, Brian Vickers ran far off the pace of the closing laps, allowing Joey Logano to gain two positions and edge Jeff Gordon for the final guaranteed berth and thus vacate the final wild-card spot for Truex.
And there was the matter of a prolonged pit stop by Bowyer that cost him a couple of laps and nine positions.
And there was Vickers taking a pit stop on green that in-car audio, as reported by USA Today, indicated he did not need or want. Vickers is heard saying, “What? I’ve got to pit? I don’t understand.”
To which his crew responded, “You’ve got to pit this time. We need that one point.”
It was, charged USA Today, enough to “undermine the integrity of NASCAR.”
Now that may be going too far. I doubt there’s much room left to lower the integrity of NASCAR. I mean, how do you undermine the integrity of boxing? Or Congress?
Naturally, I follow the career of Martin Jr., and let me point out there’s no evidence he encouraged the conspiracy. The audio tapes suggest it developed during the race, with no advance planning.
Before Martin Jr. gained some fame (he tends to lead the Daytona 500 for some of the early laps), most people couldn’t pronounce my last name, and it took two or three efforts to get them to spell it right.
But the 33-year-old stock-car driver is mentioned often enough on ESPN and elsewhere that the name no longer is such a challenge for people.
Still, I’m often told, “You have such an unusual name.”
I’m French, but even in France people are puzzled by my name.
A bit of family background: Philippe de Trieux (pronounced dew-troo) lived in northern France in the 17th century but fled during the Huegenot migration when he was persecuted for being Jewish.
He went to Holland, which actually wasn’t as broad-minded as is often assumed. One of the most interesting tourist sites in Amsterdam is the Church in the Attic, where Catholics secretly worshipped. I can’t imagine Jews were very open with their own religious practices.
Anyway, to gain more freedom De Trieux sailed to New York. His descendants Americanized the name, changing it to Truex or Truax and pronouncing the “x.” One of my ancestors, Capt. David Truex, was an aide de camp to George Washington in the Revolution.
So there are more of us than you might realize. I’ve never met Martin Jr., who is probably a very distant cousin. But I wish him success. Let’s hope that from now on he earns it honestly.
And let’s hope NASCAR asks itself if this really should be a team sport.