Racing beat

Martin Truex Jr.

While Dale Earnhardt Jr. is moving out of Dale Earnhardt Inc., Martin Truex Jr. is moving up.

Considering all the press Little E’s exodus has received in 2007, few people noticed just how well Truex fared.

But the Chevy driver from New Jersey knows the spotlight will soon be on him – for better or worse.

“I get a lot of questions about [Earnhardt Jr.], obviously. Everybody wants to know what I think about it,” Truex says. “Obviously I think it will open some new doors for me here at DEI.”

Truex says he and Earnhardt remain friends. What has taken place at negotiating tables simply doesn’t come up between them.

“He kind of helped me along the way with anything I ever needed help with. So he was my mentor, more or less,” Truex says. The two will remain teammates through the end of the year. “To be honest with you, not really much has changed. 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. Business is business. We’re great friends. We’ll continue to be.”

Truex won back-to-back Busch crowns in 2004 and 2005, having pulled off his first title as a series rookie. That opened the door for a Cup ride at DEI.

He began his competitive racing career at age 11 behind the wheels of go-karts and had already won championships in that area of motorsports by the time he was 14.

From there it was off to modifieds and then the NASCAR Busch North Series before making his Busch Series debut in 2001.

Earnhardt leaving the stable opens the door for Truex to become point man at DEI.

“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.,” he says. “It’s kind of been a little difficult at times playing second fiddle to him.”

Indy Girl
Duno has four master’s degrees, but her passion is racing

Venezuela’s Milka Duno has come a long, long way in a short, short time – and she continues to do so at a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her pace.

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In a matter of weeks Duno passed her rookie test for the Indianapolis 500 and actually earned a spot in the field. In 2008, the glamorous and talented driver can add the Indy Racing League to her resumé.

And what a resumé it is.

She first entered a driving school in 1998, but she “didn’t start racing until 1999,” says the Caracas native. “I went to Europe and started racing GT cars because I wanted to compete for a championship.”

She seized the Panoz GT Series Championship crown in 2000. A year later, she was Vice-Champion of the Le Mans LMP 675 class.

“Europe was where I started, but I really thought the best racing opportunities for me were in America,” Duno says.

Duno is a qualified Naval Engineer with four master’s degrees – in Organizational Development, Naval Architecture, Aquaculture and Maritime Business.

Incredibly, she worked on the last three simultaneously.

“Education is the most important thing you can do,” Duno says. “Racing doesn’t last forever, but an education does.”

Still, the thrills of manning the cockpit of a speed machine helped convinced Duno that what she had learned in academia could apply to sport. “The engineering aspects, the technical aspects: I use all of them in racing,” Duno says. “What I learned before doing this helps me as a driver.”

Duno’s is already a good story. In 2004 she opted to concentrate primarily on road racing in the Rolex Series, and in her inaugural season she posted two victories and became the first woman to win a major sports car race in North America; first woman to pick up two Rolex victories; and first woman to drive a Daytona Prototype – the premiere vehicle of the Rolex Series – to a victory.

All it’ll take is one checkered flag to make the media and public stop calling her a female driver and start calling her what she is – a driver.