HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- As the man drove over the line, and thousands of fans rose in ovation, and a cacophony of cheers engulfed the entire stadium at once, the woman finally peeked.
OK, she more than peeked. You blame her? Doctors gave this woman a prescription for pain, for cancer, for almost certain death. Now here she was, watching as her dreams literally rode to her on four tattered Goodyear tires. You better believe she opened her eyes to watch.
And what a spectacle she saw. A flood of people, dozens of bodies morphed into one mass, all sprinting and climbing over walls and doing anything in their power just for a second's glimpse of the man. Her man. Her champion.
Maybe that's when it started to set in, not the gravity of it all -- that certainly won't come in one night, or one week, or even who knows when -- but that it had happened. Martin Truex Jr. had actually won the NASCAR championship, the first of his career. And she, Sherry Pollex, his longtime girlfriend, was there to see it come to fruition.
"Honestly it's like every dream you've ever had came true tonight," Pollex said right after the race, "and I'm here and I'm healthy enough to see it and I'm so thankful."
Healthy enough. That's a stipulation most other drivers don't have to worry about when it comes to their loved ones, but most other drivers haven't dealt with everything Truex (and Pollex) have had to. Most other drivers don't lose their jobs in the middle of their prime, like Truex did after 2013; or have partners with recurring Stage 3 ovarian cancer, like Pollex does; or have countless other losses close to their team, like the entire No. 78 team has suffered through. And yet, here Truex was. Pollex, too. And now they were champions?
"I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over with, the times when I didn't think anyone believed in me," Truex said. "I don't even know how to put this into words. It's not sunk in yet.
"Tonight's going to be a hell of a party."
Right, back to the party. Pollex ran her hands through her shoulder-length blonde hair, composing herself, and then she climbed down from the pit box and started her trek to Truex. That mob of fans and crew members swallowed her up until she finally got beside Truex's car, so close that the warmth of the engine radiated on your legs and the hot flicks of car fluid spit up and licked your arms.
Truex was already mid-hoopla when Pollex got to the car, so she gave him his moment.