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Ryan Truex’s T-shirt and the Dale Earnhardt Jr. effect


CHARLOTTE, North Carolina -- When his media availability began Wednesday at the NASCAR Media Tour, Ryan Truex was busy multitasking.

The new driver for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series was taking questions while finishing making his newest T-shirt design available for purchase online via his phone.

“Sorry if I’m not looking at you,” Truex said.

NASCAR’s official Twitter account gave Truex and his new shirt, which he was wearing, a shout out.

That’s when Dale Earnhardt Jr. struck. He retweeted the post to his roughly 2.4 million followers.

Near the end of his 19-minute interview, Truex held up his phone. The screen was full of push notifications indicating purchases of the shirt.

“Look, those are all orders. Already,” Truex marveled.

This is regular occurrence for the younger brother of defending Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr.

“Dale’s crazy. Every time last year he would tweet a picture of it or something, I’d already be sold out,” Truex said. “So I couldn’t do anything. Or I’d have 20 left and he’d do that and they’re gone instantly.”

On the gray shirt, an outline of his No. 11 Chevrolet is located beneath a simple, lowercase slogan: “go ryan.”

Last year, the outline was of his No. 16 truck he drove for Hattori Racing in the Camping World Truck Series.

It’s a simple design, but one the 25-year-old driver has wanted his entire career.

“I’ve never had my own T-shirts at all,” Truex said. “You know, like the crazy NASCAR design ones you see that every driver has. The ones that have the race cars on them and all the crazy graphics. I never even had that when I was racing Legends cars, late models, anything. I always wanted it, but I wanted it to be different.”

It’s helped him show come out of his shell.

“I was kind of an introvert and kept to my self, didn’t really talk to anybody,” Truex said. “I always thought if I was good and I was fast, I’d be fine. Everything else would work out. When I started out in the K&N Series I had never once done an interview in my life. And I won a race and I was in front of cameras and I had no idea ... I was honestly like Ricky Bobby. His first interview, that was me. I had no idea what I was doing. Honestly, I’ve learned a lot just by doing it and experiencing it.

“As I’ve been around and started to learn how to show my personality more and shown who I am on social media and stuff, people have liked it. Even these shirts, I just made it.”

Truex, who will compete in his first full-time Xfinity season this year despite having 39 starts, first came up with the design in 2016, his first year driving for Hattori Racing. But he thought there was “no way people would like this.”

“I just kept it,” Truex said. “It sat for a year and then finally I just put a 16 on it and put it out there and it was a hit.”

Thanks in part to NASCAR’s 15-time most popular driver.

“If it weren’t for him, I don’t know,” Truex said. “I don’t know if people would have liked it as much. Dale’s awesome. He’s good friend.”

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