Toyota Racing – Martin Truex Jr.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Pocono Raceway – June 1, 2018
Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to the media at Pocono Raceway:
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
What’s your outlook for the weekend?
“Yeah, I really like coming up to Pocono. It’s a beautiful part of the country, and like we mentioned earlier, one of my home tracks, so always fun to come up here. Got some good friends up here, got some good fishing holes to go to after practice is over. Honestly, I just really love this area, and this racetrack has been really good to us, too, at Furniture Row Racing. Had some really strong runs, got a first win here together, and it’s been overall I feel like one of our stronger tracks, so excited about the weekend. Thought we had a good practice this afternoon, albeit short. It was very productive, and looking forward to qualifying this afternoon. I feel like really all season long we’ve been right there. We’ve been in the top-five, I think, every race but one that we haven’t had a problem in, so that’s been really promising, and just working, trying to find a little bit of that good luck, fortune we had last year. Seems like we’ve had quite a bit more things to battle through, consistency, just — we’ve had some bad luck along the way, and we’ve had some trouble on pit road here and there, and just seems like things haven’t really gone our way, but we’ve found a way to battle back and get great finishes. Really proud of the team and where we’re at, and we’ll just keep digging, hopefully have a shot at winning this weekend.”
Looking back to last weekend, pretty dominant at that race, but how frustrating was that last pit stop?
“Yeah, I mean, it is what it is. You come in, you pit, and when they’re done, you go back out. There’s not a whole lot I can do about that. We definitely lost a little time there, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t — it didn’t cost us the race. It just cost us a little bit of time. I don’t know that — I don’t know if we would have had anything for the 18 last week, if we could have got close to him, but that’s something we’ll never know. But we definitely need to clean things up, and the guys are working hard, and they’ve really done a nice job here the last couple weeks. They had a really tough stretch. They had a couple races where they really struggled, and they’ve just been working really, really hard and they’re definitely committed to our team, and they like what they do. They love being part of our team, and they’re working hard to get things fixed and more consistent. Yeah, we’ll just see where it goes, but as a driver, you just drive your butt off, and when they have problems, there’s nothing you can do but try to make up for it. Luckily last week we were able to do that.”
What it was like for you growing up here in this area as you catapult to today and do you remember your first time here?
“Oh, first time I came here was in the ’80s. It was for a race, Modified Race of Champions. So they raced on the front straightaway. I guess they made a turn to come down pit road. I can’t even remember how the track was. I just know it was part of the front stretch, and the track was a lot smaller than the big track. Yeah, I remember coming here as a young kid. I don’t even know how old I was. It was sometime early 80s. Been coming here a long time, and it’s definitely a special track. Yesterday was a big day. It was fun to go home, to go to the state capital and meet the governor and get the proclamation that yesterday was Martin Truex Jr. day in New Jersey. That’s just crazy to think about. It’s crazy to think about things like that, where we’ve come to in such a short amount of time. It feels like just yesterday I was living up there working, building race cars and racing for fun and thinking, yeah, maybe someday somebody will hire me to drive for them. And here we are not that much further down the road with a championship and all the things that have come along with it. It’s been quite amazing, quite an amazing journey. It was fun yesterday just to get to go back home, and after the capital visit, I had to do some work in my hometown, so it was fun to go back there and see my parents and hang out at the house, and took a boat ride with my best friend. Just to get back up there again and kind of celebrate that day and what was going on yesterday and all we’ve accomplished was really, really special for me. I actually went to Atlantic City, went to the docks for our commercial fishing fleet, the family business, got on the boat that I worked on back in the late ’90s, just finishing up high school and all that, that boat I worked out in the ocean on, and just talking about things like that, it was quite a day. Something I’ll remember for a long time for sure.”
Do you feel like a performance similar to your 2017 season is something that could come out at the second half of this year?
“Absolutely I do. I feel like we’re right there. I think if you look at last year, we had two wins at this point in time. One of them we may or may not have been the best car, so I think if you look at it right now, with some of the bad luck we’ve had with the blown tires and getting caught up in a few wrecks here and there, aside from that, we’ve been right up front every single week. I know we haven’t been leading the laps that we did last year or winning the stages, but it just seems like last year things were just rolling. They were just rolling our way, and it seemed like we couldn’t do anything wrong. This year it’s been a lot tougher, but I feel like performance-wise and making the right decisions and getting the job done under pressure, all those kind of things, I feel like we’ve done a really good job at, and we’re right there, really not far off where we were last year. It’s amazing how different your results can be when you feel like you’re kind of doing the same job. But that’s just racing, and that’s kind of how it goes. So I think for me, I feel good about where we’re at. I think we definitely have a little bit more room for improvement this year as far as figuring out some things with our car and just being a little bit more dialed in when we get to the racetrack. I feel like we’ve been off just a step where we unload on weekends, and it’s kind of got us playing catch-up a little bit more than we did last year, so we’re still kind of working on that, but overall I feel really good about where we’re at, and we just need to kind of have a little bit more momentum on our side, so to speak. It’s hard to really explain, but we’re right there, and we’ll keep digging, and a lot of top-fives this year, so that’s really where you want to be. You want to be running in the top-five, you want to have some wins, but yeah, I feel good about where we’re at, and hopefully when the playoffs come we’ll be getting the job done and hopefully being able to win some races again.”
How different is it driving the races now here at Pocono than it was the 500 miles?
“I don’t know if I ever ran a 500 here, to be honest with you. Obviously it must not be that much different if I did, because I can’t remember it. But I think the stages are the big thing. You know, that’s really what’s changed the racing, especially at tracks like this where we could get into long green flag runs, fuel mileage races, that kind of thing. It’s definitely made the strategy a lot more straightforward for the crew chiefs, but there’s still that option, right, there’s still options for fuel mileage and strategy here just because the track is so big and you can kind of run it like a road course, so to speak. It’s definitely unique in that regard, but as far as behind the wheel, I mean, it’s — all these races are long. You’re always just focused on what do we got to do to be in the best position at the end, and I think most drivers in the series are pretty comfortable running 400, 500, 600 miles.”
Was it nostalgic to be back on the boat, or was it more like, I’m really glad I’m not on the boat anymore?
“It was both, a little bit of both. It was very nostalgic, and that particular boat is very special to my dad because it was his actual first boat he ever built. It’s just a cool story, his first boat, I got to work on it. It’s still in service, still working each and every day, but just to go in there and to look at it and just feel the memories of what it was like, how much I spent on there, how much I didn’t like it, and then just so many things haven’t changed in that business. That boat is the same. It looks identical. There’s so many things in it that are still the same, and it just reminded me of how fast time really goes by because it felt like just yesterday I was out there working on that thing. It’s crazy.”
Are you concerned that two of the playoff spots for the Final Four might be essentially clinched before it even gets going?
“I don’t know. I mean, I can’t answer that. There’s so many races left to go. You never know what it can happen. I think for us, we obviously want more playoff points. We don’t have as many as they do, so we want to be first in that. But we’ve had some trouble this year, like I said. It’s definitely — it’s not a position anyone wants to be in, being behind by that many points. I know those guys have to feel really good about how many they have. I do know that it was — it made us really sleep a lot better at night during those weeks of coming into elimination races and things like that last year. For sure it makes things a lot easier. But I think if you look back at it, we never even had to use any of our bonus points. If you look back at the points throughout the playoffs, we never relied on any of those. We raced our way through just like somebody would have that had zero to start with. So it’s not the end of the world. I think it’s quite possible that those points are a little bit overrated, unless you have trouble. If you have a bad race or two, they can really save you. But if you’re consistent like we were last year, you really don’t need them. I don’t know, I think everybody would like to have them if they had the option, but they’re hard to get, that’s for sure.”