Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Phoenix International Raceway – March 17, 2017
Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to the media at Phoenix International Raceway:
MARTIN TRUEX JR, No. 78 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
How did you celebrate that victory there in Sin City?
“Didn’t have a whole lot of time to celebrate. We had to go home. I flew out with (Jamie) McMurray to Vegas, so he was waiting on the plane, and didn’t get a whole lot of time to celebrate. Went and seen the guys for a minute and had a beer and then had to hit the road. Overall it was obviously a great week for us, so looking forward to hopefully continuing that here in Phoenix.”
How did it feel that you were king of an afterthought after winning last week?
“Yeah, I think most importantly, we got the trophy and the points. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re here for. That’s what it’s all about. Hate it a little bit for my team for maybe not getting the recognition they deserve, but all it all, we got what we wanted out of Vegas, and looking forward to making positive highlights.”
When you’re friends with drivers in the Cup garage, is it hard to be competitive with them on the track on race day?
“Well, I think when we all get on the racetrack, it’s every man for themselves. I think we’re all selfish in that way, and we can be friends off the track and race each other respectfully but at the same time race hard and go for wins and do whatever it takes. That’s pretty easy, really, for all of us, and I think most of us have an understanding of what happens on the track kind of stays there. At least that’s kind of the way I see it.”
Did you see the highlight of the Kyle Busch and Joey Logano accident, and how big of a mistake did Joey make?
“I did see it. I did see it. I don’t know. I mean, he obviously made a mistake. I mean, he drifted a whole lane off the bottom to hit the 18 (Kyle Busch), but you could see he turned to the right sideways and just tried to hang onto it. You know, the track was so slick, and these cars, when you get on the inside of somebody, it’s so easy to get loose. So I mean, just obviously he just crossed the edge, but if he had to do it again, I’m sure he wouldn’t have done it. You know, I mean, he definitely crossed the line. I’m not sure exactly to be honest with you.”
Is it kind of like your situation back in the day where you made it a bad time for Gordon every time you saw him?
“I’m sure it will be for those two going forward. I think you’ll see that. They’ll race differently, as simple as that. Kyle (Busch) is going to make it as hard as he can on Joey (Logano) every chance he gets. Joey is probably going to give Kyle a little bit more here and there just to try to pay it back. But we’ll see how it all plays out.”
How do you see the first short track race of the year playing out on Sunday?
“Yeah, it’s going to be interesting for a short track, like you said, a new tire, new aero package here for us at Phoenix. So far, the track has been really slick. It’s hot out. It’s going to be a huge challenge, and I think it’ll be interesting to see how the stages play out strategy‑wise. When the cautions fall are going to play into it. Obviously they did last weekend at Vegas. We saw guys take some chances down on some older tires, try to get those points as those stages were coming to a close. We’re definitely going to see that. It’s going to mix things up depending on how the weekend plays out, but so far, I think it’s been fun so far. The track has been a handful, and we were pretty quick in practice and didn’t think the car was driving that good, so I’m sure there was others that were feeling a little worse about theirs. But should be a lot of fun, and we’ll see what we can do.”
You’ve won half of your career Cup victories in the last 15 races. What has been able to put you in position to win?
“Yeah, I mean, it’s just been a dream come true to be driving these cars the last couple years. Really it’s just a special group of guys working together. Obviously the move to Toyota last year was huge for us, and it’s definitely the best position I’ve ever been in. Our whole team is together from last year, and just really riding a wave of confidence and momentum, and those guys are making good decisions and our cars are good. Just taking advantage of that has been great, and it’s been a lot of fun. Winning this early in the season feels awesome. I’ve never felt that way before. I’ve never had a win this early. Just try to keep riding that momentum and working hard. Our guys are busting their tails to try to be better each and every week, and we’re just ‑‑ hopefully we can come here to Phoenix and improve on our results. It’s been a tough track for us the last couple years, so hopefully we can do a good job here and just continue to race up front each and every week and try to put ourselves in position to win.”
When you signed with Barney Visser and Furniture Row Racing, what were you hoping to accomplish?
“I went in with a lot of unknowns, but you’re always hoping to put yourself in this kind of position. I mean, you never know what the future is going to hold. When I went to Furniture Row, they were coming off their best year ever, but we started out slow and we had an awful year the first year. Really it was just sticking together and making that commitment, from Barney’s side especially to make sure we had the right stuff and do whatever it takes to get that. Like I said, the Toyota relationship has been just an incredible piece of the puzzle for us as a team, being a single‑car team last year out there in Denver, the way we were able to make that work and elevate our program, just can’t say enough about them and what they’ve been able to do for us. That was a real game changer for us to have that, to be one of the top Toyota teams, so to speak. I mean, when we were at Chevrolet we were fourth or fifth down the line, and a single‑car team it was hard to get the resources out there in Denver. I think Toyota has just been a game changer for us, and it’s something we’re obviously really happy with.”
How has the transition been to a second car at Furniture Row Racing with Erik Jones driving?
“That’s a good question. I think so far it’s gone really well. You know, being that we were a single car team for the entire existence of the team, to go to two cars, it was obviously a huge undertaking. I think everybody did a great job. I mean, at this point in the season I think it’s more important that it hasn’t really hurt us or slowed us down than being a help, and I think as we go forward, it’s going to continue to make our program stronger. Having two cars, I think Erik and Chris have done a really good job so far of being consistent and being really good teammates, and I think that’s just going to continue to get stronger. So obviously looking forward to the future there. But really just proud of the job everybody did to make it come right out of the shop and hit the ground running this year because it was a huge undertaking to go to two cars for us. Good job there by everybody, and again, just everything is going smooth so far, and hopefully we can continue to build on that relationship and that program.”
Did you ask for the same seat on the airplane that you took to Vegas just for luck?
Talk about that thought and if you are superstitious; maybe it works.
“I’m not really superstitious, but why not take that chance. I mean, if it works out again, it would be awesome. Yeah, even Matt (Kenseth) sat in the same seat, except for he slept the whole way, so I’m not sure what that’ll do for us. So yeah, it was good. I was kind of just joking around, but then I really wasn’t, so we’ll see what happens.”
What do you think of this group of young drivers that have come up, and how do they compare maybe to some of the other generations of drivers?
“Well, obviously there’s a lot of talent out there. We’ve seen what the young guys are doing. They’re nipping at our heels and making me feel old. Yeah, I mean, it’s been cool to see their success, and I think in this day and age it’s a little bit different. I think when I came ‑‑ going back to when I started, it wasn’t that long ago, but it was definitely a lot different. I think when I started I had a rookie team that came up from the XFINITY Series with me, and today we see the teammates and the alliances and just how closely teams work together that are under the same roof, and I think that’s a huge asset for the young guys. They come in with all that information, all those guys on their team willing to help and share all that information. When I started it was kind of ‑‑ we had two cars at DEI and it was two different teams and two different buildings and not sharing everything. So things have changed a lot, and I think it’s helped those guys a ton get off the ground, but obviously we’ve seen a ton of talent come into the series, and it’s been exciting to watch. Fun to race with those guys.”
Have you worked actively with Erik Jones to get him up to speed in the Cup Series?
“Yeah, he hasn’t needed much help from me. He’s done a good job, and he’s a smart kid. He’s got a lot of racing experience in a lot of different cars and series and things, so he’s done an awesome job. I really haven’t helped him much. He hasn’t had a lot of questions for me. I’m there if he needs me, but so far he hasn’t really needed a whole lot.”