MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Why have you had immediate success with this new format?
“I think it’s, you know, really not doing anything different, but consistently running up front, leading laps and trying to perform well is kind of what the stage points system rewards. We were able to do that last year. We’re hopeful this year it would pay off – so far it has. Certainly we’ve had a few weeks here and there where we haven’t been quite as good as we wanted to. I think overall the start to the season has been solid. Need to find a little more consistency, but all in all the stage racing has gone well, it’s been fun, added a little kink to things. Fortunately for us, we’ve been able to get some points out of it, so it’s been good.”
Does this format play into Cole Pearn’s strengths and how has it been having Erik Jones as a teammate?
“Yeah, I think the first part of it, I think Cole’s (Pearn, crew chief) always thinking of ways to find advantages, no matter what the situation. You dangle some points out there in front of him, he’s going to try to figure out a way to get ’em. For the most part it’s really just been pretty straightforward as far as if you’re running up front, you’re in position to take advantage of those stages. I think Martinsville last weekend was the first time we’ve actually kind of gambled on one of them to get that first stage win. We weren’t the best car. Some guys had pit road penalties. We stayed out. It worked out – we got that first stage win. That’s the first time we’ve kind of done something a little different just to try to get ’em, was successful at that, so we’ll see how it plays out. Every week’s different. Every day, every stage I feel like is different just because of what’s going on around you. So it’s definitely some opportunities there to take chances sometimes. We’ll see how that all plays out. But the second part of your question, I think still kind of new, the whole thing, you know, with Erik (Jones) and the 77. But I really haven’t felt it changed things. I talked earlier in the season about that being a good thing – that I feel like we’ve not lost anything by going to two cars, which in some cases we’ve seen in the past guys expand teams and they struggle for a little while just because of the focus that’s taken off of their original car. So I think more than anything, so far nothing has really changed. Those guys fit right in with us, and everything is really going smoothly as far as I can tell. So from my point of view, that’s really been the difference, is just there really hasn’t been a difference.”
Do you feel like this morning’s practice was enough practice time?
“I thought that practice was enough. I just wish the race track was clean, you know, when we got here. It’s so difficult with the lime they put down, whatever the stuff is they use on the racetrack. That the groove was really, really narrow. You seen as soon as guys started pushing it in qualifying trim especially at the end of practice they get out of the groove a little bit, you’re done. There’s nothing you can do. It’s so slippery. I wish the track was clean, then there would have been plenty of time to practice. I don’t think practice time is an issue. We got to clean race tracks before we get on ’em and run 200 miles an hour. Just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Do you think it will improve over the weekend?
“It’s going to get better, but the problem is the groove itself keeps getting better and better and better as we run in it. The faster you’re going in the groove, the faster you’re going when you get out of it. That’s no better than it was this morning, so that is the real problem. You know, you jump that cushion, you get out of the groove, you’re going to be going way too fast to get it slowed down before crashing. It’s a big problem. I mean, it’s something that I don’t know who makes those calls to leave the racetrack that dirty, but it’s an issue.”
Are you wearing any of the watches or anything that calculate your heart rate and stuff?
“I am. I actually have a few times. I’ve not wore it every week, but a few weeks in a row I did wear it.”
Has it told you anything?
“It’s told me that I’m in great shape. I actually wore it when I won Vegas. It’s crazy to look at just to see how kind of the cautions play into it, you just kind of see, you know, as your race goes what it does to your heart rate, what things are going on. Aside from that, I think for me, it wasn’t really like a training device or anything – it was just more fun just to see what everything looks like and how it was going, but I am in great shape by the way.”
Where does your and your team’s performance at the Coca‑Cola 600 rank in terms of your Cup career?
“I mean, just thinking back on what we did that night, that whole weekend really, still it’s amazing to think that we did something no one’s ever done. As long as this sport has been around, to lead more laps, more miles in a race that anyone ever has, is crazy, especially in today’s day and age, the competition being so close, the cars being so similar. Yeah, I mean, it’s up there at the top of anything we’ve ever done, anything I’ve ever been a part of. It’s definitely cool to look at. I’ve watched the replay I think twice now, once right after, and sometime it was on again and I caught it. It’s still pretty amazing to see just how that race played out.”
Have you taken advantage of Erik Jones and data sharing now that you have a teammate?
“Yeah, it’s something we do every week, looking at data and things. You know, I say nothing’s really changed. That’s really a compliment to him (Erik Jones) and to his team because, you know, he’s done such a good job, they’ve done such a good job. You’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s a rookie,’ but he’s doing good and everything’s fine. It’s really impressive to watch how those guys do it. He goes to race tracks and it seems like he’s been there before. I guess, you know, I’m kind of playing it off as not much has changed when it’s really kind of a huge deal, you know, for those guys. It’s a huge compliment to them just by being able to say it’s not a big deal for them. So, yeah, it’s been cool. But all that data sharing stuff, I mean, he knows what he’s doing. He knows what he wants most importantly. He knows what he’s looking for. He feels the car out well. In our debriefs and things, really kind of knows what he’s talking about. It’s real easy to buy into his information and use it if needed. It’s been good.”
What has it been like to see Clint Bowyer’s bounce back?
“Yeah, I mean, I definitely feel his pain the last couple years. I understand what he went through, but, yeah, it’s definitely good to see him back. He’s such a cool guy – a nice guy friend of mine. Nice to see him having success. Like I say, I know what it’s like to have those tough years and try to battle through it. People kind of write you off, think you forget how to drive. It’s cool to see him competitive again. I’ve enjoyed racing with him the past couple years. I’m sure it’s not the last we see of old Bowyer this year.”