Toyota Racing – Martin Truex Jr.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Kansas Speedway – May 12, 2017
Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to the media at Kansas Speedway:
MARTIN TRUEX JR, No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Kansas Speedway is a place you’ve had a lot of close calls, but first we want to ask you about your sponsor and paint scheme for this weekend.
“Yeah, sure. Definitely excited to have Auto-Owners Insurance back on the car this weekend. We did three races together last year and had a successful campaign, and they were just awesome to work with, so excited to have them back and do six races together this year. This will be the first one. Excited about that. We’re kicking off a big sweepstakes with them. Fans can go, too. There’s a lot of great prizes, three grand prizes they can choose from for the winner, and it should be really cool. I think it’s Auto-Owners True Experience is what they’re calling it. So pretty neat. Going to get to have some fun with a fan hopefully on a big fishing trip.”
Do you get the willies when you pull in here and look at the track and think about all those missed opportunities that you’ve come so close?
“No, I forgot all about them. I don’t, no, not really. I get excited to come here. The only time you go to a racetrack that you’ve had success at that you feel confident that you can be competitive or have a shot at winning no matter what the results have been, I think you have that confidence as a driver that you get excited to go there and hopefully be able to turn it around. It’s been a great track for us, even on years ‑‑ it seems like years where we weren’t performing well we could come here, and for whatever reason run good. Whether it was the old track, the new pavement, whatever, it’s been a good place for us. Hopefully this will be the weekend we can finally break through and get that first win at Kansas.”
Does your crew still consider this their home track and does that add any pressure for you?
“They do. Not really. I don’t think any ‑‑ I’ve been doing this long enough. I don’t think any situation is really adding extra pressure. You’re here to do your job. You’re always here to do the best you can and try to perform. You know, it’s cool for the team. We seem to get more visitors, more of the visitors that get to come to this race, and we get a lot more fans from Colorado in the stands, as well, so we get a huge following here in Kansas. It’s definitely a big deal for the team, but like I said, we try to win each and every week. It would just be cool if we are able to do it here, I think there would be a lot more folks in our corner than normal weekends.”
Can you talk about how encouraged you are the fact that Auto-Owners Insurance would double its investment in you and your team this season?
“Well, it’s a huge deal for us. The last couple years bringing on Bass Pro Shops, bringing on Auto-Owners, we’ve got a race at WIX Filters this year, just all these new partners, all the success, everything just keeps constantly building. Auto-Owners has been a great company to work with. They’re really excited about the program, really putting a lot into it. I saw an email the other day, there’s a giant billboard in Indianapolis somewhere with my face on it and a picture of the car. They’re really using the race team to activate and to try to make their business grow. They’ve been around for over 100 years, and it’s just a huge deal for us to be partnered up with a company like that, and hopefully they’ll continue to see the benefits of what they’re doing in our team and hopefully continue to build that relationship.”
And your crew chief Cole Pearn has kind of evolved into the Chad Knaus of his generation; can you speak to the good aspects and the bad aspects of that because he is so good that sometimes they’re going to look a little closer at your car perhaps than they normally would.
“Yeah, I think in today’s day and age, they look at everybody’s car close, no matter who you are or what you’ve done. The rules are so close and they’re so strict. The trips to the R&D Center after the race, all those things are so thorough, it’s hard to sneak things by. But I think Cole (Pearn) is just really good at concentrating on the details in the right places. He knows what buttons to push. He knows what things matter the most and really focuses on those areas, so I think he’s done a great job. Obviously, I’ve been really lucky to have him. The relationship has been just incredible. We get along so well, and I feel like he really understands me and that goes a long way. The team side of it, he does a great job running the team and making sure everybody is doing their job, and he just has all his bases covered, is really switched on. I’ve been really lucky to have him, and hopefully we can be together for a long time.”
You have your charity event, Catwalk for a Cause coming up next week in Charlotte and then the Coca‑Cola 600. Are you looking forward to going back to Charlotte knowing what’s ahead?
“I am. I always look forward to Charlotte just because it’s close to home. You get to sleep in your own bed. It seems like every year you get busier and busier around that race and you actually have less time at home than you would if you were on the road. It’s going to be a crazy few weeks but definitely excited, Catwalk for a Cause coming up again this year, and it’s going to be a huge event. We’ve got Florida Georgia Line coming to play, and just so many big things happening around our foundation, so it’s going to be a huge event, looking forward to that, and of course the race is at Charlotte. The All‑Star Race is always exciting, and after winning the 600 last year, looking forward to going there and trying to back that up. Should be a fun couple weeks, but we’ve got to get Kansas out of the way first and hopefully we can score that first W here this year.”
Do you think you can dominate the Coca-Cola 600 again?
“I don’t think anybody can do that again. Look how long it took. It’s pretty amazing to think about what we did, really. All the years that NASCAR has been around and the great drivers and the stories, and to do that in this day and age was incredible. Going to be tough to top that one for sure.”
How often does Erik Jones come to you given you’ve got a lot more experience for advice week in and week out?
“Honestly, I would say not a lot about specifics, more just ‑‑ we do our team meetings together and things like that, and he’s pretty quiet. I think he’s pretty confident and sort of has that approach where I’m kind of just going to go through it my own way and learn it myself, so he doesn’t ask for a lot of advice, but he’s definitely a good teammate, and we talk about our cars and things we’re fighting and things that are going on, but specifically doesn’t really ask for advice on certain tracks or things like that. He’s pretty ‑‑ he’s been in most of these places already in trucks or XFINITY, and he’s, I guess, wanting to figure it out on his own most ways.”
How much does his feedback on his car help with yours?
“Any feedback is good, especially when a guy is competitive. You know, we’ve got a bunch of guys in the Toyota camp that we can pull from, and all the information is good information really when you’re looking into trying to figure out how to make cars go faster and what opinions are.”
Just talking about Charlotte, can you talk about the All‑Star Race a little bit, a couple more tweaks, now with the tires? What are your thoughts on this year’s All‑Star Race?
“You know, honestly, I haven’t really looked at it all yet. Not even sure exactly what the rules are. But I do know the tires at the end are going to be a big deal, and I assume you give people the option for soft tires, the whole field is going to take it, so I’m not sure really what that’s going to change. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Furniture Row Racing has been running well this year. Has Joe Gibbs Racing come to you for advice as opposed to last year when you might have been looking to see what they were doing so well?
“Yes and no. I don’t know that it’s so much advice as much as maybe look at what we’re doing different — is there some things that stand out. To be able to have that data point to say, okay, here’s some things that they’re doing differently that are possibly better and then really look into that and figure it out. You know, honestly, coming in last year, being a part of their team and getting their chassis and getting engines from TRD and working as closely together as we have, they’re such a big part of us getting off the ground last year fast and getting things going. In a small way it is nice to be the guy that’s kind of stuck out a little bit this year to try to help and kind of make them feel good about their decision still to do what we did last year. You know, they’ve had speed at times. They’ve been a little bit inconsistent, but it’s there, and they’ll figure it out quickly.”
How do you evaluate your relationship with teammate Erik Jones?
“Well, I mean, I think it’s gone well really. I think the teams are working well together. Obviously they’ve come out of the box strong with a rookie team, and the first time that Furniture Row has been two cars. I’ve talked about it before, about how big of a deal that is and how difficult it could be and how much went into that project of going to two cars. But I think that they’ve been competitive. They’ve been ‑‑ they’ve shown speed at times, really good speed at times. They’ve had some bad luck along the way, but they really haven’t been lost or in a position where they weren’t doing things that were working for them and they were searching for answers, and that’s when you’d expect more specific questions on what do I got to do here, what’s going on, what do I got to do at this racetrack to run better. So I think they’ve been good enough that they just are kind of focused on their own deal, and that’s a good thing, I think. We both do our own thing, and at the end of the day, we compare and see where we’re at and go from there.”