Toyota Racing – Martin Truex Jr.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Atlanta Motor Speedway – February 23 2018
Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
MARTIN TRUEX JR, No. 78 Bass Pro Shops / 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Last year you were the king of the 1.5-mile tracks, how comfortable are you in the car right now here at Atlanta?
“I am certainly looking forward to it. I had a pretty decent first practice there. It’s fun to get out there and knock the rust off. It’s a bit of a surprise to come here a year later and get reminded of how crazy this place is, how slick it is and how fast it is. Definitely a cool place to come knock the rust off and felt like we had a good practice. I am excited about that but as far as 1.5-mile tracks go, I think this one is very unique. It’s very different than most of the rest of them and we’re still looking to figure this place out. I feel like we’re getting closer and hope we have a good weekend here.”
How smoothly do you anticipate the new inspection go leading into qualifying?
“It’s a great question. I think we’ll find out here in about two hours. I know that our guys are planning – we stopped practice early just to try to get a jump start and have good plan going into this system today just to see what happens. We’re trying to get ahead of the curve. It has potential to be very difficult, it depends on how many guys have to go around and what type of lane that creates.”
How has your life changed since becoming a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion? Any new experiences?
“I can honestly say not really. When I go places it’s a little different, I have gotten to go places and got to do a lot of different stuff this offseason because we won the championship. And that was all fun and a lot of new stuff to me. But I can honestly say I am no different. I don’t do anything different during the week or hang out with different people. It’s an accomplishment I have worked my whole life for and I could not be more proud to be a champion of the Cup Series, but I am still the same person so I am not sure how to answer that one.”
Has your approach changed this year?
“I would say no. That we’re approaching this season very similarly to how we did last year. Trying to be open-minded and not be caught off surprise. Trying to be as well prepared as we can. Things have changed in the off season. The inspection process is one of them but it’s a new year and everybody has worked hard all winter to try to come back and go after their first championship or try to knock us off the top of the hill. You have to be open-minded. You have to be driven. You have to work hard. You can’t take any of it for granted because it will slip out from under you. I think everyone has done a good job of just being prepared and so far things have gone fairly smooth. So we’ll just have to see how things play out and continue to work like we always do.”
Does your title defense start here at Atlanta or do you not feel the pressure until Vegas where you won last year?
“I think that this is a good first chance to see how we stack up against the competition and feel as compared to years past. This is a great racetrack, it’s a lot of fun to race here. I look forward to it. It’s a good place to kick off the season as far as getting off the superspeedways. We’ll just see how it goes but I feel good so far. We have a lot to accomplish this weekend.”
What do you remember about your IROC (International Race of Champions) win here when you were just 25?
“I guess what sticks out to me there is beating all of the Cup (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) guys. I was still an Xfinity (NASCAR Xfinity Series) regular back then. We always ran really well in the IROC cars. We won both races here and should have won a bunch more at the other tracks but to win them both here was really cool and to beat those Cup guys was a feather in my cap. Looking back and thinking on it, I remember how special it felt and how great of an accomplishment I felt that it was at the time to beat guys like Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, (Ryan) Newman and (Matt) Kenseth and the field was just stacked. And it was a huge deal for me to be able to do that.”
Did you have any inkling about how last season would progress after how you dominated Las Vegas last year?
“Not really. I think if you look back at that race, we did run really well. At the end of the race, we were probably the second-best car I think the 2 (Brad Keselowski) had us beat out of the pits. They had us beat at the end but without their failure at the end we probably would have run second. I think we take it one week at a time. I think at the beginning last year we had a brand new 2018 Camry we were trying to figure out and I think we were behind the curve a little bit. To come out of the box as strong as we did in Vegas – it definitely made us feel good. And we knew we still had some development to do and some things to work on to get better. We were optimistic but you never know how it will work out.”
How were you able to be so dominant on 1.5-mile tracks last year?
“We hope to try to do it again. Honestly, there are a lot of good numbers there to shoot for. It’s certainly going to be a challenge to duplicate. We’ll just have to see. I feel like 1.5-mile tracks are places where I feel comfortable and places where we learned a lot as a group over the years, specifically how to approach them and what it takes. We’ll see if we have what it takes to put it together again this year.”
How influential is the drivers council in matters, like repaving a track like Atlanta?
“I would say there is not a driver in the garage that wants to pave this track or wants this track to get repaved. Unfortunately, we are going to find out on Sunday. I think the weather and mother nature, and the circumstances we will have to deal with this weekend are going to be what makes that decision for us. As far as racing goes, this place is so fun and challenging. I don’t think there is anyone that doesn’t love it for all of those reasons. It’s a lot of fun and we’ll see. I don’t think there is going to be something that stops it eventually. We’ll have to see how it works out.”
Is Vegas the closest track to Furniture Row Racing’s base in Denver, and will they bring a bunch of folks to the track?
“I don’t know. I have no idea who they plan on bringing to the track. I show up with my stuff and ready to go and am focused on that.”
Anybody from the shop, do they get the opportunity to go to the races?
“We have rosters now, so there is only a certain amount of people you can bring anyway as far working on the car and working the garage and things like that. But I am sure Barney (Visser, team owner) will be there and bring some people for the race. I would say that there won’t be more than normal. I think it will be our usual number of people?”
How will speeding penalties can affect Sunday’s race and if you feel they will affect Sunday’s race?
“I think speeding penalties can affect every race. It’s something that everyone really works hard on to no get those penalties. You have to be fast on pit road. You have to push the limits because there is time to be gained and lost, and ultimately it’s easier to pass on pit road than on the racetrack. I assume it won’t be any different than normal. I don’t think anything has changed there. I think pit stops will still be the biggest topic of conversation as far as what happens on pit road with the new system and the way everybody – I mean there were some awful pit stops last week and our team was one of them. I think that’s going to be one of the bigger stories instead of speeding penalties.”
What do you think about NASCAR sharing data amongst teams and competitors more freely?
“Well I definitely don’t like to see it. I don’t think it’s really a good idea to be letting all of the other teams see driver’s data from different teams. I certainly don’t want other teams looking at what I am doing. I’ve worked for 13 years to work on my style and figure out different racetracks. And feel like the way I drive the car and the data that is produced by that is mine. It’s not for everyone to see. It’s my style, it’s the way I drive, it’s stuff I’ve worked on over the years. And the fact that rookies will be able to see that stuff I don’t think is fair because it didn’t come like that for me. I had to figure out how to drive each track and why they were different and how to adapt my style to each racetrack. So I feel like it’s intellectual property and I know a lot of the guys agree with that. We’ll just have to see what comes out of this and what it looks like. At this point in time, it’s pretty much useless to look at from a standpoint that it’s just not that accurate. So I am hoping it stays that way and we’ve talked to NASCAR and do as we much as we can to help them understand. And that’s because I don’t think we want everybody in the garage driving exactly the same way. It’s already the cars are so close together. There is a lot of style involved in making your car go around the track better than everyone else’s and you certainly don’t want to share that.”
Why is it not that accurate right now?
“I can’t answer that to be honest. I am not sure why it’s not very accurate right now. But again I hope it stays that way. I don’t know what that all entails. On whose end is it that it’s not really filtered down yet. It’s really hard to say at this point. I don’t know a whole lot about it other than I hate that its going down this direction.”