Toyota Racing – Martin Truex Jr.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Auto Club Speedway – March 15, 2019
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to the media at Auto Club Speedway:
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What does it mean to be part of the Auto Club Speedway ‘Walk of Fame’?
“It was really cool. For me, thinking about all the people that are going to walk past it and the great names that are up there already from past winners. It’s really cool to be a part of for that. We all want to win at every single race track there is. To be the first time we won last year was really cool. It’s an awesome race track. I love coming here. There are a lot of great fans here as well. Excited to be here again and hopefully we can go back-to-back.”
How much of a mind game is the new qualifying format here when you’re just sitting on pit road?
“I don’t like it. It’s very annoying. You don’t have to worry about what other people are doing to try get to get a good lap in. You like to just worry about yourself and focus on what you need to do. It’s like sitting on the freeway here. When it’s not moving. Hopefully you’re in the right lane when it gets rolling. That’s kind of what it’s like I guess. We didn’t make the third round in Las Vegas. When they waited until 1:40, it’s like the last guy that gets that green for the second lap or whatever is going to be the fastest. It’s kind of crazy but we’ll see how it plays out today. Hopefully better than Las Vegas.”
How special would it be to win back-to-back here at Auto Club Speedway and use No. 19 after using No. 78 today?
“It would be awesome. We’re here to win. We want to win. The fans were yelling at me to put No. 78 on there and I thought that was fitting because it made sense. When I won the race, I was No. 78. I thought it made perfect sense. It was cool to be able to do that. Hopefully we’ll be able to get another one in for next year.”
Do you think Barney Visser would ever make a return to NASCAR and what is your relationship with him?
“We talk every week. He’s been watching. He’s been talking to us and telling us we’ve been doing a good job, and things like that. I think it’s probably a bit of a relief for him that he doesn’t have to worry about all of the things that come with being a team owner and he’s just able to enjoy it. I told him he needs to get to the track soon, we’d like to see him and get him around. As far as your question on whether he’ll be back, if you mean as a team owner? I have no idea. We haven’t talked about it. He hasn’t mentioned it. My best guess is no but I guess you can never rule out anything.”
Do you expect the racing at Martinsville next week to be like it was last fall?
“That’s tough to answer. I don’t know. I would say that it’s probably not going to be, there’s less of a chance that it will be like that. Just because it’s not a race to get into the final four. I would think it would be tame and normal like we’ve seen there in the past. That’s the best answer I can give you.”
Do you anticipate the tire wear to be different this weekend compared to this race last year?
“I don’t really know exactly what tire they came back with. Usually it’s a combination of things you ran, but you never ran all four. They kind of split up left and right for different cars and things like that. I don’t think we actually ran on this set of four tires. I really don’t know. I didn’t even ask. I just get in and drive and try to figure it out from there. No preconceived notions. We did one-lap runs today. Generally, this track is high in tire wear no matter what kind of tires they bring, they wear out and the pace is going to fall away on the longer runs and it’s going to be a big challenge. I look forward to that. Those are the type of tracks that put on the best racing in my opinion. I really enjoy that style. I am looking forward to seeing what they do tomorrow when we do some long-runs and we’ll go from there.”
Do people slow down early on in runs to help get tire wear back?
“I would say that some people might do it but if they do, let’s say it might be five percent. It’s not a lot. It’s just a little and it’s to the point where they won’t overdrive the car to make sure they don’t get too far sideways. Or if they’re a little bit tight, maybe they won’t push it. They might let it come to them. It’s not like you’re just running 50 or 60 percent. I am talking it’s 95 percent or 94. Maybe it’s 98 depending on the balance of where your car is. If it’s really good, you can go hard. It’s not going to hurt anything. It’s really when your balance is off or maybe it migrates throughout a run and you have to wait for it to come in. You don’t want to abuse it too much.”
Does it bother you that you haven’t won a short track race in the Cup Series?
“For me personally, it is a big hole. Mostly because of how well we’ve performed at those tracks. Especially the last couple of years. We’ve led at places like Richmond. I mean so many laps led and dominated races, and can’t find a way to finish it. We’ve been second at Bristol, third at Bristol. Led a bunch of laps there two years ago in the spring. Just not having one, it kind of does get to you a little bit knowing how good we’ve been at those places.”
How do you feel things are going with the transition to Joe Gibbs Racing this season?
“Honestly, I had high expectations. I feel like we’re meeting those. Which has been good. I feel like we have an awesome team. A great bunch of guys. They really gelled together quickly. Our results the last couple of weeks have shown we’re able run up front and run fast. I still feel like we’re just off a little bit of our potential. We’re still trying to figure things out mostly due to the new rules more than anything with the package and the cars, and all that stuff. We’ve been a little bit off on Friday’s. Today was another example of that. I feel like we catch up throughout the weekend and when Sunday rolls around we’re in good shape. We’ll see how it goes. I am definitely pleased with how things have went. Everyone has done a great job.”
Do you believe that ‘Jazzy’ (former engineer) could see the wind and work to make the car better in these conditions?
“All you have to do is look at the weather forecast and the flags. It’s not so much figuring out or being able to see the wind. It’s knowing how to change your car based on what the wind is doing. We’ve had good success in those situations. Today is a perfect example of that. The wind is blowing 30 mph down the back straightaway. The car drives and handles different in each end of the race track. If you can see that or get ahead of it and say we’re going to start practice with this wind. What do we need to do to the car to be right in both ends of the race track. It’s a huge deal. Definitely we’ve keyed on for a few years and Jazzy is one of the guys in charge of that and leading the way.”
Were you surprised to see Kevin Harvick wreck out so early in this race last season?
“I don’t know. I was ahead of him at the time. I hadn’t raced with him all day. I wasn’t really paying attention. When you get in these races, you’re so focused on what you’re doing. You don’t really worry about other guys whether they have a good day or bad day. Or who it is. I had no focus on him. If we were racing together, then yes, I would have. But I was ahead of him and he was behind me, and even though what the situation was. You focus on your own deal, your own thing and try to make the best day out of what you have going on. Certainly, for us here last year, it was really good for us. Getting the pole and leading the most laps. Winning both stages. It was a perfect weekend, really.”