Toyota Racing – Martin Truex Jr.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Darlington Raceway – Sept. 1, 2017
Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to the media at Darlington Raceway:
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats 40th Anniversary Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
What would being the regular season champion mean to you?
“It would be huge for us. I mean, especially I think huge for our team, huge for me as a driver – we’ve never been close to this before, so to be able to compete at the highest level for 28 races or whatever it is and be atop the heap would be a huge accomplishment for all of us, so hopefully we can get it wrapped up this weekend and, yeah, I mean the bonus points are awesome, but just I think it’s a big deal for our team to be able to accomplish that for the first time in all of our careers.”
Will the regular season champion be the favorite in the playoffs?
“I don’t think you can pick favorites any more with the rounds and the stages and just, you know, we’ve seen last year you couldn’t pick a favorite, so I think it’s kind of the same way now. You just never know what can happen with three race eliminations and, you know, I think our team is ready for it. We’ve shown all year long that we are, but you never know what can happen – this is racing and best out of three a few times and you never know how it could go.”
How has the support for Sherry Pollex’s cause been this week?
“Yeah, for our foundation in general, it’s been amazing and 28 steering wheels out there this month and here at Darlington, so can’t thank everybody enough for their support. I know everybody that’s met Sherry (Pollex, girlfriend) in the garage and everybody that knows her, she’s a big part of the reason why everybody is willing to do it. They know what kind of person she is and that she would do it for them as well. It just so happens my name is on our foundation and I think it makes this special for me as well, but I know in my heart it’s for her and that’s a really cool thing for me.”
What makes this track so difficult?
“You know, it’s just there’s so many factors. Darlington has always been known as ‘Too Tough To Tame,’ ‘The Lady in Black’ – it’s got those nicknames because it’s difficult and then as you go throughout the years, for us – especially my generation – the cars each year seemed to be different, the track every year seems to get different, we keep going faster around here and the track’s not getting any wider and so the groove just gets narrower. I think the room for error shrinks each and every time we come back here and, yeah, it’s just a challenging place. It’s unique and it’s one of my favorite tracks for all those reasons.”
Did your team have confidence off the truck today because of your performance here last year and your season to date?
“Confidence – for sure we’ve had confidence all year, but you have to be careful. Especially at a place like Darlington, it can get you in trouble. We come to every week open minded and knowing that it’s going to be a challenge. No matter how good you were last week, it’s no guarantee – you’ve got to go work hard and you’ve got to try to show up prepared the best you can, but there’s plenty of times this year when we’ve come in with confidence and gotten knocked back down to Earth quite quickly at start of practice and had to work pretty hard throughout the weekend, so it’s a huge challenge each and every week with these cars and all these teams out here are so good. You consistently have to find more speed and better setups and figure things out as a driver, so, yeah, confident, but at the same time knowing it’s not going to be easy.”
Do you stay at a consistent level all year or turn anything up extra for the playoffs?
“I think it’s really hard to change. I think if you try to do something different than you did the first 24 weeks, it’s probably not the best plan and I think you have to play to your strengths and know what your weaknesses are. Certainly, I think we – that’s kind of how we race. It worked for us 2015. It didn’t last year. I don’t know if there’s a certain strategy that certain guys employee, but I think for us, we’ll just try to bring our best each week. At the places we know we’re good, we’ll try to take advantage of those and at the places where they’re maybe not our best race tracks, we’ll try to get better than we were last time around.”
Will you continue to try to go after playoff points in the first round or will you take it conservatively?
“Yeah, I mean I don’t think we – I really don’t think we’ve taken many chances this year to get bonus points, you know, so I think for us it really won’t be a whole big change, you know? We’ll just go out and race and you obviously want to get the best finish at the end of the day and be as close to the front as you can consistently and that’s really what we’ve done all year. I can only think of one time where we really said, ‘Eh, let’s just stay out here to try to get some bonus points,’ and that was at Martinsville, because it wasn’t one of our better race tracks and felt like we could still finish in the top-10 and we did. Yeah, I don’t think we change a whole lot – just go about our business and hopefully bad luck doesn’t strike this year like it did last.”
What would it mean to you and your family if both you and your brother are racing in NASCAR playoffs this year?
“It’d be awesome. I mean, especially for him (Ryan Truex, brother) it would be huge. I mean, he’s been just scratching and clawing for so many years now just to get a full-time gig and to land with Hattori (Racing Enterprises) last year and run partial schedule and then continue to build the team up and throughout this season they started off slow and they’ve been continually getting better and now in a chance for a playoff spot, so I’m just – I’m really proud of him and his perseverance over the years to try to stay relative and just continue to work had to try to get that shot and, now that he has it, kind of taking advantage of it and I feel like it’s been a good home for him. Hopefully, we can both get in it and have a little bit of good luck along the way and be going to Homestead with a lot to look forward to.”
How important was your pit crew in last year’s win here?
“Well, they definitely were a huge part of the win last year. I mean, they got us the lead, so that’s – you always remember saying and giving them a, ‘Hell yeah,’ on the radio after the race because I knew how much that helped win the race and they’ve just done an awesome job. Last year, as a team, they struggled a bit throughout the first half of the year, continued to work on it, same group of guys together this year and they’ve been just unbelievable throughout the season, so it shows what just reps do and guys working together and believing in each other and continue to work hard together, what it means, and they’ve done an awesome job, so hopefully we can keep it up.”
Can you talk about the Bass Pro Shops donation by Johnny Morris to relief efforts in Texas?
“It’s just Johnny (Morris, owner and CEO of Bass Pro Shops). I mean, that’s what he does. He’s such a great person and whether its wildlife conservation or a hurricane in Texas or somebody that we’ve never even heard about or a story we’ve never heard about somebody needing help, he does so much to help people, so much to help outdoors and, like I said, conservation of wildlife and taking care of our country and our woods and our water and there’s countless things he does to give back to various things. So I’m really proud to be a friend of his and know him and get to go hunt and fish with him here and there once in a while and love to see him on our race as well. He does a lot for us.”
How different is this surface and double-file restarts compared to old races here?
“It’s a lot different. I mean, everywhere we go now is a lot different with double-file restarts. It makes winning – not just racing harder – but it makes winning a lot harder than it was when it was single-file just because of the unknowns of the double-file restarts and getting the right lane and getting the right push and there’s so many unknowns that come into those and then here throughout the race especially if you’re not on the front row it’s really challenging to just try to get through (Turns) 1 and 2 and get off Turn 2 double-file is challenging, so just trying to stay off of people really off of (Turn) 2 is tough enough. It’s kind of what you try to do and get single file down the back.”
Do you have to be more forceful with double-file restarts here?
“You have to be a jerk everywhere. Double-file – you try to give and take, but most guys just take and it depends on the situation you’re in as well, you know? If you have a spot where you need two or three inches to clear a guy, it’s kind of a gentleman’s agreement on a restart that most people give you that two or three inches or six inches, but if it’s more than that you’re going to stick it in there and you’re going to stay on the gas and hopefully not wreck. Yeah, I mean, you know who you’re racing with and some guys have certain tendencies and you know there’s certain guys where you can stick it out there and certain guys you probably shouldn’t.”
Are you in favor of the cone rule?
“Yes, I think it would be a great rule. I go back to Michigan-1 and we had the car to beat by quite – I mean, we were so fast. We passed the leader three or four different times and, you know, we got off on pit sequence and we were like fourth or fifth and every single restart the last four or five restarts of the race I think we got the bottom lane and every time we’d lose two or three spots and you’re – it absolutely takes you out of the shot to win, you know? It complete took our chance away to win there, so having the cone rule and picking the outside we might have had five wins right now and that happened at a few race tracks this year, so I think it’s a good thing. I think the drivers are all in favor of it because you can kind of control your destiny just a little bit more, so typically when we can do that the fans and NASCAR kind of vote the other way, so we’ll see how it goes, but I would definitely be in favor of it.”
Do you think the cone rule is a possibility?
“I know they’re considering it because all the drivers keep talking about it and I’m not in the Drivers Council, so I just hear bits and pieces and get the news, but I hear they’re talking about it, so just have to wait and see.”
Is Furniture Row Racing strong with two teams?
“That’s a tough question, you know? I mean on one hand, we are two teams this year for the first time ever and we’re having our best season. This winter, I was a little nervous because I’m like, ‘Alright, we’re going to two cars. We’ve got a lot of new people here. We’ve got a lot going on. Is it going to take away from our team,’ and it hasn’t, so I don’t really know. I guess if we’re one car again next year then I’ll know the answer to that question then. I really don’t know. I don’t have a feel for it. I think for us our second year together with Toyota and all that has really helped us elevate our program and be more consistent because there’s a lot less questions marks for us, you know? A lot more notes to go off and other things, but if we go to one car I don’t know honestly how it will affect us or if will. We’ll just have to wait and see. Too early to tell. Yeah, too early to tell. There’s been so much change this year, it’s hard to say what it will be like if we go back the way it was last year. Yeah, I really don’t know how to answer that.”
Have you been impressed by Erik Jones recently?
“Yeah, for sure. I mean, throughout the season really, you know? Their whole team is coming together – Erik (Jones) and Chris (Gayle), their crew chief, and their engineers. Just everybody in general getting confidence and just working together. It takes a little time – this series at this level. You figure you have a lot of weekends with two hours of practice to get ready for a race and, you know, until you go back to tracks for the second time, it’s really hard to learn where you messed up last time and where you can get better – those type of things – so that certainly helped. I think their pit crew has continued to get better. As I talked about mind last year, it kind of took those guys a while to get things straight and to get consistent and so I think it’s all those things just meshing together with time. They keep getting better and certainly they’re getting more confidence and more experience racing with this crowd of guys that he’s been around and certainly Bristol he was really impressive, which is probably one of his best race tracks, but it was still pretty damn impressive, so hopefully I can learn a few things from what he did there for next time.”
How do you guys motivate each other on your team?
“Yeah, I mean, we’re all competitive. I mean, we all want to win and that’s why were in the position that we’re in. You know, my guys are really good and I feel bad when I let them down. I probably feel worse when I let then down than when they let me down or something happens where they think they messed up, so we all take the blame and we hold each other accountable I think and that shows with our success I guess.”
Has you approach to stage racing changed?
“It has not changed. It’s absolutely stayed the same. We try to lead every single lap. We try to win every race. We try to win every stage. That’s – I think the whole field pretty much does, but when you feel like in contention for a lot of those things week in and week out, it’s easier to think that way I guess, but, you know, it’s been a good season. We’ve been up front a lot and the more you win – the more things you win – the more greedy you get and the more you want, so just – it’s just the way it was. Winning is fun. Everybody wants to do it. That’s why we’re all here. Just trying to keep riding the wave of momentum.”