Toyota Racing – Martin Truex Jr.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Kentucky Speedway – July 13, 2018
Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to the media at Kentucky Speedway:
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Where are you on another contract extension with Furniture Row Racing and are you certain you’ll be back with the team?
“No. Am I – I don’t know. We’ve got some stuff to figure out for sure, but I don’t plan on anything different, so just give the team some time to figure things out and we’re all kind of trying to figure it out together, so hopefully we can make it happen.”
What is there to work out since everything appears to be going well outwardly?
“Yeah, you know, just sponsorship commitments and all the stuff that goes along with that. Figuring out how much money we have to spend. When do we get it? How much are we getting? And where can we spend it and how can we spend it? So just trying to figure out all the details honestly. There’s a lot of puzzle pieces to put together that we haven’t finished yet and honesty we haven’t really been in a big hurry to get it done, so in due time.”
How is the track reacting to the Tire Dragon?
“Yeah, yeah. I think it’s fine. I just – so far, there’s not been any second lane. No fault of the Tire Dragon, it’s just the way it is right now, so I would say that if they didn’t do the Tire Dragon, it might be worse. I’m not sure, you know? It might be a narrower groove. It’s hard to say, so, yeah, we’ll see what happens tonight with the Xfinity race and then go from there tomorrow, but, you know, I definitely don’t think the Tire Dragon could have hurt anything by any means.”
How close is your Camry for this weekend compared to last year’s entry?
“I feel like today went okay. Certainly not perfect by any means. We’ve got some things to look at tonight and try to figure out for tomorrow. You know, I’d say last year it seemed like everywhere we went, we just were spot on, you know? We just could hit it off the trailer and make small adjustments throughout practice. I think this year is just in general it’s been harder to kind of hit the balance the way I like it and the car’s been a little bit more inconsistent not only throughout the weekends, but from week to week at different tracks. We’ve kind of been chasing the setup and balance a lot more often, so today was okay I thought – nothing spectacular, but I felt like we had good speed when we had good balance. It just – we need to keep it around there more consistently.”
What kind of talent does Erik Jones have?
“Well, I think he’s obviously a great driver. He’s been working his way up through the ranks over the years and last year definitely had its ups and downs for him as a rookie, but that’s to be expected in Cup, so I feel like he’s definitely settled down this year, gotten more comfortable with his team, with the cars, with what we’re doing. He’s been a lot more consistent making less mistakes, so that’s part of the learning process. He’s definitely matured a lot. So now he knows what to expect and certainly getting that first win I think is such a big deal. I can’t even tell you how much confidence it brings and especially a guy like him at a high profile team in a car that’s been successful and, you know, the pressure that he feels, so being able to race with that win in his pocket I think till help a lot and we’ll see what he can do going forward.”
Have you discussed not taking tires at the end?
“I watched the whole Truck race, yeah, and that was interesting for sure to see – see how that transpired with the guy taking no tires and winning. Had it been a yellow flag stop, you never know how that’s going to turn out, so being that he pitted under green, he got the lead. It seemed like the guy that ran second was pretty tight that whole last run, so I don’t know. That’s – there’s a lot of variables there, but certainly interesting that we’re three years in on this track and the guy won on no tires. That’s crazy, but that’s the way it goes, so I don’t know. What was the other part of your question?”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing (continued)
Is day practice for a night race difficult to use for preparation?
“Practice in the day racing at night is always a challenge. Especially when you bring a new tire to a race track because you never know how it’s going to react, right? I mean, we have our notes from the past. We feel like we understand what the track does at night from the daytime and we set up accordingly. Doesn’t mean it’s always going to go that way, so you could definitely be caught off guard so to speak and maybe have the balance swing a different direction. The track’s another year older. It’s got some different things on it, you know? They paved a few strips on the track to cover a crack or I don’t know what it is, but, you know, strips that weren’t here last year, so there’s definitely some differences and the biggest thing is the tire, so we’ll just have to see. Hopefully we guessed right and that’s all you can do is go off your past notes.”
Can you talk about New Hampshire next week?
“Yeah, I always look forward to going up there. Loudon has been one of my home tracks over the years. I mean, I’ve been going up there so long, you know? So I have a ton of history there and I’ve won the Busch North races up there a few times. I’ve won the Xfinity race there and this Cup win has really been alluding me, so it would be a big one to be able to win there. We’ve been so close. We’ve led a ton of laps the past – I don’t know – three years or so and, man, we just haven’t been able to lead the last one, so hopefully this is the year, but definitely excited to go up there and look forward to seeing our friends up there in New England.”
Do you feel like you broke the Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski stranglehold on this track last year?
“Well, I thought – I thought we should have won it in ’16 and we had that deal happen on pit road with the 4 car (Kevin Harvick) and had to go to the back with the penalty and drove – just drove through the field and passed everybody and then it ended up being fuel mileage, so we didn’t win anyway. But had a shot at winning either way, so I think last year for us coming here was – we were looking for a little bit of redemption so to speak and with feeling like ’16 got away from us and then to be able to come here last year and get our first win at this track was huge, so we’ve been strong here the last couple of years and hopefully we can figure out how to race up front again all night tomorrow night and have a shot at winning at the end.”
Do more drivers have a chance here now?
“Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely a lot different race track than it was before the repave, you know? So for sure there was a few guys that seemed to really have the old surface figured out where we talked about coming here and how bumpy it was and just how crazy this track really was. It’s a totally different place now because of the banking added in (Turns) 1 and 2 and the pavement being a lot smoother. It’s a completely different challenge and a completely different race track because of that, so, yeah, I think it’s opened it up certainly to knew people figuring it out and I think obviously since they repaved it we’ve been one of the guys that’s been really fast here, so hats off to my team and everybody for, you know, all of us just putting our heads together and figuring out how to get around this place. It’s been fun.”
How hard is it to pass here and is that why qualifying is so important?
“Yeah, I mean, qualifying is important every week. You know, typically if your car is really fast and something happens in qualifying, it’s not detrimental. Certain race tracks as you mentioned can be harder than others. For instance, we qualified – we had our qualifying time disallowed at Chicagoland in the impound procedure deal and started in the back and drove start to the front and made quick work of it. Same thing I think it was Atlanta last year – maybe even this year –that we had to start in the back because we didn’t get to qualify – I think it was this year. Two race tracks with worn out surfaces, a lot of tire fall off, multiple lanes, you can make it happen pretty quick. A place like this where single groove, harder tires, they don’t fall off as much, it’s definitely tougher because of a lot of it is just because the tires harder and you lose – the more air you lose off your car, the car magnified the loss of grip is and then the fact – the big fact is that you just can’t find clean race track. You can’t run where there’s no cars because there’s – everybody wants the same lane, so certainly the challenge of running around the bottom of a track like this is tough. Like I said, a few years ago we were really strong. I was able to come through the field pretty good, so if your car is really strong, you can make it happen, but a place like this it’s a lot more difficult with no question.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing (continued)
Are you looking ahead to the Playoffs?
“Yeah, I think for us, it’s business as usual. Trying to – just trying to be as consistent as we can up front and for our team individually, I think we need to be leading more laps. We need to be winning more stages. I’d really like to have more bonus points going into the Playoffs than we have right now, so that’s the main focus for our team and a couple more wins along the way would be good, but just really just – you want to keep the momentum going. You want to have confidence when they Playoffs start. You want to have momentum. You want to be doing all the little things right, so for us we’ve had a really strong season and numbers-wise it’s been great. We just haven’t had that ability to lead as many laps as we did last year, which is obviously hard to match that, but definitely don’t feel like we’ve been the strongest car consistently. We’ve been one of them, but we could definitely get a little bit better, so just searching for that and trying to make sure when the Playoffs start we’ve on top of our game.”
Is it exciting to be back at a track where you won last year?
“Well, confidence in this sport is huge. It always has been and it’s hard to explain, but when you come off a win or you have momentum on your side, it just feels like things come natural. You race without that pressure and then you just – it seems like things come easier. It’s real hard when things are going wrong to get it turned and it feels like everything is against you, so it’s just – I don’t know – momentum is kind of underrated in this sport and it’s hard to figure out, but once you have it it’s a good thing, so I think for us confidence coming here is great. The last couple years obviously we’ve had strong runs and it’s always fun to go to places where you’re successful and you know you’re team kind of understands what you need to do there, so looking forward to like I said just trying to continue this success here at Kentucky and hopefully get that win tomorrow night. We need some more bonus points.”
How do you feel about Turn 3?
“Turn 3 is tough for sure. It seems like this year maybe a little bit easier with the new tires that they brought here, but it just – you know – it’s such a flat corner and since they changed (Turns) 1 and 2 and put more banking there, you’re carrying a lot more speed down the back straightaway and so you’re going into a really flat corner going too fast and the car just doesn’t want to work, so it’s a really loose corner and most of it’s because of the way Turn 2 is set up and it’s hard to get your car good in both ends of the race track, so it’s a huge challenge.”
Did your performance last year make everyone realize how important stage points are?
“I think it’s – it goes without saying that everybody knows you want as many as you can get. You know, in our case last year, we got a lot of points and won a lot of stages because we were fast and we were leading a lot of laps. Everybody was trying. Everybody’s still trying to win as many stages as they can. We’re doing the same things we did last year. We just haven’t won as many, so you know with that being said I think that it’s just the Playoffs with the format the way with the elimination races, it just scares everybody to death. I mean, I’ll be honest, you want as many Playoff points as you can just in case you have something bad happen, you know? In 2016, we blew up early in the race at Talladega and got knocked out of the second round when we felt like we were one of the strongest teams out there, so nobody is immune to a catastrophic failure and the possibility of being knocked out of the Playoffs and so that’s really what the stage points and the bonus points are all about. That being said, last year we didn’t have to use any of the ones we had, but it sure was fun to win ‘em. I was joking with somebody a few weeks ago I wish they carried over – the ones you don’t use, you just take to the next year. That would have been nice, but just had to throw them all away. That sucked. They’re gone. They just disappeared.”