Daytona 500 media day visit: Truex, Jr. and Labonte

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Toyota Motorsports press release

MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing

Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

What would winning the Daytona 500 mean to you? "I would just want to take the trophy home. I don't care about the rest. I'd put it where I sit all the time and see it the most. It would be a huge deal, obviously. It's the Daytona 500, it's our Super Bowl -- the race we all want to win. Since we're here now, this is the first thing on our minds, is trying to win here. It would be great. I don't even know what I'd do. I'd probably go crazy."

Do you think winning the Daytona 500 would change your life? "You look at the guys that have won it, to be on that list -- I think it changes, it's not going to change the direction of your life I don't think. I've been around a while, it's not like I'm going to win the Daytona 500 and all of a sudden go and do something else. I think not a lot is going to change for me, but to be able to be on that list with (Dale) Earnhardt and all the guys that have won it would be awesome."

Can you picture in your mind winning the Daytona 500? "I have. Confetti, flashes, tears -- everything. I mean, it would be pretty cool."

What changed after you earned your first career NSCS victory? "To be honest, the confidence thing is probably the biggest thing. From there on, every week you go out and you say, 'I know I can do this.' You don't say, 'I think I can do this.' There's a difference, there's a big difference. Obviously it's been a while since that win, but I still feel like every time I go on the race track that I can win just like I did that day. I can win and lead the most laps and dominate the race. There's a lot of things you have to do properly to be able to do that, but the confidence is the biggest thing. Just have that in the back of your mind all the time and never have that question. Even though it gets harder sometimes to keep that train of thought because it has been a while, you never lose it. I'm going to win races all my life once I won that first Cup race. That was the first time I thought, 'Okay, now I've gotten this figured out.' Before that, you were just out racing, having fun and just doing what you could with what you had whether it was a good car or a bad car or you build it yourself. It's something you work hard on. Once you win in Cup, there's no feeling like it. It's like you're on top of the world."

Is it hard to keep perspective in this sport with the highs and the lows you may experience? "No, it's not hard to keep perspective for me. I know who I am, I'm happy with who I am and winning a race doesn't change me. Obviously it's a big accomplishment. It's something I put a lot of effort into, to work hard and trying to win, be a winner and be the best I can be. But, if I win again next Sunday, I'm not going to be any different on Monday. Why would I be?"

What is the most significant change NASCAR has seen over the last 10 years? "The biggest change that we've had since I've been around is the COT (Car of Tomorrow). The car is so much different than what we raced in the past, what I raced coming up. The boxes we have to work in is so small now compared to what it used to be. That's what makes it challenging. You have 43 of the best teams in the world racing and figuring out how to make cars go faster and they only have this much room to work in. So, they have to be very, very creative and really push the envelope and all those things. It used to be if your car wasn't good enough you start cutting on the body, moving things around. Now you can't do that, you have to go somewhere else. It's a lot more technical. Everything on the race car is a lot more precise, a lot more engineering involved. All these millions of tiny changes all need to go together and make the Rubik's cube all go together so you have a shot at getting the best car out there."

Are you excited about your new teammates? "It feels good. We're excited. It's a good bunch of drivers, obviously. I've enjoyed working with Mark (Martin) and Clint (Bowyer). I've been Mark's teammate before at DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.), so that's nothing new. He's a fun guy to work with. Clint has been a lot of fun to work with in the off-season getting to know him a little bit better. We raced head-to-head for a (NNS) championship in '05 so, we know each other quite well -- he's a good guy, fun to be around and loves racing, obviously. It's cool to have guys like that, that are all in and looking to run up front each week and won't settle for anything less. It's nice to have those guys on my side as teammates. It's going to be fun. Hopefully all the stuff that we've done at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) with the season we had last year towards the end we ran really well, I think we can keep that going and work together."

What will the morning of the Daytona 500 be like for you? "Busy. There's no time. We have so much going on, so much to do that honestly it's probably a good thing. Everything else is a bunch of noise until you get in the race car. That's when you turn the switch and you get in the zone. It doesn't take any planning. Once you get the helmet on in the car, everything is just there. You know what you've done all week in practice, you know what your goals are. You know the strengths in your car, the weaknesses of your car and normally you have a game plan Saturday night with your teammates and your team and all the things you're trying to do to win the Daytona 500. Once you put the helmet on, all that stuff just reappears in your mind and you're ready to go."

What are your expectations for the season? "Expectations are to win a race, at least one. I think we can win more. We've been in a position to win five or six the last two years and given it away. We have to be smart. I think making the Chase. Without making the Chase and winning, this year wouldn't be an accomplishing year for us."

Do you think you can accomplish your goals this year? "I really do. I know everyone says this every year, we all do. But I feel good about my team. We're all back together. My crew chief Chad (Johnston) he had about three-quarters of last year before the suspension. That was his first time ever being a crew chief, but I think he's really grown a lot and learned a lot. I think as a team, we're better prepared than any team I've ever been a part of. Not only from our team standpoint -- having cars prepared, good nose. Races that we run really well at, at the end of the season, we can use as motivation. The way we've done things at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) with TRD (Toyota Racing Development) helping and Toyota and all those things that we've done with the engineering, building the race cars better than we did last year. All those things just make me feel really confident in my team and my cars and my equipment and the people behind me. I feel really, really good about this year."

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BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Kroger Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing

Bobby Labonte, JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota
Bobby Labonte, JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

How have things been progressing at the race shop? "Those guys have done a lot of work in the off-season. I think September 15 -- there wasn't anything in the race shop. They built jigs, they built cars, they built rooms -- from shock rooms to electrical rooms to an engineering office. A lot of work has happened that wasn't even included in building race cars. That being said, I think they bought some cars from MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) and Todd's (Berrier, crew chief) made some -- what he's used to as improvements as far as what he's accustomed to. Meaning it is what he's been used to for all these years. They did a lot of work on that and basically just putting all the right people in the right places. The pit crew guys have been working real hard. I saw them yesterday working out when I got there. I got there just in time to see them get done. I hated that I couldn't join in, but oh well. We get down to the race track and the finish or the result and how you run is the barometer, but you never know. Daytona is kind of its own thing and you get to Phoenix and Vegas and Fontana and Bristol and Martinsville -- we'll have a better feeling and understand more of what we're up against -- our weaknesses and our strengths."

What is your opinion about social media? "I think it's great and I know that we're all involved in it -- in one aspect or another. Whether we do the tweeting or get tweeted upon or whatever. The thing about it is that it can be a full time job if you make it. For me, I've got time to do it every now and then, but I don't have time to do it 24 hours a day because I have other things I have to do. It's hard sometimes to manage yourself -- just like anything else. To not overdue it as well as be a part of it and do the right thing, but do those other 10 things you need to do too."

What are your expectations for the season? "We want to win, but we also know that for us -- we've got a long way to go. We started off a few months ago with nothing and worked real hard to get here. Our expectations are always going to be high no matter what, but at the same time the goal for our race team is to build it as we go and to hopefully at this time next year have two cars down here and not just one. There's ambition, there's goals, there's a vision for that to happen. We have to go out week in and week out to be consistent and get better. If you have a problem, a win will fix anything. We just have to make sure that if we don't have the best day that we don't create more havoc for the day. I think with Todd (Berrier, crew chief) and everybody there -- the expectation is going to be high. There's no doubt about that, but in reality we know that we're behind the eight ball to start the season off. That doesn't mean that we can't win. It just means that it will be more difficult."

How much would it mean to win the Daytona 500? "It means a lot. I've been fortunate enough to win several races -- 21 to be exact. I've won Darlington, Charlotte, the Brickyard and those are all big events. This one here has slipped by a few times. If you had a crystal ball and the vase and the genie came out and said, 'You're only going to win one more race in your career, what's it going to be?' This would be the one you want to win. You hope the genie doesn't tell you that, but that would be the one you want to win. I think this would be huge in my career and what I've done to make this happen."

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags labonte, toyota, truex