MARTIN TRUEX JR., No.56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Are you looking forward to getting back on the race track at Daytona? "I am. It's always exciting to come down here for the 500. This is our biggest race of the year. Coming off the offseason we all get kind of stir crazy and miss racing, so it's always good to get back to the track, and to start off the year with the biggest race of the year is always really cool. I feel good about this year. I've got a lot of confidence going into this season. More so than I've had in the past few I would say. We really ended the season strong last year with our team. Found some things that worked for us and I think we're really going to be able to surprise some people this year."
Did you wish you could've kept the season going at the end of last year? "When Homestead was over, I wished we could've just lined them up and started again. The flat tire there was devastating after leading all of those laps and running the way we did. I felt like we had the car to beat. That was kind of the way that our whole second half of the year had gone. It was if we run really well we finish poorly and if we'd run mid-pack nothing bad would happen. We just couldn't overcome the crappy finishes and the crappy luck, and it was frustrating. I felt really good at the end of the season about how our team was working -- the chemistry and communication was very, very good. It was the best I had been a part of. That gave me a lot of confidence at the end of the season and going into the offseason, that we can come out of the box and put our NAPA Camry upfront each and every week at all of the different tracks that we go to."
What do you think will make a difference for your team this year? "I think the biggest thing to be honest is the changes that we made at the end of last year. We understand what we did. We didn't just change things in the offseason and we're optimistic about them. We have proof that they worked. I felt very comfortable. I had a lot of confidence in my team and the way we were doing things in the last few races, and it showed on the track with our speed. This offseason we didn't change the team around, we didn't change that. We were working on our cars, trying to get our engines better, we're trying to make sure we're better prepared so when the season starts we can come out swinging and get rid of some of the part failures that we had last year. For us, the confidence of being fast and the confidence that we can be competitive is already there. Those questions have been answered. I guess what I'm saying is there's a lot less questions than a normal offseason would be for me. A lot less changes, we've got a solid group behind me, our foundation is there and I have a lot of confidence in what we were doing when the season was over. I feel like working on those things throughout the winter to make them even better yet is going to be very good for me and for our team."
How do you overcome the questions and disappointments you've had in your career? "I'm a fighter, and obviously the last few years haven't gone the way I wanted them to go, but I continue to come out every day and give everything I have to the sport and to my team and to the cars I'm driving and put it all on the race track. I feel like I'm a better driver than the stats show. I feel like I should've won a lot more races than I have obviously. It just seems like I've always been followed around the past few years by this black cloud of bad luck and every time I have a shot to win I get a flat tire, something falls off my car, everybody else can make it on gas and I can't. It's always something. The biggest thing is I always fight. I always come to the track every weekend with a new attitude, I leave last week behind and I give my team all that I can give them and I think that's one of the things that makes me a good driver."
What do you think of the new track surface at Daytona? "It's very different than what we're used to at Daytona. I've never raced on Daytona when it wasn't slick and bumpy as hell and you had to handle good. Now, it's Talladega, but narrower. It's wide open all day. Where can you fit your car because you're not going to lift, nobody has to lift. It's not about handling, it's all about raw speed, how much horsepower do you have, is your car better than everybody else's, does it suck up better, can you actually use it and go faster than everybody else? It's a big advantage to have a fast car when you don't have to handle. The past few years I haven't had really fast cars down here, but I've handled them well especially last year. Our car wasn't very fast. We were actually off quite a bit all weekend until we started racing and next thing you know we were leading the Daytona 500. Heck, we were leading not the last green-white-checkered but the one before that. We were there and we had a shot to win it, and it's totally different now. The same things apply -- you have to be around at the end, you have to take care of your car all day -- it's 500 miles. If you're around at the end, you will have a shot at winning this race because you never know how it's going to end up. There's so much that can happen in two or three laps at a plate track like this when everybody can run like that. You've just got to be around at the end."
-source: toyota motorsports