Martin Truex Jr, No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet SS, met with members of the media at Daytona International Superspeedway.
HOW IS YOUR OUTLOOK WITH YOUR NEW RACE TEAM? TALK ABOUT THE NEW CHAMPIONSHIP FORMAT; YOU COME OUT OF DAYTONA WITH A WIN, YOU’RE LOOKING PRETTY GOOD. TALK ABOUT THAT, TOO: “First of all, I’m glad to be in Daytona. I’m ready to kick off a new season obviously. I think going to a new team is always something that at first you’re nervous about, but then as you start to know the team and do some testing, you know go through all the things getting prepared for the new season it starts to become really exciting.
“With all the rule changes, not only with the car but with the Chase, I think it’s a good year to be with a different team. If you ever had to pick a time to switch teams, you would want to do it when there was some big rules changes. So, you kind of start off on an even playing field with everyone. We’re going to have to learn a lot of things about this race car with the new setups with the ride height changes and things. It really changes a lot about the cars, about how they’re setup, how they feel to drive. It’s going to change a lot about the things we need to do to them to make them fast. Definitely a good time to be starting with a new group and looking forward to getting the ball rolling and seeing where we stand.
ZERO FOR TWO FOR SCHEDULED IN-PERSON MEDIA APPEARANCES THIS YEAR. TELL US THE STORY OF GETTING DOWN HERE. WHAT HAPPENED? “We were supposed to leave at 10:45. Obviously, that didn’t happen. We ended up taking off, um. We got to the airport about 2:15, 2:30, hoping to take off at 2:30, ended up taking off close to 5 o’clock. It took me an hour and 15 minutes to get from my house to the airport in my truck, which is like a big jacked up Chevy with 38’s on it. It was pretty fun in the snow nonetheless but hour and 15 minutes probably to get to the airport which is normally 16 minutes away from the house through the snow. It was pretty nasty.
It was a lot of fun. Once we got to the airport, the runway was nowhere near as ready as we thought it would be. Ryan (Newman) was out there in his truck doing laps up and down trying to break up the slush and help the plow trucks. He had unstuck the plow truck once because the guy had went off the end of the runway and got stuck in the grass, so he had to pull him out. It was an interesting day to say the least, and we had a good time. Much rather would have been here talking to all you all, but we did end up getting here and got most of our things done yesterday and last night so it ended up working out. But definitely an interesting day to say the least.”
IT WAS YOUR PLANE? “Yes, sir.”
THREE CHANGES FOR YOU – SPONSOR, CAR MAKE AND ALL THE CHANGES THAT NASCAR PUT DOWN. WHICH HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING OVER THE WINTER? “I don’t think there has been one that really stood out. I think that’s a lot of changes at once. There are just a lot of things to get accustomed to. As far as going to a new team, it’s a lot of the little things. You know – how do you like your seat? How do you like your shifter? How do you like your brake pedal to feel? Master cylinder choice? What kind of steering box do you like at certain tracks? There are so many little things that you take for granted when you are with the same team for four or five years. You go through those things the first year and you kind of forget all about them.
You forget that other teams do things differently, other drivers like things a little bit different. Going through the testing, going through all those little things about the car that I like a certain way has probably been the biggest challenge or the thing that has taken kind of the most time to kind get through and figure out. I’m sure there’s going to be other things that come up along the way that we’re going to have to figure out together. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge is just changing teams and they do things kind of a different way, and you have to kind of say ‘ok, I kind of like this way here and there.’
That takes a little bit of time to figure it all out. I feel like we have made some great headway on that, but again until you start racing a lot of those things don’t come up in the forefront as much as you’d like them to. So, we’ll learn as we go. Testing has gone really well with the team. Communication has been great so far. I really enjoy working with Todd and Cole, the engineer there. They’re some sharp guys. They’ve got some really neat stuff they are working on. I’m excited to drive their cars and you know, hopefully, I can do a great job for them.”
YOU MENTIONED YOU WANT TO SEE HOW YOU MEASURE UP AGAINST OTHER TEAMS. HOW MANY RACES DOES IT TAKE BEFORE YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE AT GIVEN THE DIFFERENCE IN TRACKS WE HAVE COMING UP IN THE FIRST FOUR OR FIVE RACES? “I’d say not too long. I think by California you really get a feel for where you stand. You go to Vegas, which is a mile and a half, but it’s very bumpy. It’s a little bit different. It’s kind of got the newer asphalt. Then you go to California which is that old, wore out type asphalt. Really slick race track, need a lot of downforce and things.
Of course, we go to Bristol in there – a short track, high banks. And a superspeedway here at Daytona. So there’s a lot of, a good mix of tracks. Phoenix, can’t forget that one, obviously that will be a good place to know where you’re going to stand at the short tracks – Loudon and Richmond and places like that. I think pretty early in the season you’ll kind of know the things that you’re going to need to work on – the tracks maybe you are strong at, the tracks that maybe you need to work on a little bit harder. It doesn’t take long.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK SOME OF THE DIFFERENCES WILL BE THIS YEAR WITH YOU BEING JUST THE ONE CAR AND WILL THAT MAKE IT A LITTLE MORE CHALLENGING GETTING FEEDBACK AND NOT GETTING THAT FROM TEAMMATES AND DO YOU HAVE ADDED MOTIVATION KNOWING THAT THEY WERE ABLE TO HAVE SUCCESS LAST YEAR WITH A GOOD DRIVER? “Well, it definitely makes you feel better knowing that they have been able to put up some great results and that they have had some fast race cars. Obviously that is part of why I went there. I wasn’t going to go there if I didn’t think that we could win races - that is not what I am here for. So I definitely think that the team is capable and I really feel good about that obviously and just really looking forward to getting the season started.
The off seasons are always tough. You are always wondering how it’s going to happen and how it’s going to go. You really just want to get in there and race. Especially when you start changing teams, you start talking to them, and you sign a deal. Last year we pretty much signed the deal in Texas and there is a lot of time in between Texas and the Daytona 500 if you think about it. So it’s really kind of a tough time and you really just want to get in there with your new team, and get to work and start racing together. But obviously you have to wait.
“It’s been good and I don’t think that there is going to be one thing that stands out about it being challenging. I think the relationship with RCR…they really have evolved with that and I am obviously pretty good friends with some guys over there. Ryan Newman is one of my best friends and I think that will be a big deal to be able to work with him and we are both looking forward to that. It’s obviously a single car team but they have the RCR resource and that teammate mentality to where if we are off or we are struggling with that, we can go to them for help.
It’s the same thing on our side where if we are doing something well, and they are struggling, then they can come to us. So it’s got the benefits of a single car team where they can move fast and make changes quick, build their own parts and not have to wait to get them finished to put on the car. But at the same time if we get out in left field, then we have that catch fence to help us with RCR. So that is the great thing and I think there are benefits to being that single car deal and we will just have to see how it goes. It is going to be different for me because I have not been in a situation like this before, so it’s going to be interesting and it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a new challenge and I always look forward to those.”
DO YOU THINK BEING RESILIENT IS WHAT HELPS GUYS LIKE YOU MAKE IT TO THIS LEVEL? “Racing is a tough sport and there is going to be a lot of ups and downs and most likely a lot more downs than ups. This is a tough business and you are talking about racing against 42 guys every weekend and you don’t win fifty percent of the time. You know, if you win one percent of the time at this level, it’s pretty damn good. It’s a difficult sport and it takes its toll on your mentality. You have to be strong-willed, know what you stand for and know why you are doing what you are doing.
“Certainly last year was tough for me but I feel like we moved on from it pretty quick and things are still going pretty good for me. I am obviously very appreciative of this opportunity and very fortunate that I was able to land in a great position that I am in right now with how things went and how late in the season they were. So, honestly I am blessed to be here and looking forward to the opportunity. I am going to do my best to make the most of it like I always do.”
HAS THIS OFFSEASON FELT FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT AND DO YOU FEEL PLUGGED IN AND READY TO GO AT THIS POINT? “I feel really good about it, yeah. Definitely refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to go. You know I think their approach was a little different and they didn’t feel like this was one of the places where they wanted to spend the time and effort testing. They felt like their time was spent better getting things ready at the shop to go test places like Nashville – which we have already been to. I think part of it is that (crew chief Todd) Berrier is a little bit superstitious and that the year that they didn’t test here, they won the 500.
So maybe that is part of the reason as well. He hasn’t really said that, but that is kind of what I got from talking to him. So we will just see how it goes. But yeah, it’s been a great offseason. There has been a lot of work behind the scenes obviously in getting all the stuff ready and I have been to Denver quite a few times and all that has gone well. So it’s not been the typical offseason, but it’s been a busy one for sure.”
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE NEW CHANGES TO THE CHASE AND IF IT WAS IMPLEMENTED LAST YEAR, YOU WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO THE DRAMA THAT YOU WENT THROUGH AND THAT YOU MIGHT STILL BE WITH THAT TEAM AND YOUR SPONSOR ON THAT CAR? “That crossed my mind, yeah. Obviously none of that would have ever happened. But that is not what the rules were last year, so there is nothing I could do about that. You can’t look back at things that happened and say, ‘well, if the rules were different, it would have gone this way’. Because the rules are what they were and it not even worth looking back on to be honest with you.
It’s one of those things you just want to forget about and move forward. And I am excited about the new changes and I think it’s a great thing and obviously in what we have seen in football where it’s a more exciting playoff system – I think it’s going to be more like that. I think the eliminations are great and it’s going give everybody a chance to race for a championship. I think we are capable of getting in that top-16 and hopefully by winning a few races because that is the plan. So yeah, it’s going to be good and I am looking forward to it. It’s going to be exciting for everyone to watch, definitely going to be different for us as drivers, and there is going to be some good stuff in there.”