MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
How was practice today at Darlington? "So far today has gone fairly smooth. I already went out and got my Darlington stripe, so I got that out of the way. NAPA Toyota has been running pretty good. We've had good speed. Did all our qualifying stuff in the first session and ended up with a pretty good lap -- looking forward to qualifying this afternoon. Then we worked on race trim the rest of the afternoon and we're close. We need a little bit, but the guys have done a nice job on the car and I really enjoy this race track. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow night. This is one of the places where I feel like I've let a couple chances at winning kind of slip away in the past. Looking forward to tomorrow night and hopefully running up front all night and have a shot at winning this thing."
Can you explain when the success for MWR started? "It did (start last year). At the end of last year, towards the middle part of the year -- I've told this story a lot this year, but we made a lot of changes with the way we were building our cars and a lot of personnel changes and things. I think for our team, Chad Johnston (crew chief) and myself still getting to know each other and getting on the same page. A lot of that was a big part of the turnaround for the end of last year too. Just across the board, Michael Waltrip Racing as a whole -- all three teams -- we've got better equipment, smarter people, we understand our cars better. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) provides us with really good engines and they've gotten better too. The whole package has been better. That's all you can really say about it."
Are you having more fun this year? "It's always a lot more fun coming to the race track when you're running good and you're fast and you know you have a shot at winning. There's times last year when it was pretty frustrating and it seemed like we were just banging our head against the wall. Michael (Waltrip, team owner) and Rob (Kaufmann, team owner) have done a nice job of doing the right things and moving people around and getting some new people and making good decisions for the leadership of our team and it's paid dividends for us."
How has the pavement at Darlington aged? "It's definitely aged. It's definitely a little bit slower. It feels a little slicker. It's definitely lighter color, which tells you it's wearing, but the tires still don't fall off really fast like they used to. They really don't wear out fast like they used to. I'm not really sure what to say. I really don't think it's going to be a whole lot different from what we've seen the past two or three years here -- just my honest opinion. I think the races have been good here, but it's so fast and so narrow that it's difficult to pass. It's a great race track and it's a lot of fun to drive on."
What do you think your crew's chances are at the Pit Crew Challenge and how have they done this season? "The pit crew has done a really nice job this year. They've been very fast, but most importantly they've been consistent and they haven't made mistakes and beat themselves. That's been something that we've really had on our side this year. Anytime I come in green flag or yellow flag conditions, I can count on those guys to maybe not beat a few cars out, but at least hold our own and no mistakes. That's the most important thing. The Pit Crew Challenge is quite different than what they do week in and week out as far as how they do that stop to go fast and to be really fast. I don't really have any idea what kind of chance they have, but I can tell you that I will be there supporting them 100 percent and hopefully they will have fun -- that's the main thing."
Will you pit for tires with 10 or 15 laps to go in the race? "I honestly don't think anyone knows yet. I think it's one of those questions you answer during the race at some point. You have to look and see how much the tires fall off, how much the speeds fall off. It's going to be a lot cooler tomorrow night than what we practiced in today. The conditions are going to be so much different, it's hard to say. Obviously, people will be thinking back to last year. If it comes down to that, you're going to have guys stay out and you just need to hope you're in front of those guys if you do it too."
What do you like about Darlington? "It's just really challenging. The speeds are very high. The track is really narrow. You have to run against the wall here. Most places you go, you don't get as close to the walls on the straightaways as you do here in the middle of the corner. It's just fun. It's challenging. You have to really be on your game. You have to really stay focused all night and I just enjoy it. It's just a fun track for me."
Is your mom going to be here this weekend? "I don't think she's coming this week. She came last year and enjoyed it. I think her and dad are going to stay home this weekend."