Truex Jr. - Friday media visit

Bristol 500

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: Eric Gilbert

How do you feel entering this weekend’s race seventh in the NSCS standings? “It feels good to come in here in a decent position. There’s a lot of racing left to go. You never know what can happen here at Bristol. Excited about it -- looking forward to it. The team’s done an awesome job this year and we felt good coming into the season. Things have really went well for us -- as well as we expected. So far it’s been a fairly smooth start to the season and hopefully we can continue that here.”

Did you think winning in the Sprint Cup Series would be so difficult? “No, I didn’t think it would be as difficult. Again, I’ve been in position to win a lot more races than one and we just haven’t closed the deal. Obviously, the last few years have been pretty difficult. The first couple went pretty well and we fought for wins a lot. Then we went through two really crazy transition years. Then last year was a new deal for me. We had the speed last year. We had a chance at winning a few races, especially at the end of the season when we got our program going the right direction. It’s just been kind of difficult. It’s been hard for me because I’ve won championships and I’ve won races in everything I’ve ever run. To go three seasons or so without seeing victory lane again has been difficult. You have to keep working hard, focus on the things you know you can do better and try to be a team player -- all those things. It’s been hard, but I know the next win isn’t far -- it’s just around the corner. I felt like we had a shot at the Daytona 500 for sure -- of course a lot of guys did. At the end of the season last year we really turned a corner with our team. I think we showed that at Homestead when we led all the laps. I felt like we were going to go to victory lane there and we got a flat tire. It’s been just one of those deals where when we have our good days we have to capitalize. In the past, it seems like when all the bad stuff happens, it’s always on our good days and not on our bad days. Hopefully that stuff is behind us and we’ll be able to get there soon. I feel like we will. I feel like we’ve got the team to do it and we’re heading in that direction.”

Are you concerned a bad day could really hurt you in the point standings? “You’re always concerned and that was no different than in the past. Obviously, when it happens early in the season is when it really shows up. When we get 26 races in, everybody is going to have a bad race or two. It’s going to even out. I’ve had seasons where it started out that way. It happened to us last year -- the year I made the Chase it started out the same way and almost scared of falling out of the top-35 deal. It’s hard, but you have to just not look at the points. Look at how you’re running, look at how things are going for your team and think about where you want to be in 26 races. The picture is really going to change in the next two or three weeks. Two or three races into the season, if you have one or two bad ones, it’s going to look really bad. In the end, the good guys are going to be there and it’s just going to be like it always was I think.”

Is it important to be in the top-10 in points this early in the season? “I think it’s important, especially if you can stay here for five or six weeks. Build up some points, build up a cushion there. It seems like after about 10 races, the guys that are in the top-10 usually stay there. I feel like this year is going to be different to be honest. Like I said, I’ve talked about it all winter long about my team and the changes we made last year towards the end and the momentum we gained and the confidence that I have as a driver in my team each weekend when we come to the race track. The way the communication has been flowing has just been excellent for me. I feel good about it. Our cars have been fast, we ran well at Vegas, which is arguably my worst race track. It’s been a place where I’ve struggled in the past and we ran in the top-five all day two weekends ago. Had a shot at running second or third there, but we put four tires on thinking there would be a caution and we ran sixth. Phoenix we were running third and we had a problem on pit road and pretty much hurt our car pretty bad and we ran 14th. Our cars are good, everybody at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) is doing a good job with them. The main thing is the confidence that I have in my race team and what we’re doing and what they’re able to give me. I feel like we can go anywhere and win.”

Have you experienced any engine problems similar to what Joe Gibbs Racing is experiencing? “They’re constantly working on more power and we’re constantly asking. The good thing for us is that last year early in the season we had problems like (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) is having now. Pushing the envelope too much and having problems. I think they’re a little more conservative. The driver always wants more power. We always want the fastest engine in the garage, but when it blows up you’re cussing somebody. There’s a fine line there between having problems and being a little bit conservative. I think for us, we’re a little on the conservative side, but obviously it’s paid off for us. Our cars have been fast and I think we’re in the ballpark there. I’ve been happy with the reliability and I think for us right now, that’s our main concern.”

Was there a point last season when you and your race team ‘ clicked’? “I think towards the end of last year there was a lot of ‘ah-ha’ moments. There was a lot of instances where we really figured out what we had been doing wrong and understood it. There’s a difference between starting to run good and not knowing why and starting to run good and understanding why. I think we really kind of hit a crossroads there where we figured out exactly what we were doing wrong and we were able to change those things, but understand them. It’s easier to move forward and understand what you’re doing moving forward. Again, we just kind of swapped up -- inside the team, we just kind of moved around some responsibilities really is all we did and things really started to gel with me and the engineers and Pat (Tryson, crew chief). Right now I feel very confident in both of them and what they’re doing. Confidence is -- it comes when you run well, but you don’t have to finish well to have it. You can have good spots and the guys on your team being able to give you what you’re asking for -- that’s the main thing. Me having confidence in when I say, ‘I need something,’ and they say ‘Alright buddy.’ You’re out there just hanging on in a long run and saying, ‘I need this, I need this, I need this.’ They’re saying, ‘We’ll fix you up.’ We all hear that every week, how many times does it actually happen? It helps a lot when they’re delivering what you’re asking for. That goes a long way. We went to Phoenix and we unloaded and we were terrible -- absolutely terrible. In 30 minutes between practices they flipped a 180 with the car and we went out and it was great. We ran good all weekend. Things are going the way they need to go. Obviously, again it’s early in the season, but I have a lot of confidence in the team and what we were able to do at the end of last year to really figure out a lot of things that we were doing and should be able to help us this season.”

What will the next five races say about your team with the different style race tracks? “I think it’s a good stretch to see what you have. Obviously, we’ve been to a plate track -- we’ve been to Daytona, we’ve been to Phoenix, which is kind of a flat short track. With Vegas being a mile-and-a-half track, three completely different animals so we kind of got a good measure those first three weeks of where we’re at as a team. We need to work on those certain type race tracks. Bristol is a completely different animal, Martinsville completely different. I think for my team in our position, this weekend and Martinsville will be a big test for us. We had pretty good success here last year. We ran pretty decent, but didn’t get the finishes we wanted and hopefully that will change. Martinsville has been a tough place for me in the past. Again, had a few good runs there, but consistently have been off a little bit. Last year, we struggled there a bit. That will be a good test for us. I feel good about our mile-and-a-half program and our restrictor plate program. Again, we’ll learn more, but I feel good about where we’re at right now and I think we’ll have a good few weeks.”

Does having an off weekend allow you to look at where you need to improve in upcoming races? “Obviously, it gives you a little more time to plan things. A little more time to figure out -- finding problems is easy, but figuring out what you’ve done wrong and what you need to work on is easy, but figuring out how to fix them is the part that takes time. Surely, a week off helps. In our situation, we kind of had that momentum and we felt good about things. It almost feels like it’s been three weeks since we’ve raced. We were ready to go to the track the day after Vegas. For us, it wasn’t quite needed yet, but off weekends are always nice.”

What are the differences between the old Bristol surface and the new surface? “The biggest difference is there’s options now. There wasn’t before. Before it was you fought for the bottom, if you didn’t get there then you were getting passed. If the guy in front of you was there then you had to move him to pass him. Now, there’s options. You can run all the way against the wall here. I love it the way it is now. I didn’t like the old -- you had to run into the guy to pass him kind of racing. It’s just not me, it’s not my style. I don’t mind getting up top against the fence to drive by guys. This kind of fits my style a little more than it used to. It’s a greater race to watch because there’s two or three wide and sometimes four. For the drivers, it’s just a lot more fun. You have options, you can move around to where your car wants to work and where you can work on your car. It’s a lot more fun to race on."

-source: toyota motorsports

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags bristol, nascar, sprint cup, toyota, truex