An interview with: MARTIN TRUEX, JR. GREG BIFFLE KASEY KAHNE THE MODERATOR: We're going to go ahead and get started with our first availability today. We have Martin Truex, Jr. Martin, if you could open up and give us your overview of what you...
An interview with:
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to go ahead and get started with our first availability today. We have Martin Truex, Jr. Martin, if you could open up and give us your overview of what you have learned from the test in the first day and a half.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, so far it's been a really good test for us. Our car has been really fast since we got here yesterday. Really just going through some things we wanted to try. We kind of had a test plan. Bono had a plan of things he wanted to try, some new stuff, some stuff we've been running. Right now we're pretty much down to what we've been running, and it's working pretty well for us.
Been a good test. We've typically always had some really good cars here. We ran very well here last year in both races. Look forward to doing the same this time. But so far pretty happy.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions. Who has a question for Martin Truex, Jr.?
Q: Are you excited about the prospect of heading back to Dover?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. It doesn't seem like it's been a year since we won our first race. Time to get back in there and win another one. We've been close a few times since then. It just hasn't all worked out. So this year has been kind of up and down. Looking forward to going to Dover. Hopefully we'll change that. We've had some really great racecars just about every week. Like last week, seems like something always happens to take a good finish away from us. So hopefully we'll be able to go to Dover, turn that around, get our season back on track, climb back into that top 12.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Greg Biffle. Greg, give an opening statement, what you guys have thought of the test the first day and a half.
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I mean, seems like we picked up here where we left off, just kind of mediocre, off a little bit. We've picked up some speed here before lunch, found a few things that made our car go a little faster.
But still it's a tough place, you know, to make the consistent laps or anything like that. It does one thing one lap, one thing the next. But we're learning some. We definitely probably needed this test, I guess, to get ourselves going a little bit better, catch up to the rest of the cars here.
But we've learned a little bit, you know. It's just trial and error.
THE MODERATOR: We have our third driver of the afternoon with us, Kasey Kahne. Kasey, open up, just give us how you feel the test has gone the first day and a half.
KASEY KAHNE: So far so good. I think it's a good test for us. We needed to come here. The corners are so much different, you know, it handles a lot different each end, the travels and things with the splitter is pretty critical. It's been good for us to test. We made a long run today, a 16-lap run, and felt pretty good throughout the whole run. Just keep working on it, trying to figure things out. Messing with brakes, brakes can be pretty big here, as well. So just kind of trying to hit on everything we can for these couple days.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.
Q: Martin, this is your first year at DEI without Dale Jr. around. Do you feel right now you're the face of the organization? Also you have Mark Martin in there. What kind of things have you learned from him?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I've really enjoyed working with Mark so far. The way he approaches things is a little bit different than what I'm used to as far as working on his racecars throughout practice, you know, the way he looks for things for the race, not so much worries about speed or anything like that. He just kind of goes for the feel of things. So that's been a little bit different.
Not much has changed around DEI, to be honest with you. It's been different without Dale Jr., but things have really not changed that much. I don't feel like I took over his spot or I'm in any special position now. I go in there and do my job the best can I do every week. That's the same thing I've always done. I don't think I'm anything special there now.
Q: Do you feel you've progressed at DEI over the last few years? Do you feel like you're getting more experience on track and that's allowing your performance to improve?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I've been pretty happy with our performance. Like I said, we've had some strong cars this year. We've run well every single racetrack. I feel like there's not really any tracks that we go to that we struggle at.
We used to. We don't any more. So that's good. That's a step in the right direction. We've run well. We just need to get some good finishes now.
Q: Kasey, do you consider yourself a Cup contender now? How much can one weekend change the fortunes of a team, one track?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, it's one track. Two weekends, we had two really good weekends and a good test leading into there. If you look at Darlington, we had a great car at Darlington until I wrecked it in qualifying.
I feel like ever since the Charlotte test, the last three weeks we've had better racecars. I think we learned some things there. Today it seems pretty cool, too. The track seems pretty good. The cars are not bad. So, yeah, I think it can definitely change a season around, give a team or a company some momentum and some confidence. I definitely got more as a driver. I feel like our cars are better than what I thought they were three, four weeks ago. It's been fun to drive again the last few weeks. It's been a blast.
The guys have put a lot of hard work into it for a while. We're starting to hit on it. We started to hit on things at Darlington. Had a really good car there. Took it to Charlotte, took it to both Charlottes, had great racecars. Just takes time. You get a little behind or you're trying to learn a new racecar. I think we're finally getting there to where hopefully we can contend at a lot of these racetracks, be in the top 10, have a shot.
Q: (No microphone.)
GREG BIFFLE: You know, it's kind of weird. This car, some places you can really tell a big difference in it, between the old car and the new car. Personally I haven't felt a huge difference between -- I guess we're used to this car now, too. Thinking back a year ago, this car doesn't seem tremendously different than the old car. I mean, you know, the old car did some things that this one won't. You can tell that it's got a little higher center of gravity on the corners and whatnot, doesn't have near the travel that the other one used to.
But really, it's not a distinct difference, I don't think, between the old car and the new car. We're faced with the same exact things as we were with the old car: getting the car to turn, trying to keep it on the bottom, trying to keep the nose down, like Kasey mentioned, keep the front splitter sealed off. We found ways to make the car go faster down the straightaway, but it goes slower around the corner. We're trying to figure out how to compromise those two things together to get a consistent, fast lap time.
Q: Kasey, with the Car of Tomorrow and your success so far in the early season, looks like you're feeling very comfortable in them. Coming to Pocono, drivers talk about the challenge of the tri-oval. Do you think that's going to present even more of a challenge when you come back here in a couple of weekends?
KASEY KAHNE: I think when you get all the cars on the track, when we start the race on Sunday, it will be a little bit different because all the cars, the fronts will fly, and we'll figure out how this car's going to handle around other racecars and a lot of other cars.
As far as the racetrack, I've always kind of liked it. I like the three different corners. I like trying to figure out how to go fast at each end. So I don't know. I was kind of thinking the same thing as Greg, the car doesn't feel that much different other than you have the splitter, you hit it, it rides a little different when you do that. As far as your lines, how it feels in the racetrack, it feels really similar to what I felt here last year.
Q: So right now when you're testing, you're out there by yourself, but you feel it's going to be a lot different once you're in traffic on race day?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah. We'll find out more about it. The straightaways are so long, you need speed down the straightaways. You need to come off of turn three really good. You get a lot of cars around you, it could be tougher than what it's been in the past. It could be tougher than what it's been in the past, or maybe not. We really won't know till Sunday when you get a lot of racecars.
Q: Would you prefer to be able to shift here?
GREG BIFFLE: Oh, yeah. She ruined this race when they took away the shifting. Took away so much fun for the driver. The straightaway is so long and the speeds -- obviously we got to slow down for the corner, then we got to speed back up again. If you ever drove a stick shift car, if you picture slowing down, turn the corners, giving it gas, it just won't go. The engine is just not in its power. That makes a big difference.
But I understand NASCAR was kind of put in a box because they're trying to limit the engines and limit the rpm. If they allow us to shift, they can still limit the top gear, but then they're not -- you'll have to build a special engine for Pocono because there's no rpm rule for this racetrack only. They're in a bad situation, you know, allowing us to shift or whatnot. But maybe they could compromise that somehow to where we could shift here. I think it definitely makes it more exciting of a deal. But it is what it is.
Q: A lot of the drivers have expressed some frustrations with the new car. Is there anything positive about this thing that you like, the way the car is?
GREG BIFFLE: It's easier to get in and out of. I like that part of it. Probably doesn't change nothing for Kasey. But I'm not a big guy, but it's easier to get in and out of. I like that part of it.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, they've always said it's safer. There's more space inside the car. The front window is bigger. The inside of the car, there's more room. It's a safer racecar. That's good if you're a driver. The other stuff, I don't know. I just think it takes time. Hopefully as we get to keep working with this car, we'll get it to where it's better to race, you know, and race around other cars.
But it's just been difficult, I guess, kind of tough to make it as good as what we had before this car.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: It seems like one of the things I liked about this car is it seems like a driver and a crew chief can get in there and work on it a little bit more than they used to. The old car, you know, if your body wasn't just right, you couldn't run, no matter what springs and shocks you had in there. Now everybody's got the same thing. It just seems like you can get in there and work on it a little bit more with the shocks and springs, mechanical stuff that we grew up doing. It seems like it's more fun to work on.
GREG BIFFLE: I think that's one of the things that's created less passing. People have complained about the races being boring, there's not as much side by side. The thing like, like Martin just mentioned, if the body was off, your balance wasn't right, there's not a spring or shock in the world that will fix it. Now all of our cars are so close together, they're so similar, that we're so equal, that's what makes it hard to pass. We're all going a similar speed and our car is identical. That makes it more difficult, because you have to be a fair amount faster than the guy in front of you in order to pass him, in order to get beside him and pass him.
It's a double-edged sword. We've made them all equal or made them more equal, but at the same time that makes it a little bit more difficult to pass the guy in front of you when everybody is the same. It's done two things for us: it's closed the field up and bunched the cars up, but at that time it's made it a little bit more difficult to get side by side and pass.
Q: Kasey, up until your wins the last couple weeks, did you ever lose confidence or wonder when the wins were going to come?
KASEY KAHNE: I didn't necessarily lose confidence in myself or my team. But there was times that I wondered, as a company, if we were doing some of the wrong things, if we were running the wrong bump stops. Just the way that these cars have been, you know, everybody's cars look a little different. When Carl Edwards was winning at Texas, his car was different than Kyle Busch's car looks like when he was winning somewhere else. Everybody's stuff is different. I just felt like maybe we were behind there.
But as far as confidence in the team and stuff, even last year with a pretty tough year, we have the same team, the same guys. Kenny Francis is, as far as I can see, as good as any crew chief in our garage. So, you know, I like what I have. I like our guys. We just needed a little boost. We got that. Now I think everybody feels like we have a pretty strong company and pretty strong racecars and we can keep building on that.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thanks for taking the time to come in today.