MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
How does it feel to have this strong start to the season? "The whole NAPA team has done a nice job. We talked about it over the winter. A good ending to last year. Had a great offseason bringing in some key people and some new teammates and things. We've been able to keep the ball rolling. Real proud of the team. Proud of everybody at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) for building awesome race cars. Michael (Waltrip, team owner) and Rob (Kauffman, team owner) for all they've put into this effort. It feels good. It's a lot of fun to come to the race track each weekend. Looking forward to having a good weekend here at Texas."
What has the beginning of this year been like? "It's been a work in progress. Everybody has put a lot of effort into it. And me, I feel like I've put a lot of effort into getting to where we're at as a team. For me, it's very gratifying. I think the contract situation and all that stuff has not really entered my mind much. I've really just been having a lot of fun with my team. I've got a great bunch of guys. I've really enjoyed working with Chad (Johnston), my crew chief, and watching him come into his own. He's really getting a lot of confidence in his decisions. The things he's been able to do are showing. He's really growing as a crew chief. It's been a lot of fun just to come to the race track each week and work with him and just to see the progress of the team and the excitement around the shop during the week. Rob (Kauffman) and Michael (Waltrip) have been really happy with how the program has went. It's just rewarding to be part of the program -- kind of helping to build it to where it is now and being able to go out there and get results."
How does this year feel different this year and what difference does that make going forward? "To be honest, I feel like it's 2008, you know. 2007 was obviously the best year of my career. That's how it feels. It feels like last year was '07 and this year is the next step. It feels like those years in between kind of got lost somewhere. It's kind of hard to explain how that all went down. A lot of stuff happened. Our teams got off track. I moved around and I did some things. But, I feel like I'm in a position now like I was at the end of 2007. I've got a lot of confidence in my team. We've got great teammates. We've got great race cars. We can go to any race track on any given week and run up front and have a shot at the win. That feels good. My confidence is high. But, I've never really fought confidence or not believing in myself. This sport is very, very difficult. You have to be in the right position. You have to be surrounded by the right people. If you have a 15th-place car or a 20th-place car -- there are days when nobody is going to get any more out of it than that. Just got to continue to push and work hard and be a good teammate -- a good member of your team, good team leader when things aren't going well and hope you'll be able to rise to the occasion down the road."
What do you expect to learn at the Dover tire test? "Dover is a tough place to test because it's concrete and it takes a long time to get the rubber put down. It tends to -- concrete tracks really tend to be places that you don't really know what you have until the race starts. You get 100 laps in and it starts to really change and get complicated. I think we've kind of struggled a little bit with the tire there the last few times where we can get really big patches of rubber laid down on the entry and exit, all down in the hole, and whe n you start to come back up out your car really lows. It would be almost like running across oil. I imagine Goodyear has talked about trying to work on that, trying to keep that rubber build up from getting so thick on the race track that it's hard to get grip through there. I'm not sure what we're going to learn. We're going to go there and try some things out. Hopefully, we'll be able to get a good tire for the race going back."
How do you approach getting on the track for the first time during a test? "It's pretty much like any other day on the job. You know they change the whole setup -- four springs and shocks and the front bar and all that and say, 'Go out there and lay down a lap.' It's really no different. You can feel when you're on the edge and you just need to make sure you don't cross it."
What has Clint Bowyer brought to MWR and how is it working with him? "It's been fun. Both Clint (Bowyer) and Mark (Martin) and Brian (Vickers) -- it's been a pleasure to work with those guys. I feel like the biggest thing that we have going for us is the way our teams are all on the same page, the way our crew chiefs work together, the way all our engineers have really grown together in the company the last few years. So, everyone is really on the same page and it's easy for us to interact in our team meetings and talk about the race cars and what we like, what we don't like, what we're looking for. To be honest, it really seems like all of us are really looking for the same things in our race cars. I think that's really shown. We've all been very competitive together. When we all run good, it seems like we're all around each other. If we're all off a little bit, we seem like we're around each other then. It just shows the team work, the commitment to each other as far as the team goes, how that's been and it's been no different with the drivers. It's been a pleasure to work with all those guys and it's been a lot of fun. I feel like we're feeding off each other and hopefully we'll continue to push each other to that next level."
How was your RC boat competition during the off weekend? "I did good. This is really just a hobby of mine. It's something that I enjoy to do. Really, since I started driving race cars for a living, my hands don't get dirty as often and I really miss the challenge of building stuff and going fast with it. I miss coming home on Saturday night and going in the garage and saying, 'Okay, I got my butt whopped, how am I going to turn the tables next Saturday?' So, that's kind of why I enjoy doing the boats. The record trials deal went good. I set a few records and had a good time."
What made you want to try to set records? "It's setting a couple world records, you know. Well, to me it's all about having fun and that's what it is. The two that I did this time were timed oval, so it's almost like qualifying here. The fastest guy wins - that's all it is."