MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
How was your practice session? "So far it's been a pretty eventful day for us here at Charlotte. This place has always been pretty difficult for me and it seems like every time we come here we fight something different. Today was a little bit of a struggle in practice, but we made some good changes and made some good ground on the car. Feel like we're in pretty good shape going out for qualifying. Didn't get the best draw because of our speed, but feel like we made some gains and got the car a lot better speed at the end of practice than when we started. Just see what happens tonight. This is one of those places where you get ready to qualify and you kind of try to forget everything about practice because the track is so much faster, it's going to have so much more grip and it's one of those things where you just try to hit the balance right so you can really drive the car hard enough tonight to put down a good lap."
Are you looking forward to racing at Dover? "To be honest, I always look forward to it no matter what the situation. Aside from on the track stuff, it's just fun to go up there and I've got a lot of friends and family that come to that race and that makes it extra special for me no matter what. Going back there this year with the race cars that we've got, with the team I have behind me -- they've done such a great job all year long. I do really feel like that's probably the next track where we have a real shot to get back to victory lane. Always excited to go up there. We did the tire test there a few months ago and had a really fast car there too. Always look forward to it, but definitely more this year with the race cars we have and the team that we've got right now."
Do you notice a difference between racing 500 and 600 miles? "I don't know. I think that generally races always feel longer when you're car is not handling good or you're having a tough night. It doesn't matter whether there's 300 miles or 600 miles. I feel like if your cars bad, they feel long. If your cars good, they feel short. That's just always the way it's gone. I don't think -- obviously, the extra 100 miles throws a lot into it. It's going to be hot here this weekend. Guys are going to get tired. It's just 100 more miles. What's 600 when you do 500 every week? Pretty much anything over 200 miles all feel the same to me."
Will you eat during the race? "I usually have a granola bar or a little protein-type thing in my -- I have a little pouch on my door pad that I keep stuff in. I usually eat a granola bar at one point during the race most weeks. I get hungry. There's a cup holder too for the drink bottle. We get those every once in awhile during a pit stop."
How are you able to eat during the race? "I don't know -- you just eat it under caution. It's not that difficult. You just peel open the wrapper. The hardest part is that we have a head sock in our helmets so it's tricky to get it up under the head sock. You have to put your knee on the wheel to hold it straight. You use one hand to pull the helmet sock up and then you use your other hand to stick the granola bar up in there. It only takes a few seconds. Multi-tasking."
What does your trainer say to eat before the 600-mile race? "To be honest, I just try to eat -- I try to always eat before the race. I always eat right after the driver's meeting, but I don't eat a lot. I eat something kind of light, kind of small. We have a guy that cooks for MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) and cooks for all the teams and I just get something from him. Usually it's just chicken and rice or steak and rice or a pork chop and rice -- something along those lines. I don't eat too much, I try not to get full. I just keep a granola bar in the pouch there in case I get hungry and that's about it. Pretty simple. For the 600 I may have two granola bars in there -- we'll see."
How early in the week do you start hydrating for the 600-mile race? "I don't to be honest with you. I know some guys have their whole schedule regiment and all that. To be honest, I drink a lot of water all the time so I really don't change a thing -- 90 percent of the things that I drink are water. I just do what I always do. Pretty simple."
What does the extension with Toyota mean to Michael Waltrip Racing? "Obviously, I think it's a huge deal, especially with us trying to get our stuff done and get secured for the future. I think it's a big thing for NAPA to know that Toyota is behind them 100 percent for the next number of years. Great manufacturer, great support team -- they do so much for Michael Waltrip Racing and really Toyota Racing Development, which is Toyota has been a huge part of the turnaround and the resurgence of Michael Waltrip Racing. To have that support going forward for the next few years, it obviously has to make Michael (Waltrip, team owner) and Rob (Kaufmann, team owner) and everybody there feel good about the direction the team's headed. Hopefully, we'll be able to get our deal done soon too and kind of coincide with all that and be able to go race and go after wins for a lot of years to come."
Carl Edwards said every time he's behind you on the track he sings the 'NAPA Know How' song -- will you think of that when you see him on the track now? "I'm probably going to think about that every time he's behind me now. It will be like, 'I wonder if he's singing it, you know.' It's pretty awesome. I'm kind of surprised that it's distracting for him, but I'm glad he brought that up. Now, I've got a little bit of an edge up on him when he's behind me now. I'll be like, 'Ah, he's distracted, I ain't got to worry about him."
Did you see Dale Earnhardt Jr. run out of fuel at the end of this race last year? "That's a good question. I don't really remember. I'm pretty sure I was at my house watching it on TV. I'm pretty sure I was out of the race. I was watching it somewhere -- I know I wasn't out there. I don't think I finished this race last year. You can probably look at the results and find them quicker than I can right now. I don't remember finishing this race last year."
Is there empathy for a driver losing a race by running out of fuel? "Absolutely. It' so hard to get in position to win one of these things now. That's as close as you can ever get. Coming off (turn) four and running out of gas. You don't get any closer than that. I've talked to you guys this year a few times about the agony of defeat, so to speak. You feel like you have the best car. In position to win and you do something wrong or something doesn't go your way and the next thing you know you run second or third -- and you're mad and you're like, 'Man, why the heck did that have to happen.' Coming off of turn four and running out of gas is about the absolute worst way to lose a race. I definitely felt for him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) there."
How much more confident are you in your race team this year? "I'm a lot more confident in my team this year. Coming here this weekend, for instance, is a place that's been tough for me. You know I've had some good runs here, but consistently it's not been one of my better race tracks. But, you try to prepare for this week just as hard as you do for say your favorite race track. Like when we went to Darlington a few weeks ago. It's fun to come to the race track every weekend feeling like you have a chance to go out there and do great things. And, that obviously is because of my team and the job they've done this year. I feel like we can go anywhere and be competitive and run up front."
Where does your future with Michael Waltrip Racing stand at the moment? "I'll tell you this. I really hope to be back where I'm at right now. I love this team. I love the direction we're going. And, hopefully we'll just have to see how everything lines up. My heart is with the team and that's where I want to be. I feel like we've come a long, long way. We've worked very, very hard to get to where we are. It would be a shame to have to do something different after coming this far. My career has been one of those where it seems like every time things would start going good -- something big happened or something big changes and really hurt progress. Hopefully, that won't be the case this time."