NASCAR Media Conference
Martin Truex, Jr.
May 1, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. Truex currently sits fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver standings, with six Top 10 finishes and an average finish of 9.4 in the first nine races this season.
Martin, you're off to the best start of your NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. Talk about what all has contributed to your team's consistency and success so far this season?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Thank you. We've gotten off to a great start with our NAPA Auto Parts Toyota. The whole team at Michael Waltrip Racing has done a great job over the winter getting prepared for this season.
I've been asked this question a lot this year what is the reason for the success and the reason for the change? Really it was something that started last year. Michael Waltrip and Rob Kauffman put a lot into the program and made some changes throughout the race team to be better.
We really started building our cars different. Getting a lot more help from Toyota and the engineering department. Really listening to their opinion on what direction they thought we should go. From there, it's just been all uphill. The guys at the shop have done a really good job of building better race cars. And Chad Johnson, my crew chief has been a huge part of that success. You know, still being fairly new to the crew chief position, but really building and growing as a crew chief. Our communication has been phenomenal.
Those are some of the reasons for the success. It goes deeper than that. Really every part of the company and how we're doing things is different than it used to be. We've got a lot of great people, lot of great drivers and crew chiefs. The team work has been outstanding. So there are a lot of reasons. Not just one reason, but really just have to credit everybody at Michael Waltrip Racing for the job they're doing.
Q. Your brother's going to be racing in the Nationwide Series. While there have been a lot of brothers over the years in NASCAR, there is a significant age difference between y'all. Has it been like a traditional brother relationship or has it been more of a mentor/pupil kind of deal?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: That's a good question. To be honest, I think it's been a little bit of both. Ryan is 12 years younger than I am or almost 12 years younger than me. So when I moved down here to start my career in racing when I was 22, 23 years old, he was 12 or whatever.
So there was a lot of time we spent apart. A lot of his early racing career, I wasn't around for that. He was in New Jersey, he was racing his Legends cars and Bandoleros and stuff. My dad was going to the racing. So I missed a big part of his early racing career.
So I think my dad was probably more of his mentor as far as bringing him up through the ranks, kind of like he was for me when I did it.
But since he's moved up, which he did at Michael Waltrip Racing a few years ago, winning the championship, and then moving on to the Nationwide Series, we spend a lot of time together. He actually lives at my house now. I've got a little apartment above my garage. He stays in it, so it's kind of transformed until now.
I'm really trying to help him a lot. Trying to help him understand the sport, understand his position and the things he needs to do as a driver to be better and be part of the team and make sure people understand how bad he wants to get to the next level.
So it's been a little bit of both. But the main thing I think is that he's got a lot of talent. He's done a great job in everything that he's ever been in in a race car. He's got a good head on his shoulders, and we just enjoy having fun together, going to the racetrack and helping each other.
Q. Martin, restarts were a big topic after Richmond. I just wanted to get your perspective. When you're leading a race, how does that work before you restart in terms of do you notify NASCAR which line you're choosing or which lane, or do you just pick it? How does NASCAR relay to you that you are the leader and you get lane choice?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Really, when you get the go signal from the flagger, that's when you pick your lanes. Normally there is not a big issue. Most of the times you know you're the leader as soon as you leave pit road or whatever the case may be.
Obviously, in that case, what happened Saturday night, the guys had pitted under green, so they weren't coming off pit road and they weren't sure who was leading, I guess. I'm not sure.
Basically you know you're the leader, usually. You're supposed to, at least. Your spotter tells you, your crew chief tells you if you don't know yourself, which you normally do, then you get the one to go at the start/finish line, you pick your lane. Usually the guy in second waits for you to pick your lane, and that's how you go with it.
Q. Of course the other side of that is there is a lot of discussion about restart zones. If in this case Carl Edwards went early, when you're on the front row of a restart, you're with the leader or second place guy, are there some games that get played there in terms of when a guy leaves, trying to get the other guy maybe to go early if you're the leader, he's in second? Is there a little gamesmanship that goes on there on restarts?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Absolutely, absolutely. There are a lot of games played. Normally it's the guy in second playing the games, laying back on you. Sometimes they try to keep a nose ahead of you. Sometimes they start to speed up to try to get you to go when they want you to go so they're prepared for it.
Really what it's all about is trying not to get jumped. But obviously the restart lines are clearly marked. As a driver, you know you can't go before that first double red line, or you're probably going to get penalized. Not in every instance. But if you go a foot before they plan to let you go, you need to be close to that line.
But there is definitely some gamesmanship going on there, guys trying to get a jump on each other. The leader is trying to get the best jump, and the guy in second is trying to get to the line next to him, and hopefully have more momentum when they get there. That is just how it goes.
Q. When you get to practice, how much time do you think you're going to spend trying to see just how long you can stay in tandem racing? Part two of that, Jeff Gordon said that ideally what would happen at Talladega is you get hooked up in a tandem the last two or three laps and not worry about overheating and your engine's blowing up as you cross the start/finish line. Would you agree at the end of the race it pretty much goes out the window, the worries about overheating and everybody goes forward at that point?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Absolutely. The best case scenario is you get your engine cooled off with three or four laps to go, if you know that's how far you can go without pushing all the water out of the engine and blowing it up.
So the plan, everybody in practice will push as long as they can. Kind of get an idea of how cool is my engine when I started pushing? And how many laps do I think I can run like this before I lose all my horsepower? Just blowing up the engine is not the biggest problem at the end of the race.
If you get together too early and you start getting hot, you're losing all your power and losing speed too. So it's kind of a fine line there between getting together with somebody too early and waiting too long.
A lot of it is a little bit rough. There are times when you want to get somebody and you can't. It's one of those deals where you have to be in the right place at the right time and hope it all works out.
Q. What would be your best‑‑ you haven't been there yet to practice. But what would be your best guess to how early you can afford to get hooked up?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't have any idea. I know the rules package is very similar to what we had at Daytona. It was very cool in Daytona and we could only to two or three laps max. I'm guessing it will probably be less than that, but we won't know exactly until we get down there this weekend.
Q. Do you watch video of a race before you go back to a track? Would you do more so, obviously, Darlington is coming up in a come weeks and it's a track you haven't been to in a year. It's only on the schedule once a year. Do you watch extra video or do anything extra going back to a track like that?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, absolutely. I think everybody does. I think the teams watched more in depth and take notes and look at the history of the race and try to pick out things that happened that may affect the outcome of the race the previous year or the coming year.
But for a driver, yeah, we watch it. I like to watch. Normally right after a race when I get home, I'll watch at some point during the week to see what happens from a different perspective, different view to see if I can learn anything. That is the same way for all the teams, and I think most drivers do the same thing.
Obviously, the track has changed. A place like Darlington is a place that is going to be very different this year than it was last year. It was repaved four or five years ago. Constantly going through those years of weathering it. It's going to change a lot, but there are still things that you can learn by watching.
Q. Are you watching the regular television broadcast or an in‑car camera review? Is that something that you're just taping off your television or is it something that the team's providing? How does that work?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, you can do it either way. I have some in‑car stuff. When I have in‑car cameras, I get the tapes afterwards and watch them and things like that. The other teams will have them if we have them in the past. Of course, you can get the races pretty easily from DVR or whatever you have.
Q. And it makes that much of a difference in helping you?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I don't know that it makes a lot of difference. It's a good refresher sometimes. Sometimes you just forget the little things about the race, how it went. Sometimes there are significant things that went on during the race that you forget about that could help you going back. Normally it's just kind of a refresher you could probably get by without doing it, but every little bit helps.
Q. Talking about the performance of Michael Waltrip Racing, was there a point you felt a turnaround and things were going in the direction they are now? Even going into this season, did you know you guys were going to be as good as you are?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I would say the big turning point for us last year was Texas. That's where we brought the car we worked on getting prepared for this and getting prepared for this season. That's where we really turned it around. Had a lot of speed in the car on the mile and a half, which was something we struggled at throughout the summer months. So that was the big turnaround.
The whole end of the season went really well for our team. We had a lot of speed. We weren't beating ourselves. For the first time in the season we were putting together strong runs, had consistency. I had a lot of confidence in Chad, in my equipment, and that was really for us for us what sparked the season and got us going in this direction.
I talked to countless people throughout the winter time telling them how excited I was about this year and how much confidence I had in the job we were going to be able to do. It's nice to be able to go out and back that the up. So it's been a great start to the year.
Q. Looking at Talladega when you go back and look at your Cup Series stats, I know you got three Nationwide Series wins there. But when you were with DEI in ten races you've wrecked six times. But since you've been with Michael Waltrip Racing, you haven't finished worse than 13th. Is there anything about the equipment that you're in as it applies to these tracks?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No, equipment has nothing to do with being caught up in the big one at Talladega. I've always been fortunate to have fast cars down there. Led a bunch of laps, been in position, I feel like to have a shot at winning that thing a few times, especially the past few years in the NAPA car. It just seems we haven't put ourselves in the exact right position yet.
Last year, Dave Reutimann and I worked together really well at Talladega. We were leading with two or three to go, but we got there too early. Then the freight train came out and got us. I feel good about this weekend.
Obviously, it's Talladega. You never know what's going to happen. There is a lot of luck involved, and that's what I credit a lot of those crashes to. I've been crashed leading the race, running second, running 30th. So there is nowhere safe out there at Talladega. It's just a matter of being a little bit lucky and making it to the end.
Q. You're mentioning all the different things that you're crediting the turn around to Michael Waltrip Racing. What about Mark Martin coming on board as well as Clint Bowyer for that matter helping out the team? What do they lend to the turn around?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Obviously, they bring a lot. I think the biggest part of the turnaround for the race team started last year. But moving forward, I think the next steps, these two guys are going to be very involved in. Mark Martin carries a lot of respect around with him. Everybody at the shop enjoys working with him, same with Clint. We've had good team chemistry. That's going to be a big catalyst taking our team to the next level.
We started off the season good, but we know there are areas to improve on. Having the feedback from those two guys, having the communication and teamwork from all three of our teams, all of our drivers, that's going to propel us to the next level and make us Chase contenders and hopefully Championship contenders.
Q. Looking ahead to this weekend at Talladega, are we going to see similar racing to Daytona? I know the track is bigger, wider, the phrase the pack is back, are we going to see a bigger pack this weekend?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think we're going to see a giant pack. I think all 43 cars or however many are running at the time will be in one pack. It's just hard to say exactly how it's going to go down. I don't think the two‑car tandem will be like it was last year with the cooling system regulations and all the things that they did at Daytona. With the temperatures approaching 90° down there this weekend, I don't think we'll see a lot of two‑car racing until the end. Even then, I don't think guys can go more than three or four laps.
I think it's going to be a mix of pack racing, a little two‑car tandem here and there, but there's no way we'll stay hooked up all day like we did last year.
Q. Martin, do you think having a Top 5 position like you have now, do you think that's more beneficial to you in securing a Chase spot or to finishing strong or your goals?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, of course. Any time you're in the front of the points, it's a good feeling. That's what we're here for. In a perfect world, we'd be the point leader. I wish that's where we were. Obviously, that would be more comfortable being fifth, because anything can happen. The way the points are now, one or two bad races can set you back.
We need to concentrate on being consistent. We had a tough night at Richmond Saturday night which was disappointing. I felt like going in there, we had a good car. Felt like we could run strong there. We did last year, so felt good about that. Got caught off guard by the weather conditions and some tire wear issues.
But that's what we're out here for. We live and die by each point every weekend. I don't care what drivers tell you. They look at points and worry about them. So we're in a good spot. We'd like to be further ahead than we are right now, obviously. But feel good about where we're at, and hopefully we can move forward in the coming weeks.
Q. I've question asked you over the past years, and I know you like to get away from it and get off and maybe go hunting and things like that. Do you get the opportunity now as often as you would like to go refresh your batteries?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Not really. The better you run, the more people want you, the more work you do away from the race track. So I haven't had a lot of time to wind down or relax. I don't think I've been out on the lake fishing in over a month. So I need to work on that.
But things are going great. I'm having fun. It's been a blast going to the racetrack knowing you have a chance to win if you do everything right. So it's been a blast driving the NAPA Toyota this year and look forward to doing everything we're doing.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us. We really appreciate you taking the time.
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