NASCAR Preseason Fan Festival
Martin Truex, Jr.
January 16, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
HERB BRANHAM: We're going to wrap up this evening's NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest press conferences, two competitors with us to wrap up the evening. First we have Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford. Greg finished third in last year's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points. Also joining him, Martin Truex Jr., No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Tracker Boats Chevrolet. Maybe Greg, start with you, and then we'll go to Martin for an opener, coming back to the Daytona 500, what's the team's outlook?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, really good. I think everybody is excited. I was at the race shop the other day, all the crew guys are really excited about the season getting started. We're looking forward to getting here in Daytona and getting our feet wet, getting back on again.
I feel like I expect to be about normal for our speedway program, which usually drops us in right in the middle, the heart of all the race cars on speed. You know, that's not a bad place to be. It could be worse obviously, and you could be up front in the top three or four. But we feel like we haven't found anything spectacular like we stumbled across a ton of speed, but we feel like we're going to be right there in the top 20 hopefully, top 15, and that's where a guy needs to be to be competitive or to win these races and run well at these restrictor plate plates with the way the close are so close together, so jumped up now, it's hard to see somebody so clearly faster than another, but we feel good about coming back.
HERB BRANHAM: Martin, pretty uneventful season, DEI, Ganassi, what's the outlook for the team and the organization coming into the 500.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Certainly looking forward to getting back to the racetrack. Feels good to be here at Daytona. I wish we were out there making some laps this afternoon, but so far I'm excited, happy to have my whole group back together from last year and facing new challenges with the merger and working with the new teammates and new people over there.
But looking forward to it. It's going to be exciting, it's going to be a challenging year, and I always look forward to a good challenge. I think our car is going to be real fast when we get here to Daytona. EGR has done a great job with the restrictor plate program. Last year they made some big strides, and I think it's going to show when we get back here in a few weeks, so looking forward to that and getting the season going.
It's been a little more laid back off-season than we're used to, and I'm getting a little antsy to get back in the car, so we're looking forward to coming down here in a few weeks.
Q. A two-parter actually for Greg. First of all, did you go out to Texas World Speedway and how was it, and then a question for both of you, with all the talk about the economy and the mergers and all the things going on, how important is it going to be to get back in the cars, get cars on the racetrack and start thinking and talking about racing again?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, I'll start with the second half of the question. Certainly with this season getting started and getting the race cars back going, I think it's going to create a buzz. It's going to create a lot of excitement around the community and the race fans and all that. I think everybody is looking forward to it and it's going to be a good thing for everybody to get going again. It's going to create some excitement among companies to see the fans coming out, see the racing going on again, just like people are getting excited about football.
So I think that our season getting going is going to be great.
I did test Texas World Speedway yesterday. We're the first team that's tested there ever -- I wouldn't say ever, but in the new era I would say. Very fast. A little bit bumpy, which is to be expected of a racetrack that the pavement is that old. But just very fast place. It's kind of a fun racetrack.
But our cars today are probably pretty dang fast for a racetrack like that, fastest I've been in a race car before, 218 miles an hour yesterday at Texas World Speedway. That's getting her done, if you want to say. 195 mile-an-hour average, so it was a pretty fast place.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I mean, I think everybody gets a little tired of hearing about all the -- what happens behind closed doors kind of rumors and expectations and all that. Get out on the racetrack and make it happen, you know? Put all your hard work to use, get out there and see what you can do, what you need to do to be better, and at the same time try to get your sponsors in the public eye, get them some recognition, get some of their people out at the racetrack to enjoy the race and get away from the office for a day and just kind of get the blood flowing and make things happen. It makes things a lot more fun. The off-season gets boring for everybody, not just us and you guys. We look forward to doing that in a few weeks.
Q. For both you guys, I'm just curious, if you could pick a guy as the guy to beat in the Cup Series this year, who would it be? And then for Martin, can you tell us how many cars Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing is going to be on the track at Daytona?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: The guy to beat? I don't know.
GREG BIFFLE: I think he's got a blue 48 on the side. If I was going to take my averages, that would be where I'd start. You've got to think that the 99 and the 16 and the 48 -- the 1 (laughing), are going to be some good cars. It's pretty obvious -- until we get going. 18 had a heck of a beginning of the season last year. A handful of them anyway.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Any given Sunday, you know, it's a new year. Anybody can come out and emerge as a championship contender. But if you were a betting man, you know where that would go.
Q. How many cars is Ganassi going to have at Daytona?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: As far as I can tell, I believe three. I'm pretty sure that's what's going on. If it changes, don't hold me to this, but as far as I know, it'll be three, yeah, the 1, the 42 and the 8. I believe that's it. That's about all I've got there. Montoya, me and Aric.
Q. What's it going to take -- from what you guys did last season, what's it going to take this year? What do you need to change, what do you need to get better to win that championship?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, that's a tough -- that's really tough, because man, I'll tell you what, I gave it my all last year, everything I had, and it wasn't good enough. I just need to be -- we just need to be as a team, the 16 team, we just need to be a little bit better. You know, we were able to win at Loudon and Dover, and I finished third at Kansas to those two guys.
You know, we're just going to have to get just that much better at those other places. My two hardest places to win the championship for me are Martinsville, and then Loudon was just so-so. So we won at Loudon, and we ran very well at Martinsville and had to pit under green, and actually pit under green and got back and finished 11th. That was great for us at Martinsville.
We just need to be a little bit better at those places. We went back to Charlotte, for instance, and finished like 13th or 11th or 12th, right outside the top 10. I think it was 11th. You know, that was not a great race for us. We finished second there in the beginning of the year, and then the fall race and the Chase we didn't have that kind of response, and we felt like it was a place we could win at.
We just have a little bit of fine-tuning to do, just a little bit of fine tuning. I think we're going to start '09 better than we did in '08, certainly better.
Q. I have one for each. How disruptive, if it has been, has that whole economic environment around the Earnhardt-Ganassi organization, how disruptive has it been to your team which has been all along one of the most solid things you've got going?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't think it's been very disruptive to our team at all as far as I can tell. Obviously I don't make the decisions for the race team or run the show. That's Bono's job, other people's job. There's a possibility there could be some things different there, I don't know. From the outside looking in and as much as I'm a part of it, I don't see much change there. So I don't think that it's very disruptive to us at all.
What's disruptive to our team, we still have less teammates, we have less information to go around. Roush has four cars or five cars and Hendrick has got four and Gibbs has four or three or whatever. We're down to two or three, it makes it more difficult for us for sure. There's no two ways about it.
Can we be successful? Yes, the best year we ever had we were a two-car team, 2007. So it can be done. We can do it. I'm looking forward to working with Juan and with Brian Pattie. I know Bono is really excited about the opportunity to work with him, and I really enjoy working with Doug Randolph and I think we've got a good group of guys put together that we can make it work. It's probably going to take us a little time to mold all the parts and pieces together from what they did over there and some of the things that they've done to be successful and some of the things that we've done, putting them together and making the best race car we can because right now I think our stuff is all a little bit different. So that's going to be a challenge.
But we've got people working hard who are willing to work together, and that's very important, and I think that's going to be a big key to our success and how quickly it comes.
Q. For Greg, did less testing in this off-season mean more time in Mexico? What was the biggest thing you caught if you were down there, and have you ever taken this guy down there?
GREG BIFFLE: No, I haven't, but I'm going to have to start taking my friends down there because I go by myself all the time. I did go -- I stayed home most of the winter and didn't go to Washington and just stayed home. But I did go to Mexico a couple days last week or a week and a half ago. The fishing was a little bit different. I caught a few fish, not as many as I'd like to. I caught two squid, pretty big squid. It was wild. They said they were catching a lot of squid, and we caught two of them.
Q. Is that something that's an accident?
GREG BIFFLE: It's an accident, yeah. They'll grab a hold of the bait with their tentacle or whatever.
Q. How big?
GREG BIFFLE: About four feet, pretty big squid, and they can -- I mean, they are the craziest -- if you've ever looked at one live, and the thing is they're really kind of gruesome-looking prehistoric creatures, and they're hard to reel in, too. They're really strong.
Q. What do you do when you get them in the boat?
GREG BIFFLE: I'm not getting that thing in the boat. We just release them, let them go. But I had a good time. It was fun to go down there. But no, I'm just hanging out at home, saving a little bit of money and building a house and working around my shop and spending time at the mountain property and just getting ready for 2009.
Q. Martin, I don't know how well you got to know Aric Almirola, but can you feel for him in the situation he's in now, not knowing what his status is going to be?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: For sure. It's not a position you want to see anyone in, especially a teammate and a friend of yours. You know, that's a tough deal right now. I wish he could run. He's got a lot of talent and I wish he could run full-time. I hope they can get that deal finished up. I think he's got a great future in the sport, it's just bad timing for him to be where he's at in his career, I think.
He did a part-time deal last year, had some good runs. Any other year, two or three years ago, that would have been good, you know, and they would have found a sponsor and they would have put stuff together, and I think it would have been -- he's done a good enough job to continue and work his way up. But it's kind of bad timing, I think, for him as far as him trying to come in full-time without a sponsor, and the way things are, it's just tough, and I feel bad for him because I think he deserves a shot to run, and I think he could do a good job for somebody.
Q. Greg, one of the key off-season moves in your organization has been Drew to the 17 car. What sort of impact do you think he's going to have on Matt's program?
GREG BIFFLE: I think any time we see a change among crew chiefs in our sport, it's kind of a boost of energy to the team. We see instant success when we switch crew chiefs from one team to the other. I think that it'll be good for the 17 team.
And obviously he felt like he had a pretty good relationship with Drew in the Nationwide series. They hit it off, he liked the way he went about setting the car up. Matt feels like he can really enhance that team. And Chip really enjoyed the engineering part of the car, and that's what Chip is going to be focusing back on is the engineering part.
So it'll let Chip get back into his -- I wouldn't say shell, so to speak, but get back into his rhythm of what he likes to do. Let's face it, each one of us are cut out in this world -- we have our best position, what we enjoy doing, not what we're the best at but what we enjoy to do and work well doing, and that's what Chip wants to do as engineer, and focus 100 percent of his effort on that. He's got Chip back in that position and he's got Drew over there to do the crew chief, and I think it's going to really help his program.
Q. Any changes on your team?
GREG BIFFLE: Not really. Maybe one guy, a mechanic, or shifting people around. But really about the same group of guys coming back this year.
Q. Greg, I asked this question of Jeff Burton. Both you guys answer questions very well, and you're a celebrity. Recently Clint Eastwood said in an interview that celebrities should take their work seriously but not themselves seriously. Do you have a comment on that?
GREG BIFFLE: Take work seriously and not themselves? Well, I can't wait for racing to get started again so my mind quits wandering about all this stuff I'm thinking about when I'm away from the track, so I'd better get back to work. I do, I do take my work very seriously. That might not be answering the question 100 percent, but I really enjoy what I get to do, and I really enjoy working on these cars and being a part of this great sport we have. I do take that seriously and try 100 percent all the time and don't really complain a lot about what I have to do.
But yeah, I like to have fun, and I'd better just -- I'd better just keep racing I think is what I'd better keep doing.
HERB BRANHAM: Guys, thanks so much. Best of luck here at the Daytona 500.
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