NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Food City 500
Topics: Food City 500
Martin Truex, Jr.
March 18, 2012
KERRY THARP: Let's roll right into our post race for the Food City 500 here at Bristol Motor Speedway. Our race runner‑up is Matt Kenseth. Matt now moves up to third in the points in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He's 12 points out of first place. Greg Biffle is still our points leader.
Matt, talk about your performance today. You and the 2 car looked like you were the class of the field for the race.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, overall I was pretty happy with my car. Most of the weekend I wasn't real thrilled with how it drove. Once we took off and after the mandatory caution, had that long green‑flag run, we rolled up to a third or fourth. I thought we were quite a ways off on balance. Unfortunately we weren't.
We tightened the car up, got running better, made a real long run. That one run we had was the tightest, had the best traction off the corner.
When we started that last run, got on the lead, air on the nose, plus we picked up a big piece of Bear Bond or something. I got too loose and knew I wasn't going to have enough traction more than likely to hold him off.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Matt Kenseth.
Q. Matt, how difficult is it to focus on hitting your marks and the line that you're running out there when you know there's either a guy just inside of you or you're just inside of a guy?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, you try to look in your mirror a little bit. Hopefully your spotter is giving you the information you want. It's so fast here, it's hard to find time to ask. You try to run whatever line you think your car is the best in.
Certainly when we took off on that second to last restart with new tires, I didn't want Brad outside of me. He was good around the bottom. Everybody was good around the middle or the top. I wasn't good around the bottom. Especially one and two, I didn't have enough traction. It was important I was outside of where he wanted to pass me.
After you get about 10 or 15 laps, my car was the best on three and four, middle to the top on one and two. I raced him as hard as I could race him. I hoped he would get under me and burn his right rear up. I was trying to be careful on mine, but I was running up against the fence there. He finally slipped by me and had a little bit better car at the end.
Q. Matt, seemed like track position was pretty big today, Vickers getting out front, then the caution. Four cars that stayed out finished in the top five. Did tires mean less here than they used to mean? Anything about the racing that's changed that caused that?
MATT KENSETH: Everybody watched the Nationwide race. You kind of saw what happened there on tires.
New tires don't make you that much faster. That one time under green, I can't remember the exact lap times, got around Brad right as he pitted. I think our last lap before we pitted was 16s, like a 90 or something. Came out on new tires, cold new tires, and could only run 60s.
Didn't seem like new tires were as big of an advantage as you thought.
Q. Matt, they were really debating before that last restart which lane to pick. Would it have made a difference if he had picked the inside lane since you got him on the outside earlier?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, he screwed that up. He should have started on the bottom for me (smiling). Unfortunately he didn't.
I don't know. I couldn't run on the bottom. Brad was really strong in the bottom of one and two. It was weird. Most cars as they get 20 or 30 laps on their tires, they would run fairly high. Brad could run across the apron on one and two.
I was thinking, I'm going to run right outside of him, kind of get the shaft. I think he liked the bottom of one and two. Couldn't get around the bottom of one or two. That was the right thing to start at the top and leave me on the bottom, for him.
KERRY THARP: We're joined by our third‑place finisher, Martin Truex, Jr.
Congratulations, Martin. Through this race you are fourth in points in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Terrific start for the 56 team.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Thanks. It was a good day for obviously the whole company. Really a good weekend for all of us. We've had good speed in our cars all weekend.
I was a little bit worried coming into the race today. We weren't exactly where we wanted to be at the end of Happy Hour. Chad made some changes last night. We weren't perfect throughout the day but we worked on it really hard. In the middle part the race we were off a little bit, pretty loose. Of course, at the end staying out really paid off for us. We picked up I think five spots.
Overall just a good day for the NAPA Toyota. We were second here in the fall. Hoped to have a shot at winning today. We just fought track position too much. I felt at times we were as fast as anyone.
Overall a great day, great call by Chad to stay out at the end, and good job by the team and the pit crew.
KERRY THARP: We'll continue with questions.
Q. Matt, those restarts, you beat the 2 car to the line by that much. The restarts, what did you think about those? Did you beat him to the line?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I knew it was close. But here is the thing. When you get to the second line, they say the race is on. I know we took off a little bit early. Quarter throttle, I'm waiting for him. NASCAR actually has the data, you can look at it. Kind of cool.
I didn't floor it till I got to the start/finish line. I don't know if he was trying to let me beat him on purpose. I was half throttle for five car lengths. I was finally, I got to go or Martin or whoever was behind me was going to go around me.
It was way past that line and we still weren't wide open. I think he was just playing a little game, trying to get me out there so I had to brake check. I just watched him and tried to get to the line barely behind him.
Q. Martin, how have you seen the development of this organization? What turned things around? You had some stronger runs at the end of last season. How has that carried through?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I think a lot of that through the mid part of the year, obviously we had a little bit of bad luck there. We got caught up in some things. Really throughout the middle of last year, we were kind of struggling speed‑wise. Michael and Rob really took a step back as an organization, you know, bringing in Scott Miller towards the end of last year, certainly a big key. Really kind of restructuring how we did things. We started building some new cars. TRD was giving us a lot of input. Toyota had a lot of influence on the direction we headed. Really kind of started from scratch almost.
There was a while there last year where we were building new stuff. It felt like we were going to the racetrack without using any of our new stuff because it wasn't ready yet. It kind of took a while to get everything put in place to make sure that it was going to be good. Once we started bringing the new cars out, Scott coming onboard, it's just been a constant evolution throughout the middle of last year and towards the end of the year we started having good runs, having consistency.
I think for our team a big part of that was Chad coming in as crew chief through the middle part of last year. He was coming into his own, getting some confidence, getting his arms around the team and what I liked in the racecar, what our racecar liked in general.
A lot of things went on last year. In the off‑season we continued to build on that. We brought in key people. Mark, Clint, Brian Pattie, Childress, the 55 car has been really good. We just got a good organization right now, a good bunch of people. We got three cars that seem to go to the racetrack and run really well each week. We're able to feed off each other. We really showed that today all running up front at different parts of the day. All season our cars have been strong.
Across the board it's been a lot of hard work and dedication by the team. In the end, all the people doing the jobs the best they can do and things have been working out for us.
Q. Martin, obviously Brian Vickers is a good driver. What does it say about Michael Waltrip Racing when a guy can get in one of your cars and do what he did?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I mean, obviously it says a lot about the cars. I think everybody knows that Brian is a good driver, he's more than capable. He's won the Cup Series before, Nationwide championship.
I think when his name came up to fill in for six races when Mark wasn't running and Michael wasn't running, I was all in favor of it. I knew what he would be capable of. I knew we had great racecars. Rodney is really good here at Bristol. He's had some great runs with David Reutimann in the past. He's come close to winning this things a bunch of times.
I was not surprised at all to see Brian run up front at the beginning and really run up front all day long.
Q. Martin, how big an impact has the new engine program, the joint venture, had in terms of the performance of the team?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I don't think it's been a big deal, to be honest with you. I think it's been a bigger change for the Gibbs organization than it has for us. We really just continued down the same path. We've been getting our engines from TRD since I've been there. Really they've been building the engines for MWR as long as they've been in racing.
We continued down the path as we were on last year before the Gibbs thing went together. They've brought some influence over. The further we get down the road, the more it will show up of how much information they're able to bring and share with TRD to help them improve the program.
Really, I mean, a lot of the stuff was already in place when that merger went in. I think just having more cars is obviously going to make TRD stronger and make the engine program stronger as a whole.
Q. When talking about impacts, what impact has Mark Martin had? Did you feel his influence today even though he's not here?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: That's a good question. Mr. Swag (smiling). Obviously Mark is a great driver. He's got a lot of experience. I think probably one of the things that he's brought is confidence in the team. When he comes in there and says, Man, I really like these racecars, I like what you guys are doing, I think that makes a pretty big impact. He hasn't been there very long. This is very new.
He went to Phoenix and Daytona and Vegas. All three places he was very happy and very complimentary of the team and the direction they were heading. I think that gives the team a lot of confidence. That's something he definitely brought.
Just his experience. Matt will tell you. Matt has known him a long time. He can get in anything and go fast. When he says you got good racecars, he gives your team good direction, good direction to head in when they're not great. He's definitely brought a lot to the team.
Q. Dale Jr. and a few other drivers were talking the racing might be better if Goodyear came here and made a new tire. Did you notice the crowd was not nearly what you're used to here?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, they did bring a new tire. It was different than what we raced here in the fall. I don't know what it is about the tire. It seems like it used to be when the tracks would rubber up, they would gain a little bit of grip, and you could really kind of get to driving the car harder as the race went on. Seems like the tires we have now go the opposite way. The tracks have a lot of grip when they're clean. As the rubber gets down, they get slick.
I think the racing here is pretty good. It's just hard when guys are on the outside. You get loose underneath them, it's hard to make the pass. You see a lot of side‑by‑side racing.
MATT KENSETH: I don't know (smiling).
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: It is a different tire, so... They got that.
KERRY THARP: Guys, thank you for putting on a good show today and good luck next week.
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