NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: STP 400
Topics: STP 400
Martin Truex, Jr.
April 22, 2012
KANSAS CITY, KANSAS
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our post‑race press conference here at Kansas Speedway. We welcome Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. Jimmie finished third in today's race. Talk about the race and those last few laps.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I was just watching from third spot, just hopeful that those guys would get a little aggressive and give me an opportunity. I watched the 11 get by the 56, work him for a while, and got his way by, and then 11 seemed to lose a little bit of pace at the end and 56 was right back to him.
I just wish I was closer to those guys to race for it, but we really ran second to third all day long seemed to be the pace that we had in the car, so to come home third, I'd love to finish better, but it's not like we had a dominant car with the most laps that didn't win this week. We kind of finished where we ran all day.
Q. We talked about earlier this week, No.200, so close once again to getting that milestone from Hendrick Motorsports. At any point do you start to get frustrated that you can't quite get that last victory to get there?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: This week it doesn't register. To me last week at Texas, the week before Martinsville or to lead a lot of laps at Martinsville and have our cars lead one, two, three and not get the victory, to get the most laps and today to get near the end and not close the deal does sting. Today we ran well but we weren't a dominant car and kind of finished where we should have. Today doesn't bother me. Sure, I'd love to do it, but the 56 and the 11 at the end had more pace than we did.
Q. How much do you want to get that milestone so you don't have to answer this question anymore.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: More than you could ever imagine?
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Martin Truex, Jr., who finished second in today's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway. Talk to us about the race today and specifically those last few laps.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I mean, it's a little bit frustrating to be honest, but overall a good day for the NAPA team. I guess if we can be this disappointed with second it shows how far we've come as a race team. Just really proud of everybody at MWR and Toyota for helping us get where we are. The NAPA team was phenomenal today. Just not really sure what to think about that last set of tires. Car had been really good all day, put the last set on and I was wrecking loose for the first 20 laps of that last run, and Denny was able to get by me and once he did the race was over. Car got better longer in the run and I was able to get back to him, but I'd get three, four car lengths from him and pick up the aero push. Frustrating day but good day overall, and it's definitely a good step for us and in the right direction and we'll come back next week and try to finish the deal.
Q. When you came in for four tires and the rest of the top 5 stays out, was that pretty much a sign that you guys were, like, either win, or it didn't matter that you finished second or third or fourth or fifth?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Judging by Chad's reaction, I think he felt more guys would come to pit road especially as behind us but when I look back at how things played out, as Martin said, you could catch somebody but especially passing them later in a run was so tough, and I got close to him a couple times but couldn't pass him. I commend Chad for trying something a little different strategy wise. If things would've played out different at the end, maybe we could've put two on while the other guys were putting four, something, just trying to give us some options. I don't think it affected our finish. We got basically back to where we were. I think I was ahead of the 11 but the 11 was real strong that last run and went up there and got the win.
I really don't think‑‑ at the time it was frustrating based on Chad's reaction and knowing that I lost some track position, but once we got going I passed a bunch of cars and got right back in the mix.
Q. Martin, as a guy who's been with Michael's team for a long time I get the impression sometimes that you put a lot of weight on yourself to try to carry this organization and help them take the next step. How accurate is that and how much does that play into frustration?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I think that plays a big part in it. I felt like today was kind of a day where I thought I was back and felt really strong that we'd have a car that could contend for the win going into the race and then to be able to do that all day long, it was a good feeling. You know, as disappointed as I am with this second place, this is a big day for us as a team. It's kind of a statement for us that we're here for the long haul, we're here for the rest of the season. This isn't‑‑ we're not just a flash in the pan. We've been solid each week, and I know our wins are going to come, we just need to keep running like we are. It's been a long time since I've won, and I know I'm capable of it, and that's the most disappointing thing is letting one slip away today. If I had made a mistake or we'd made a bad adjustment or something, it would probably be a little bit easier to swallow to be honest. But to put tires on and touch the car and all of a sudden the car drives worse than it has all day, it is pretty frustrating when you haven't won in a while. But again, I've got a lot of confidence in this team right now. Again, I can't thank Michael and Rob and everybody at NAPA enough for allowing us to put this program together and to stand behind us for a few years to get it going.
Good things are in the future for us, and I've just got to keep looking at that direction.
Q. Martin, I've got a question for both of you, two questions: Martin, can you talk about your diving down low, those couple last laps, just looked like‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Desperation.
Q. Looked like Carl's banzai a couple years ago?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: No, I didn't drive in that deep.
Q. Can you talk about thinking what you had to do there?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I was a little bit faster than Denny at the end but he was running against the wall right where I needed to be and I was just trying to gain a little bit of ground. It was desperation, last‑ditch effort, just trying something. There was no chance of me even coming back to making it work.
Q. Both you guys got some red noses. Can you talk about how cold it was outside?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I wasn't cold. I didn't have a cool box today. Like lap three it shut off, so I ran the rest of the rest with my visor up. I surprised I could even see. I had some smoke in my car at times. I guess my training program is working pretty good.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The wind at times would‑‑ you'd fall into a rhythm and make some laps and head off into a corner and things would be much different than the laps prior. It's just wind gusts and things like that. I can't say that the temperatures being cooler today affected us much.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: The wind did. I felt the wind a lot on the front straightaway. There was times when I was a little bit worried about my engine. The car would start surging like you were running out of fuel or whatever, but other than that it wasn't too big of a deal.
Q. I know you talked a little bit about the tire thing on the last set, and Matt Kenseth also said that he had a set of tires different than they wanted and he could never get back to it. Have the tires been more temperamental on mile‑and‑a‑half tracks? Is it starting to get back to that, where you could put a bad set on and it could ruin everything? Is there any reason why that's cropping up?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I don't have the answer. Sometimes you can go through the information, the tire codes and the dates and all the things that‑‑ the information that you get with the tires and kind of find something that sticks out, maybe what made it bad, but in this case they were the same as what we had had all day. Actually there was really no rhyme or reason to it, it's just a matter of circumstance, I guess.
Q. Martin, you sort of after the race apologized to the team for letting this one get away, but really was there anything else you could have done considering the circumstances?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I don't know. I'd like to try it again. You know, I don't think so. I mean, I drove as hard as I could. You know, the 11 gained some ground on the last green flag stop. We had a bit of a cushion. He pitted a lap before we did, we came out side by side and I was able to fight him off. I just was just way too loose from there. I don't think there's anything I could have done. I got the lead back after the pit stop, I just couldn't hang onto it. Car just got too loose right there for those 20 laps or so.
Q. Martin, talk a little bit about Chad Johnston. Even though we've met him and spent a little bit of time with him, he kind of remains just a mystery.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: That's good. You guys keep from distracting him.
No, he's just done a really, really nice job. He's been my engineer since probably a third of the way into the season last year, and I just can't say enough about what he's done with the race team. He's a great leader. He's a quiet guy, so it's really hard to see how good he is. But just a great team leader, very, very smart about the race car, and the biggest thing that we have going is from the time he started working with me, the chemistry was there. He understands what I'm saying. He understands how to put in the computer what I'm telling him and get the right answers back, and I've said that from day one when he started working on my car.
He's just done a great job. He's still new at this. He's obviously getting better. He calls a great race, and he's only been doing it for a year. He's a guy that I think we're going to be talking about for a long time down the road as one of the elite crew chiefs.
Q. Jimmie, we had probably more engine related problems today than in a long time. Can you speculate at all on what might be happening there?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, and when you see your teammates fall out, that's when you typically worry, and I saw Kasey Kahne off the pace at one point, but then I saw him back running again, so I guess he had rub out of fuel. And the 24 was off pace a little bit at the end, but I didn't see any smoke so I was trying to tell myself everything was fine. But I did see some cars drops out with problems. If they come out of your engine shop, if one goes, it's one part or a batch of parts that typically go wrong, and you'll see a lot of cars from that engine shop fall out. But I don't know why. We've had some big track races this year, and I don't think the attrition has been all that high. I'm not sure.
Q. Jimmie, as you sat in your car waiting for that restart you were riding 12th, what was your optimism about being able to get back to the front, and sips you did, how did you execute it?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I was trying to find some silver lining in things, and in the last few weeks, we'd been up front and didn't work out for us. I thought, well, if this is how we've got to go about it, then fine by me. I was hopeful since we had four on, it would give us a chance for two, and that chance didn't really come about. I was just trying to find some spots to build momentum around, and then when the flag drops, you just go racing and you kind of forget about all that stuff at that point. I had a good car and I was going for it, and I got to like third or something and was kind of catching Denny. After the pit stop Denny started forward and I just kind of stalled out.
Q. Martin, can you think back to another race where you felt this kind of disappointed with a second‑place finish?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: No, not with a second, no doubt. I've given wins away, though, and been this disappointed before. I can remember back at Phoenix, we led about the whole race and the last time the caution came out we stayed out and everybody pitted. It's kind of things like that that seem to be the story of my career since my first win. But again, I'm just proud of the team and proud of where we've come. To sit here and be disappointed with second place is saying something for us. Just looking forward to coming back to the racetrack next week. I really enjoy working with this team. They're doing a phenomenal job. I can't even tell you how much fun we're having to be honest. Once I get over the defeat in a few hours, I'm going to look at all the positives, and there's a lot of positives we can take out of this weekend and so far this season. We're not near as good as we can be yet, and we're going to keep pushing forward and try to keep getting better. I know our wins are going to come soon.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Scott Miller's contribution to the team, what it seems‑‑ his arrival has kind of coincided with turning things around.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: He came on at a time when we were changing the way we build our cars and did our program. That was a really good thing for us. He came in and streamlined the process, made sure it was consistent, made sure we were getting everything out of the people on the floor building the race cars and things. Scott has been a lot of fun to work with. He was my crew chief when Chad was suspended for a few races last year and really got to know him well. He got a really, really good inside look at our cars and what we were battling with and what we needed to do better with, and as bad as it was to have Chad get suspended and all that stuff, it was a really good opportunity for Scott to really take a good look at the whole program and be a part of the program and say, okay, these are the things that I need to do this winter.
Just a great guy to be around. He's got a great attitude, a great personality. He's a lot of fun, and he's done obviously a really good job. All our teams are very, very connected as far as what we're doing and sharing setups and things, and he's obviously a big part of that.
Q. After the race when you were on pit road, J.D. Gibbs was going to hang around to give you a pat on the back and say good job. Is that a sign of how these teams are getting along better now than they have in years? Have you seen that closeness of a relationship before?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, I'm a big fan of J.D.'s and Coach Gibbs. They've given my brother some opportunities, so I've gotten to know them a little bit. That meant a lot that he came over. To be honest, our programs are‑‑ with the help of Toyota and TRD, the things that we've been doing, we've worked on a lot of stuff together as far as‑‑ I know we're separate teams, we race each other each weekend, but we've helped each other try to elevate Toyota's program as a whole. So maybe he felt like it was almost a one‑two finish. I'm not sure exactly why, but it was cool that he came over.
Q. You've talked for weeks about you guys are catching Gibbs Racing. Does that matter? Do you need to finish one of these things off to catch them, to get a win?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, winning certainly helps and that's what we want to do, that's what we're here to do. But come September we want to be in the Chase and we want to go after a championship, too. You've got to look at the big picture a little bit. We're not where we want to be obviously. Our other two cars didn't run as well as we wanted them to today, and that's probably the first time our cars have ran that different throughout the season, so maybe we'll look into that a little bit and get a little bit smarter and a little bit better there.
But I think if we're all up front and Toyota is going to be happy, I think that's a good thing. I don't think we're racing each other to be the best Toyota team, we're racing each other to be the best team in the Sprint Cup Series, it just so happens we're both Toyotas and we kind of push each other along and get to see a little bit of what each other does and work together to hopefully put all our Toyotas in the front.
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