Toyota Racing – Martin Truex Jr.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Daytona Media Day – February 13, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to the media in Daytona:
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How do you feel about your brother, Ryan, getting the opportunity to race his way into the Daytona 500?
“I’m excited for him to have the opportunity. It’s definitely a difficult race to make with the Duels and the draft and all that stuff. It’s tough. Hopefully it goes well. I’m not sure exactly what our plans are yet for the Duels. How we’re going to race and how we’re going to approach it. I do know we really want to race the car we have now in the 500. Our backup car is not as good and Cole (Pearn) is adamant that he does not want to race it in the 500. Play it safe hopefully and hopefully Ryan (Truex) will make it in without any help from us.”
Has it been a struggle for a lot of drivers with no room for error and strategy playing out in the Daytona 500?
“I think restrictor place racing – it is what it is. Certainly the package that we’re racing now has its challenges. The leaders really dictate kind of the way the field races. Like we’ve seen in the Duels – if five or six of the leaders decide to go single file against the wall, there’s nothing you can do about it at times. Aside from that, it’s restrictor plate racing. It’s about putting yourself in the right position in the right time and hopefully you’re not in the wrong place at the wrong time when the big one happens.”
How many cars have a legitimate shot at winner?
“Out of the 40 cars, how many have a legit shot at winning? Probably 25.”
Was it easy transitioning to Joe Gibbs Racing this year?
“I would say that it was a lot easier. A lot less unknowns. Less nervous about it just because I know things. I talk about simple things like I know what their brakes are like. I know what their throttle pedal feels like. I know what kind of steering they run. When I’ve switched teams before it’s like starting over a lot of times. When I went from DEI to MWR it was like completely starting over. All new people. All different parts and pieces. All new equipment. Everything felt different. The approach was different. That’s where you kind of have that anxiety of how’s this really going to be. I think it’s going to be good, but I don’t know. There’s so many questions when you switch teams like that. For this transition for me, it was a lot easier because we worked so closely together the past couple of years. We’ve essentially built our cars together. We used all the same stuff – parts and pieces, engines, you name it. I’m familiar with all that. I’m familiar with their process. The way they do things. The way they work together. The way their meetings are. You name it, it’s a comfortable change. For me, it’s been as easy as it’s ever been to switch teams like this year.”
Looking back to 2016, could you have beat Denny Hamlin to the checkered flag?
“I could’ve done something a little different. Just enough to beat him to the line, but he beat me to the line so it didn’t work.”
How frustrating is it trying to win the Daytona 500?
“It’s frustrating. I guess it can be frustrating, but anything that big is not easy to get. It’s just the way it is. You look at Dale Earnhardt, it took him 17 tries or something – 20. He won the most races at Daytona of anyone ever and he hadn’t won the Daytona 500, that just shows how hard it is to win. I don’t think that’s changed over the years. You look like a guy like Trevor Bayne – he came out of nowhere and won the thing and never won any other races. It’s one of those races where crazy things tend to happen. Huge stories tend to come out of it and that’s part of the reasons why it’s such a big deal.”
Do you feel like the Ford cars have figure out how to race in a group at the superspeedways with how dominant they were last year?
“The Toyota drivers kind of were the first ones to do that and show everybody how it could work. With that said, it was still hard to make it work. We all had to end up in the same place which is difficult to do here. We had a plan and it somehow miraculously worked out. We all ended up at the front at the same time and were able to get together. The hardest part is getting together. Staying together is not that hard. For sure, we’re at a disadvantage now just based on pure numbers. The Fords especially have been really fast at the plate tracks the last couple of years with this particular package and now there’s so many of them that they’re all really competitive. They’re all really good at this type of racing with the stuff they’re running. The engines, everything about it I guess. They just have a good package for here. It’s difficult to deal with that. They’re not always all together, but when they are, they’re tough to handle.”
Do you think at the 1.5-mile and 2-mile tracks the racing will be like it is in Daytona?
“I would say more like, yes. I wouldn’t say just like. I think there will be certain tracks where it looks somewhat similar. No question, it’s going to be harder to stay together at those tracks than it is here. Some tracks, it will be easier to stay close together. Maybe Michigan, Charlotte, the All-Star package like we had last year seemed like we could all stay pretty close. There’s going to be tracks though where it looks completely difficult. When we go to Atlanta, it’s going to look a lot different than it did at Charlotte. When we go to California, it’s going to look a lot different. It’s going to be certain tracks it looks one way and certain tracks where it looks another way. There’s no way to make the same exact racing at all the different tracks because they’re just so different. We’ll have to wait and see I think and wait a little while to kind of make a judgment on this thing and what it looks like and whether we’re happy with it or not.”
Is adaptability one of the most important skills for a race car driver?
“It’s up there. It’s real high up there. I think if you look at most sports – football or baseball or whatever – you’re doing the same thing each week. Whether you go to a different state or whatever, you’re playing on the same field, you’re playing the same game, you’re doing the same things. We go to a different race track every weekend. The track changes throughout the race. The track changes throughout the year. Different styles of race track. Every track has a certain – there’s a certain way to get around it the fastest. The tires are changing. The rules are changing. You’re always – you can never sit still as a driver. You’re always learning. You’re always trying to get better because so much changes around you. You don’t just keep going back and doing the same thing over and over again.
Do you think that’s enhanced this year with the significant changes we’ve seen?
“I think it’s just another thing that we’ll have to deal with. We deal with changes very well. Most guys do driver wise. I think you’re just used to it over the years. We grow up driving go karts and then we get into modified and then a late model and then some guys race on dirt. It’s just part of being a race car driving.”
Does the ‘Big Three’ momentum carry over to this year?
“I think so. Everybody in the garage wants to be one of those guys that are looked at as here’s the guys to beat every week. We all want to be there. It’s been fun to be in that position for a couple years. No guarantee that we’ll be there again. You never know who’s going to figure it out quick and come out – some guy could come out of nowhere this season, you never know because it’s going to be so different. I don’t know. There’s a lot to learn. I really don’t worry about all that stuff. I worry about results. I want to win races and if we do our jobs and if I’m happy with the job I’m doing then yeah, I’ll probably be one of those Big Three.”
Do you feel like drivers are able to express their opinions on the new package with NASCAR leadership?
“I think there’s always that opportunity to talk to them. Sometimes guys in the heat of the moment get frustrated about something – like Kyle (Busch) was at Vegas, clearly, it’s easy to just vent your frustrations. I don’t know that it’s the right way to go, but it seems to be the way of the world around here most of the time. The channels are there. They’re always willing to talk. They’re always open. Steve O’Donnell and that group have been great to work with. There’s no question about it. Are they going to do everything you ask them to? No, because they have everyone asking them something different. They’re the big decision makers, but there is that channel there and they’re always willing to talk. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get what you want. We had the driver’s council and we all wanted one thing and they did another. I think that’s probably where some of the frustration comes from.”