TRANSCRIPT FROM MEDIA AVAILABILITY AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

by Official Release On Wed, Jan. 10, 2018

MARTIN TRUEX JR.

ON THE OFFSEASON AND HOW THE TIRE TEST HAS GONE SO FAR …
So far it’s felt good to be back in the car and it hasn’t really been that long. It’s felt like yesterday we were on the track racing still, so it felt good to get back out there. It’s a Goodyear Tire Test, so we’re trying to figure out what tire we need to bring back here in the spring and to be able to put on the best show possible. It really felt like both races here last year – with the repave – were pretty good and really competitive, so hopefully we will be able to find a tire that will get that second groove coming in a little bit earlier, especially coming in on turns 1 and 2 and help the racing a little bit. But so far it’s been going good.

WHAT THE OFFSEASON HAS BEEN LIKE AS THE REIGNING CHAMPION …
I’ve had a lot less days off. It’s been a lot less of an offseason than I anticipated. We’ve been really busy doing a lot of things, but it’s been really fun as well, so just celebrating the championship and getting to visit a lot of different places and hear from and talk to a lot of different people – it’s been a lot of fun. I have a busy week this week and then I have a little bit of time off towards the end of the month to do some vacationing, so I’m looking forward to that. But it’s been a lot of fun so far.

ON HOW HIS MINDSET CHANGES AS THE CHAMPION …
I don’t think it changes a whole lot to be honest with you. I feel the same now as I did as the first time I got into a car last year. It’s always fun. I think the coolest part for me is just coming back to the track and seeing all of the guys and spending time with them. The comradery part of racing and the team aspect of racing is so much fun. It’s a big part of what I think we all look forward to as drivers working together as a team to ultimately reach our goals, so it’s fun to be back with the guys. At the same time I don’t feel much different. We are all at zero points again right now, so the goal remains the same and the pressure is going to be there, but I’m definitely optimistic. I feel like we are in a good place and hopefully we can be competitive for years to come.

HIS THOUGHTS ON HOW THE CAR IS HANDLING DURING THE TEST …
It felt good. I mean we’ve had some rule changes and things, so it’s always interesting to see what the car is going to feel like, what’s different, what’s changed. I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far today by the changes that probably are not as big of a deal as I thought they might be. But the track’s green, it’s pretty cool out. It’s going to be grippy and fast, so I’m not really surprised by anything yet. But definitely less rust to knock off this time because it’s so early. It’s barely into January and we are already on the track again, so it’s been a little bit over a month since we’ve been at Homestead; it’s not a whole lot of time off.

GENERAL THOUGHTS ON SOME OF THE NEW RULES CHANGES ON PIT ROAD FOR 2018 …
I mean we’ve talked about it a lot. I think there’s a lot of questions marks from all teams and I know there’s a lot of talks throughout teams and in the industry of how much different it is. I think that everybody is practicing and trying to figure out the best way to do it and I feel confident that it’s going to be a wait and see kind of approach. Everybody is going to think they have a handle on it and then somebody is going to do it different on pit road and whip everybody’s butt in Daytona, so then you’re going to have to re-learn everything and try and figure it out. From what I understand, it’s been really difficult. A lot of the weight falls on the jack man as far as making the stops go fast and when all that pressure gets put on one position it makes that one position really important and really different than it’s been in the past. I think everybody is just trying to figure it out, but from what I understand our guys are doing a really good job with it and feel confident with it.

ON HOW THE TIRES GOODYEAR BROUGHT FEEL AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY …
So far we’ve spent a lot of the morning running the track and it was pretty cold this morning and you know, nobody’s been on track for a while, so we’re trying to get it cleaned off and get it to where it gets consistent. To where we can test tires and not have any question marks. I felt like just before lunch we started getting to the point that the track was starting to get consistent, like I felt like it should feel. We did run through a few different tires, but no big changes with those yet. Get the track more consistent, get some rubber laid down, get some heat in it and then get on some different tires and try and find something that’s better. Really, it’s not about what each of us likes more than the other, it’s more about finding some sort of comfort for everybody and also something that we feel like can put better racing on. That’s really what we try to focus on with this. It’s not like you want to pick the tire that’s just the fastest or just feels the best. You want to have something that’s somewhat consistent. I feel like we always look for something that we can move around on the track a little bit more than normal and something that we that has a little bit more fall-off and speed as the run goes on. Those are the things that I’m looking for and we just try and relay the information to Goodyear and they ultimately pick what they think the best one is.
ON WHETHER HE’S WOKEN UP AND THOUGHT ABOUT THE FACT THAT HE’S THE CHAMPION …
I’ve not had that day yet, and you know, I think it’s felt different as the offseason has gone on and I’ve gotten to do different things. It’s kind of sunk in more, but it’s not completely there yet to be honest with you. I mean just today, to see my new uniform with the champion logo on it, it’s another thing that’s new to me and feels really cool. There’s a lot more things, I guess, along the way. A lot more days for it to settle in, but it’s been an amazing feeling of accomplishment and hopefully it will continue to sink in as we go on.

 

CHASE ELLIOTT

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT IT’S LIKE TO DRIVE THE NEW CAMARO OUT THERE:
Yeah, it’s been, for me, behind the wheel it’s really hard to tell what changes are when you are out there by yourself. I think the changes will probably become more apparent, hopefully, when we get to say Atlanta or get to some of the tracks that the changes are going to become important at. Out there making laps it is so hard to tell. I think until we get into those situations and kind of get some races under our belt as not only an organization, but as a manufacturer as a whole to see exactly how we stack up I think it will be tough to say until then.

YOU TOUCHED ON THE CAMARO A LITTLE BIT. TWITTER FOLLOWERS ARE CALLING THIS CAR ‘SEX ON WHEELS’ IT LOOKS SHARP ON THE TRACK. DOES THAT AFFECT YOU GETTING IN THE CAR AS FAR AS DRIVING IT THE FACT THAT IT LOOKS FAST? HOW DOES IT FEEL? CAN YOU TELL A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS CAR AND LAST YEAR’S MODEL?
Yeah, as far as the feel goes, it is so hard to tell. I have a hard time feeling much of anything I’m going so fast. I’m guessing anyway, but no, I think until we get into situations where we are racing and we get some more general analysis of hey, the Chevrolet’s are better or the Chevy’s are qualifying better or the Chevy’s are racing better, I think until we get of those generalizations of exactly how we stack up, it’s going to be hard to just make a ‘guesstimation’ of how the thing drives and say it’s better or worse. It’s hard for me to tell out there by myself.
But, the car looks great. I don’t know from a manufacturer standpoint from the public eyes standpoint, I don’t know how you could not identify the Camaro with the Camaro on the street. It looks the same. I think that is something to be very proud of from Chevrolet. The work they did on that and the thought process behind it. It is the same car, it looks just like it. I think job well done from that standpoint.

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU AS A DRIVER TO INTERACT WITH YOUR FANS, ESPECIALLY BEING A NEW DRIVER PULLING THOSE NEW FANS IN?
Yeah, for sure, I mean look, as I’ve said before, I’m going to be me. I’m not as active as a lot of people are on Twitter. I think that is just because that is the way my personality is. I’m not going to jump out of the box of my personality to appease other people, never have been that way and I’m not going to be that way. I have been very lucky to have had some great supporters over the past couple of years. I hope we can grow that. Look, I want people to if they want to pull for me or like me I want it to because of who I am and the person I am and the way I carry myself. If I’m not the right guy for somebody, then hey, there are 39 other people to choose from and I think that is your choice, so I will respect it either way.

WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE OFF SEASON FOR FUN?
Yeah, spent some time out there (Colorado). Spent a couple of weeks in some warmer weather down in Costa Rica which was fun. Went to the ballgame, which was fun for a little while. It’s been great so far and kind of been wide-open the past few weeks. Excited to get home and spend these last few weeks at home before we get back going and get to Daytona here real soon as everybody in here knows.

CHANGING YOUR NUMBER SEEMS LIKE A BIG DEAL TO YOU:
It is.

IS THERE A PSYCHOLOGICAL COMFORT LEVEL CHANGE WITH THAT?
I don’t think so. I mean … I listed to Aric (Almirola) and his answer a second ago when y’all asked him about it and frankly I can’t see the outside of the car from the inside. So, you know, at the end of the day is it going to make me go any faster? No, probably not. Do I think it looks better? Yes, I do. Is it my favorite number? Yes, it is. Has it always been my favorite number? Yes, it has been. So, all those things are great. I’m very luck and honored to carry the number that I’ve carried for a number of years before this year, so it’s like getting back home to me from that sense, but no, I don’t think it’s going to make me go any faster or slower. I wish it did make us go faster. I would love that, but unfortunately numbers don’t.

NOW THAT YOU’VE HAD SOME TIME TO REFLECT, HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN IT COMES TO PICKING AND CHOOSING YOUR BATTLES ON THE TRACK?
I mean I think it’s circumstantial. I think in life in general you can’t let people run over you and let them get away with it otherwise they are just going to keep doing it. I think that is just a part of life. If you let somebody control you too much they are probably going to take advantage of you as it goes on that happens in work places every day. It happens in racing, I’m sure it happens in football, baseball, basketball, the whole deal. I’m a big believer in that so I will race guys as they race me and obviously I want to beat people the right way because I think at the end of the day racing people the right way and doing it with respect is probably going to make them more mad than it would if you did something dirty to get by them. I’m a big believer in that and I think that is the best way to do it and that is kind of the way I’ve tried to do it in the past. I’ve made mistakes like everybody else, but I think it’s important to carry yourself and try not to let people run over you.

WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK ON 2018?
Frankly, I think our preparation over the past two years has been really good. I believe in the process of how we do things in our team and what was the No. 24 team and now the No. 9 team. I think Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) has done a great job of building a consistent week-by-week approach to the races and how we prepare on Tuesday’s to how we debrief after races. Putting the amount of effort that needs to go into certain areas to improve performance. I think for us, it’s not really things I can share with this group, but when we have had issues or we have had weak points and when we have gone to work on those points we have made them better. I was very proud of our team and the way we ran in the final 10 weeks last year. There wasn’t one person, every one of y’all included that thought we were going to do what we did in the last 10 weeks. And I think that is something to be proud of. I know it didn’t end like we wanted it to. We had the pace to be there and to have a shot at Homestead and we didn’t, but we had the pace to do it throughout those 10 weeks and I think that is something to be proud of. We had the pit stops to do it, we had the race strategy calls to do it. I think I can do it and excited to give it another shot this year.

WHAT WAS THE EXPERIENCE LIKE AT THE GAME LAST NIGHT?
Yeah, it was a great experience. As a long-time Georgia fan, I haven’t had a ton to cheer for since probably early 2000. A few high spots here and there, but I think that is something that is great about being loyal to a team, you are not always going to have your day, as Corey Smith says in his song, but I think that you stick with them long enough and you trust in the process that they are doing and it makes you proud to be a fan when they do have their day. I believe they will some time. I’m excited to keep watching. It’s not going to run me off from pulling for them again next year.

ARE YOU GOING TO RUN YOUR SIGN BOARD OUT THERE ALL YEAR LIKE THAT? (THE TEAM TAPED A 9 OVER THE 24 TO CREATE HIS SIGN BOARD FOR THIS TEST)
I don’t know. I saw it. I got a pretty good laugh out of that too. I rounded the corner and saw that nice tape-job No.9. I don’t know, we might to keep it fresh. Although it might confuse William (Byron), I guess. Before, I guess I could have just run the No. 9 sign board and nobody would have ever known, but I don’t know, we will see.

 

RYAN BLANEY

ON WHETHER HE FEELS LIKE HE’S GETTING COMFORTABLE AT TMS …
Yeah I think so, I’ve enjoyed this place. Whether it’s the racetrack or the area around it, I just like coming here, so I think we’ve been getting better and better every time we come back here. Just a matter of trying to get to the point where we can win a race here, but something about it I’ve always enjoyed. Whether it’s the old pavement or the repave, it’s been pretty good for us so it’s just a matter of fine-tuning and getting that a little bit better.

ON WEDNESDAY’S PIZZA PARTY WITH FANS IN THE GRANDSTANDS …
Yeah, honestly, I didn’t know it was going to be a pizza party. I was just going to go up there for lunch. I think it’s really cool that fans come out for test sessions and you know, to go out of their way during the week, when most of them are working. Whether they take off work or call in sick or whatever, they come watch us for a couple of hours, and that’s really cool. I noticed that there were a lot of people here today, so I said that I was just going to hang out up there for lunch tomorrow and meet some folks and sign some autographs or whatever they wanted – just trying to show some appreciation. Then Eddie (Gossage) told me there’s going to be pizza there, so that’s good. It works out for everybody. I get to eat pizza and the fans do, too, so that will be cool. I’m hoping we get a good amount of people there and hopefully they have a good time watching us and then hang out for about 45 minutes or so.

ON HIS MUSTACHE AND LONG HAIR …
I don’t know man, I thought it looked good. I went on a cruise and I had a mustache for a cruise, so I just decided to keep it and to keep it for this test, too. But it will all get cleaned up Friday. I actually have an appointment to shave this and cut my hair off. That will definitely let me know that the season is about here and I will have to start looking like a professional and, you know, not a homeless person.

ON WHETHER HE’S SAD TO HAVE TO GO FOR A MORE CLEAN-CUT LOOK AT PENSKE … Not really, it’s just hair. It’s just facial hair. It’s dead skin that grows out of your head. It’s not anything too major, so I actually laugh at fans that give me a hard time about whether I’m going to cut it or not. It’s just hair. There’s a lot more important things out there, but it’s funny to see the reactions. You can cut anything off that you want and it’s not going to change anything. Personality wise, I’m going to be the same person, but just look a little bit different. It will be interesting not having hair touching my neck all the time. It will be a lot less work. I don’t know if you know how much work it takes to have long hair. I actually don’t really like it. It’s almost gotten too much for me, so it will look different. But I think I’ll stay the same. I’ll still be Ryan.

ON CHANGING TEAMS FOR THE 2018 SEASON … Yeah, it’s been good. We have 2-3 new members of our team. We’ve mostly kept the same core group, which was good. There was only a few members that stayed at the Wood Brothers, that have been there a long time, that we acquired when we went to 21 car a few years ago and I’m excited. A couple of them have already been a part of Team Pepsi and we’ve moved them up from the XFINITY side or they were working in the shop and they came or we have one mechanic that has come from another team. I think they’re all working well together on our first test. Granted it’s a Goodyear test, so you’re not doing huge changes on the cars, so it’s kind of hard to tell how they’ll work together, but everyone knows each other really well and that’s really all I can ask for. They all get along and communicate well and it seems like that’s going in the right direction so far.

ON THE DIFFERENCES ON BEING ON TEAMMATES AT PENKSE … Not much, I feel like that side is going to stay really similar as far as prep work. Even at track stuff, the way Joey, Brad and I work together and the way the teams works together. We did a really good job last year, really the last couple years working really closely together and that’s what has given us some of our success and helped us learn a lot, that’s for sure. It’s going to be really similar, really the only thing different is just adding another team. The Wood Brothers group, Paul, all of them, is going to be the same as it was last year; just one more group and I think that’s going to make us stronger. Just a lot more opinions about things, so for me it’s not going to change much for me and my team. It’s really the same thing for meeting or information that we get, it was all already all there, which is great and it’s still going to be there.

ON PAUL MENARD TAKING OVER HIS OLD RIDE AT WOOD BROTHERS RACING …
I’ve always liked Paul and he’s been great to get to know. I haven’t really got to know him too much before this this year and we were able to take a trip up to Wisconsin actually. We were at Menards for a couple of days, at their distribution center and that was really cool to spend a little bit of time with him and kind of learn where he’s come form and things like that. And learn really more about what Menards is and where it’s come from. I think it’s a great opportunity for him. He’s had a really long, great career in NASCAR and I think this is going to be a great shot for him in some great stuff. Great equipment, great cars and surround himself with some really good people. I’m wishing the best for him and hopefully he can succeed. Not only for his well-being, but for the Wood Brothers as well. I always wish those guys the best, so I think it’s a great opportunity for Paul. I’m excited to see what he can do. I think he will do really well. I know not a lot of people think he’s going to do well, so I can’t wait for him to prove those people wrong and I think he’s going to do a great job, honestly.

ON HOW TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY TRACK FEELS WITH THE NEW COMPOUNDS …
It was hard earlier in the day, the first hour and half or so, but probably an hour and a half before lunch, the sun came out and it was finally starting to get pretty hot and you could tell with tires falling off and things like that and different compounds and sets and I think that will just keep getting better this afternoon when the tracks a little hotter. I know we have a few more sets we have to run through, and I know there’s been some we like and some we don’t like, so we applaud Goodyear. I haven’t been a part of a tire test in a long time, so it’s neat to feel all the different compounds and builds that they bring out here. Whether they start off a run different or whether they fall off more, it’s really neat to see and it’s really good to know they’re working really hard to make the best tire each racetrack. We will be able to tell, but that will just keep getting better and better as the track gets hotter.

ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT THE DAYTONA 500 …
You’re always gearing up for Daytona. The start of the year with it being the biggest race, you’re anticipating a lot. You’re anticipating on going down there and try to win the race and get the new year started off on a good foot. We were close last year to doing it and we had a good shot at it, and hopefully we can have a little bit better run this year. But I know everyone’s excited and every team will tell you the same thing and that they are ready to go. It’s pretty neat. The first couple weeks of the offseason goes by really slow and then you get within a month of … we’ll be in Daytona at this time in a month, and it comes pretty quick when you get working on everything. Then cars are being built and you’re making plans and things like that. I can’t wait to get down there. I love Speedweek and being down there for 10 days. I loved that as a kid and it’s even cooler being a part of it. Hopefully we can go out and get our season started out on the right foot and start this year off bringing the 12 car back. It’s pretty special and being able to run for Roger Penske full-time. Hopefully we can have a good season this year, and you know, you always want to improve on what you did last year. Whether that’s win more races or make it further in the playoffs, that’s what you want to do and that all starts in Daytona in a month.

ON THE RETURN OF HIS PODCAST …
I don’t know. There’s been little talks about it. I would like to. I know it did better than I thought it was going to as far as people liking it and fans liking it and not getting in too much trouble for doing it. I had a lot of fun doing it and hopefully we can bring it back. That’s the plan right now, but we’re still trying to figure it out and we got about a month left, or about a month or a week to figure it out so that’s to be discussed. TBD.

 

ARIC ALMIROLA

ON SWITCHING TEAMS FROM RPM TO STEWART-HAAS RACING …
So, switching teams has been really exciting. I’ve really enjoyed my last six seasons at RPM, but anytime that change is introduced it’s fresh, it’s new and exciting. It kind of breaks the monotony. For the last six years over the offseason, there hasn’t been a lot to do. My seats and all that have stayed, my teammates have stayed the same, the guys in the shop have stayed the same. It’s been pretty mellow and relaxed and routine. So this year has been completely the opposite. New seats, new team, new cars, new people, new names and faces to learn. So, I’ve been at the shop a lot and I’m really enthused. I’m excited about getting to know everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. There’s quite a few people there that I actually know that were there back at DEI 10 years ago, so that part’s been fun to rekindle those relationships that I’ve had in the past. But just to go to there (to the shop) and see the operation … when you drive up to the complex it’s so big and so massive. They have so many resources at their fingertips inside their racecar shop. You see all their trophies in their trophy case and their championship trophies, it’s very evident why. Just the attention to detail, the amount of people pulling in the same direction – it’s incredible to see first-hand, so knowing I’ve had to race against that the last six years has been disheartening, but I’m glad I get to be a part of it finally. I’m excited about 2018 and the opportunity to out there and perform at a high level.

ON TONY STEWART AS A TEAM OWNER …
He likes to race and is gone all the time. He’s been pretty quiet and off the radar, in New Zealand racing and all over the map. He’s just a racer at heart and I think that’s what makes him and that company so special. He still wakes up every morning thinking about racecars. … That’s what he thinks about. He eat, sleeps and breathes racing. Gene Haas is the same way. He absolutely loves racing. That’s what makes this team so unique in the garage. You have a lot of the other owners are more businessmen, but you put those two together and it’s strictly about racing.

ON THE OFFSEASON AND HOW IT WAS DIFFERENT THAN PREVIOUS YEARS …
I took a few weeks to go have fun. You have to get away. You can’t just stay head down and deeply involved in racing all the time, it’ll burn you out. We run a long schedule, so I certainly took some time to myself. Christmas was extremely fun this year with the kids. But I have spent a lot of time at the shop. Probably more time at the race car shop this off season then ive ever spent. I’ve basically started from scratch, right? Started from zero, with all new seats, poring inserts in seats and just everything, gauges, dash and just everything that you can think of that a driver looks at or is a part of inside the race car, I’ve started from ground zero. They have the ability there to make everything pretty custom to what I want, so I’ve kind of knit-picked everything because I can and so that’s been nice. I’ve spent a lot of time at the shop because of that, but then on top of that, just going to meet everybody. You know, I’ve said it a few times, they have so many employees and just going and trying to meet the same person more than one time so I can try and remember their name and put a face to their name because I feel like that’s important. I want to be able to walk into the shop and if I have a question about something or an issue with something from the previous weekend, I want to be able to know exactly where to go, walk to that guy and call him exactly by his name and talk to him. Even when we have success, I would walk around and shake people’s hand and know their name. So that’s been a process just learning that many people’s name, so it’s been a busy offseason for sure.

ON TAKING OVER DANICA PATRICK’S No. 10 AFTER SIX YEARS PILOTING THE ICONIC NO. 43 CAR FOR RPM ….
I haven’t really thought much about it to be honest. There’s always change, right? Whether it’s Dale Jr. retiring and someone else getting into his car. Jeff Gordon retiring and someone else getting into his car. Whatever, there’s always change. That’s something about life. The only constant is change, so for me, I haven’t really put much thought about getting in the 10 car and it being in somebody else’s car. When I get in the car, the only thing I see is the windshield and 39 other drivers that I’ve beaten or want to beat. So for me, I’ve driven the sport’s most iconic car for the last six years, so if you want to talk about it from that aspect, there’s been more pressure driving that Petty blue 43 car than I think I’ll ever have driving a black and white 10 car.

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