Toyota Racing – Martin Truex Jr.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Kentucky Speedway – July 12, 2019
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to the media in Kentucky:
Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Talk about your mindset coming into this weekend having led over 300 laps in the last two races here.
“Definitely a lot on our mind coming here just because of this year and what it’s been all about. It’s so different. I think back to the last couple of years and we’ve really been able to kind of come in here with the same strategy, mindset, setup and look for the same things throughout the weekend. Now with the new cars this year and PJ1 on the track, all those things, different tires, it’s quite a bit different. We didn’t have a great day of practice. Hopefully we’ll make some good changes for the race. It’s tough these days when you come with a new package you don’t get a lot of practice, so we were off quite a bit to start and playing a little bit of catch up right now.”
What’s the biggest thing you’re working on leading into the Playoffs?
“I think just being a little bit more consistent. It seems like we have a good race or we win and then we have a bad one, then we win and then we have a bad one. Approaching the Playoffs you want to be consistently running up front and be able to be fast and perform well at each different kind of race track. The mile-and-a-halfs have been a little bit of a kind of a puzzle for us I guess. Again, being so different than last year, we’ve hit it a few times, we’ve missed it a few times. Hopefully just find a little bit more consistency in what we’re doing and show up to the race track a little bit better.”
What are your thoughts on an IndyCar and NASCAR doubleheader ?
“I don’t know. There’s a lot of people in charge of making things like that happen. I think it’d be fun. I certainly love to watch racing in general. I watch every IndyCar race I get a chance to, so it’d be cool to be somewhere on the same weekend to kind of get a little bit closer look at how they do things. I’ve never actually been to one of their races. It’d be neat to hang around and check it out. As far as making that happen, I have absolutely nothing to do with that so we’ll see what happens there.”
How do you feel about blocking with the way you grew up racing and your style?
“I don’t like it very much but it’s part of what we do now. You’ve got to kind of just figure it out. You kind of just try to do all you can to keep the air off the guy behind you. I don’t know. It just depends. I think at certain tracks it’s different than other places and there’s been times where I know a guy behind me is way faster and I don’t even do that. I just let him go because it’s kind of the way I’ve always raced. It’s been interesting to try to figure it all out this year. By no means I would say I have it figured out. It’s been a challenge.”
Is blocking on the rise with the new package and what are your thoughts on it?
“Absolutely. It’s definitely on the rise. It’s a big part of this year and this package. If the guy behind you is faster than you, and you know it, you just – and some guys are better at it than others or more aggressive with it than others – but you’re just trying to steal that air from the car behind you. The guy behind you, his hands are tied when you block, especially in the corners. On corner entry, if you make a move to take the air off the guy behind you, there’s not really a whole lot he can do about it. A lot of it is about anticipation and trying to find clean air. Obviously on tracks with multiple grooves, it makes it a little bit easier, but it’s a huge challenge and there’s no question blocking has become more popular.”
How much trust do you have at New Hampshire to give the guy behind you the bottom line in Turn 1 to get on the high side in Turn 2?
“I guess it depends on who it is and at what point in the race you’re at. If you’re coming down to the final end of the race, it makes you a little bit nervous giving somebody the bottom because you figure they’re just going to run in there and drive in the side of you. It’s become a completely different race the last two years since we started using the PJ1. We’ll have to see when we get there next week just how wide that stuff is and how much they’re going to put down to see what the racing is going to be like.”
What can you take from Kentucky that can help you down the line at intermediate tracks?
“I think they’re all so different, but I would say that if we could learn something here, we could certainly apply it at Texas. I would say that Kentucky and Texas now with having one flat end of the race track and one high-banked end, they could be pretty similar. We weren’t that good at Texas so we could certainly use a little bit of help in that department going there and it’ll be a Playoff race towards the end of the season, so it’ll be an important one. Hopefully we can figure something out here that will help us.”
Do you welcome the challenge coming back to a track that you’ve had success at?
“I always welcome new challenges. I think that’s one of the most unique parts about our sport and what we do as drivers and teams. This stuff is always changing. You could win four or five races in a row or whatever and you go to a different race track and you’ve got a new challenge. They change the tires all the time. The rules of the cars are changing all the time. I would say that all the top drivers are consistently working on how they drive the cars and how do they do better. How can you be better because everybody is doing that. It’s a huge challenge to try to stay near the top of this sport and that’s part of what makes it fun.”
We saw Alex Bowman get his first Cup Series win a few weeks ago. What’s the first win do to a driver in proving who they are and establishing themselves in the sport?
“I think it’s huge to get that first one out of the way. You kind of feel like you belong. You kind of feel like a lot of pressure comes off. Before that first win you always have questions, right? When is going to happen? Is it ever going to happen? What do I have to do? What is it going to feel like? And so when you get that first one, all those questions are answered and a lot of the pressure comes off and you can just go about your job a little bit easier.”
The last five of eight races have been won from the front row. Is qualifying that important?
“Well I hope not because I don’t think we’re going to qualify too good tonight. I really don’t know. As we figure this package out and as we’ve run it at all these tracks this year, I feel like things have changed so much. Early in the year I feel like all the guys that ran good, qualified bad. Now, guys are figuring out ways to have enough speed in qualifying to start up front and to be able to have good enough handling throughout the race to stay up there. That’s been a big challenge for us is how do we get both. We’ve had good handling cars at a lot of race tracks, but not a lot of speed. We’ve been able to take advantage of good handling. I don’t know. I think that in a perfect world you’d want to start up front because you get a good pit stall and you don’t have to worry about traffic and getting stuck trying to fight track position throughout that first stage. I think guys are figuring it out for sure. That’s something that we are consistently working on and constantly working on that we haven’t, as the 19 car, we haven’t been able to figure it out quite yet.”
When you come back to a track that you’ve won two years in a row, do you have good vibes coming back?
“Oh yeah. Of course. You always do. It’s always nice to go to a track that you have confidence at and you feel good about, but then you show up and it’s always like – like today we showed up and it was like ah, man, this isn’t too good. You’re always reminded of how difficult this is, what we do, and certainly today was one of those days.”
How do you feel about the PJ1 compound?
“I think it’s too early to tell. I really don’t know. Based on watching the truck race, it looked like in (Turns) 3 and 4 there were some options. (Turns) 1 and 2, I think it’s just you’ve got so much banking and so much more speed that running higher is just the longer way around and we’re already using so much throttle through the corners that you just lose time. It kind of felt that way again today for us. It kind of felt similar to what we’ve seen with the trucks last night. It’ll be interesting to see how much it changes at nighttime. Is it going to grip up a lot or what’s going to happen there? Is the bottom going to be better than it was today? Still a lot of questions. I would say in general, I didn’t think the PJ1 felt as sticky as I expected it to be. I expected it would be really no chance at all in running the bottom and everybody would be in the sticky stuff, but it seemed like there was a mixed bag so that’s always a good thing I think.”
Do you think Kentucky Speedway lacks character since it’s been repaved and is there a connection to the repave and you winning the last two Cup races here?
“Again, I think we just found a package and a feel that I liked and ran with it. The cars were similar for all those years, since they repaved it really. The low downforce and the things you had to do to get around here fast didn’t really change. Yeah, we were able to just kind of run with that momentum and that kind of mindset or that strategy of setting our cars up and things. I think the track has plenty of character. The fact that both ends are so different – it’s getting bumpy again, all those things make it a challenge. Everybody talks about Turn 3 here and just how difficult it is. I feel like you come off of 2 and you feel like you’re going 180 and you get to 3 and it looks like a parking like you’re driving into. It’s dead flat and the track is wide. You just feel like you’re going straight for the fence through the middle on the exit. It’s got plenty of character and it’s a really tricky place.”
Justin Haley tore up his car coming in off the track to the garage. Have you ever had an experience like that where you come barreling into the garage and it’s not what you expect?
“I’ve never had a big incident like that where something got tore up, but I’ve seen cars crash in the garage area before. I actually was involved in a crash in a garage area years ago in Chicago. You just never know. You’ve got to always be paying attention to everything. Some places the infield has, as you mentioned, drain holes and all kinds of weird stuff can happen. Yeah, it’s kind of crazy.”