Toyota Racing – Martin Truex Jr.
NASCAR Cup Series Quotes
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (May 22, 2020) – Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to media via videoconference prior to the Coca-Cola 600 this Sunday:
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How do you feel NASCAR has done with the return to the race track?
“I think it’s been awesome. I think everybody has been really excited about the racing. Darlington is typically a really good place to race anyway, but feel like everything has gone really well. We’ve had three really good races, exciting races and just judging off social media and the fans reactions, I feel like everybody is just really excited about racing coming back. From our perspective in the garage, I think the industry has been pleasantly surprised at just how smooth things have gone, how well-prepared NASCAR was and just what a great job of planning they did on all the things that we had to overcome. I think from all angles it’s been a huge success and I know all of us have been happy to be back working again.”
How do you keep new fans of NASCAR interested through the 600?
“I think the 600 is unique just because of the history and I think it’s obviously a long race and I don’t know if some of the casual fans that tuned in maybe for the first time this past week can sit through 600 miles. I think for our hardcore fans and for the people that appreciate the history of NASCAR, the 600 is it’s own kind of animal and it’s own show. To be able to win that race is huge. I’m not sure exactly how to answer your question, but I know for us in the sport and drivers especially, it’s a big one and it’s one we all want to win and just feel like it means a lot to all of us. There’s a great special that I saw the other day that is a few years old I think about the history of the 600 – NASCAR’s toughest race and I think that’s something maybe new fans should watch.”
Chase Elliott indicated that qualifying isn’t as important for the 600 as picking pit stalls, do you agree?
“I would tend to agree with him on that one. I think especially being such a long race, I don’t know that it really matters where you start. I think there’s plenty of time, if your car is good enough, to make it through the field. Last year we didn’t qualify all that well I don’t think and our typical mile-and-a-halves, we don’t seem to qualify all that great. Made our way towards the front fairly early on. Pit stalls are something you have to deal with all night long. Every time you come down pit road, if you have a good pit stall or a bad one, it can help or hurt you. I would agree 100 percent with what he says. Just going there to qualify isn’t a huge deal.”
What challenges does the extra 100 miles of the 600 impact drivers and how has this condensed scheduled made that even more difficult?
“I think in general Charlotte is a pretty high physically demanding track. 600 miles just adds on top of that. For us normally, if we’re doing our normal week-to-week, 300 to 500 mile races, you have a week to prepare for the 600 and it’s not really a big deal having that extra 100 miles. The schedule that we’ve been on so far, having two months off and getting back into racing is something that’s been different from what we’ve really ever had before. I don’t know if 600 miles is doing to feel the same as it normally does because of that. I know for me I’ve been trying to stay as well-prepared as I can, but there’s only so much you can do. There’s no way to practice for a 600-mile race and I feel like being in a race car is something that’s hard to prepare for. Just trying to do what all I can and the normal deal of eating healthy and drinking lots of water all week. That’s kind of been the plan I’ve been on and so far it’s working.”
What has your interaction been like with Christopher Bell this season?
“I’ve talked to him a few times here and there. Nothing specifically, but it’s been a little more difficult now with the COVID thing because we haven’t been having meetings and things like that. We haven’t really spent a lot of time around each other yet. I would say that for him, he’s been working around Kyle (Busch), especially up through the trucks and everything. I would assume he probably goes to him behind-the-scenes more than anyone.”
Are the drivers easing into these races and do you expect more aggressiveness?
“I think we were back 20 or 30 laps into Darlington one. I think everybody is out there to win. Nobody is easing into anything. I think because of the fact that we had no practice and we’ve been out for two months, I think it probably took 10 to 15 laps for most guys to get going. The biggest deal was just getting adjustments in your car and getting it to where it was somewhat driving the way you wanted it to. I think everybody is really doing all they can to be the best they can. I think all of us go to the track to win each weekend no matter the circumstances. We’ve seen Darlington two ramp up a little bit as you could see and I think a lot of that was just teams having a little more time to prepare and getting their cars dialed in a little more. It was a night races so the track was high grip and the pace was higher or faster. That’s why we saw a little different race. There’s no easing into this. I think everybody goes for all they can get all the time.”
Do you feel there is more attention on the sport of NASCAR currently?
“Honestly, it’s been really hard to gauge that from my standpoint. I would say, I’m not the most involved in social media of anyone. Also, we haven’t been out. We haven’t been talking to people we don’t know. We haven’t been seeing strangers and meeting new people and things like that. Really just judging off social media, I feel like we’re getting some new followers, but we really just have to go off the data that’s shared with us through NASCAR and other outlets.”
Did you have to drive to Darlington and back by yourself?
“I think everybody pretty much drove. It’s really not that far of a drive. It would have been harder for me if the races were earlier in the day, but they were afternoon so that worked out okay. It was all fine and now Charlotte, which is really close. It’s 45 minutes. Definitely worked out well to start out at these two places somewhat close to us.”
Is it difficult to get in your personal car after being on the race track?
“I think a lot of fans ask questions about how you drive on the street after getting out of a race car. Most days, you drive just like everybody else. You follow the rules and you kind of run with the traffic and all that. After a race is when it’s the most difficult because you’re so used to going fast for four or five hours or whatever it may be and you get to a 35 mph speed limit or 45, it literally feels like you’re not moving. It’s a little more difficult after the race than before, that’s for sure.”
Would you like to see the ‘choose cone rule’ implemented at some tracks because the preferred line at Darlington was clearly the top groove?
“I sure would have loved to have seen it the other night. We got murdered on that deal. I think we had one outside restart the whole, entire race. Probably had a top-three car and finished 10th. All because of inside restarts every single time. That was frustrating. I would definitely be for that and I think it’s a good option. I think it works well on short tracks where they do it. I think with this rules package that we have on the bigger tracks, it would be something that as drivers we’d all be interested in.”
Do you feel the Toyota camp as a whole has better speed than earlier in the season?
“I think we’re right there. I would say that we’re probably not the strongest team right now. I don’t think our cars are the fastest cars out there. I think if you look at the stats, we’ve had some really good race cars with the 19. Stage point wise, we’re really looking good. We’ve gotten a lot of stage points, I think more than anyone. Our stage two results have definitely been really good and average finish wise. For us, it’s just been little mistakes here and there. Darlington, both races really fighting bottom lane restarts hurt us. We also had a few problems on pit road sprinkled in as well. There’s just some little things we need to clean up for the results. We’re right there I think. Denny’s (Hamlin) win the other night was big for the company I feel like and all four of our cars, really all five of our cars were competitive at Darlington, especially the second race. We’re right there, we just have to keep plugging away and make all the right adjustments. Hopefully, Charlotte has been a good place for us and hopefully this weekend will go well.”
Do you have confidence heading into Charlotte with James Small as your crew chief?
“Absolutely, no question. I think James (Small, crew chief) has some in and done a wonderful job. I feel like we really picked up where we left off last year, aside from some issues here and there. I feel really good about our group, we’re strong. James has done a really nice job. Maybe our cars are not quite as good compared to the competition as they were in the past two years, but again, I feel like we’re right there and James is doing an awesome job. We’ve been consistently scoring more points than our teammates except for at the end of the race so we’re trying to figure that out. Feel like he’s done all the right things and we continue to get better each week.”
When did you come back from Florida?
“About two weeks before the first Darlington race so about three weeks ago now or so.”
What do you expect to be different with the military salutes that are traditional around the Coke 600?
“Obviously, it’s going to be different. The 600 is such a big race and it’s so special to be able to go there and honor the fallen soldiers. Not only the names on the cars, but to get to meet the families and really kind of understand more about their story or the kind of person that they were, that’s always been something that I think all of us look forward to, I certainly did. That’s something that’s going to be missed, but what won’t be missed is just what the weekend means, what the holiday means and the fact that we all know what we’re racing for, who we’re racing for. From that standpoint, it’s not going to lose any of it’s special meaning, it’s just a different time and we’re dealing with things the way we need to. Be great if we could all get together and do the normal thing, but obviously that’s not an option right now. Just hopefully everybody understands what it’s all about and remembers why we’re racing and who we’re racing for.”
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