Toyota Racing - Martin Truex Jr
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Playoff Media Day - Sept. 13, 2017
Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to the media during NASCAR's Playoff Media Day:
MARTIN TRUEX JR., #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
How quickly were you able to get over, or have you gotten over what happened on Saturday?
"About when I got to the airport to fly home."
So pretty quick?
"Yeah, pretty quick. No, actually it was Tuesday (laughter)."
That's kind of how your team is?
"Yeah, I mean, you got to figure out a way to put it behind you. You have the conversations with the people you feel like you need to have the conversations with, then you turn around and focus on next week. Obviously a big week coming up, the next 10 races are very important. Just got to turn your focus. We talked about what we needed to and moved on."
Steve O'Donnell said he talked to you, tried to allay your fears that something of that nature wouldn't happen in the future. With something as large as a championship on the line, what needs to be done between now and Homestead?
"For us or for officiating?"
Officiating, to make sure the guy that deserves to win ends up hoisting the Monster Cup.
"Yeah, I mean, I think for the most part of the season, they've been consistent, not jumping on every hot dog wrapper for a caution, those types of things we've seen maybe in years past. I thought Saturday night at Richmond was a departure from what we've seen really the last five or six months. So really, that's really what I wanted to talk to Steve (O'Donnell) about, was why did they throw the caution. From what I could see, there was no real reason. Somebody just jumped the gun on that one. It would be tough. Dale Jr.'s tweet this weekend about Carl Edwards, his championship going away last year for a caution, it's hard not to think about that. If we're in that same situation at Homestead and that happens, what happened to us Saturday night, that would be really, really hard to take. They just need to make sure they're consistent and make the right call when the pressure's on. I mean, that's their job. That's what they have to do. If there's a real reason for the caution, then nobody can say anything about it. Yes, that should have been a caution. So just do the right thing and make the right call at the right time."
Was it consistency?
"My reason was there was no legitimate reason for a caution. Wouldn't matter if it happened before or not. For me I felt like there was no reason for a caution at all."
Did you get an explanation that you felt was satisfying on your concerns about moving forward?
"Well, I heard what I wanted to hear. It did not change anything. So, you know, don't just tell me, show me. I'd like to see it play out the right way. The biggest problem I had every year is the drivers meeting, let it play out naturally, we don't want anybody screwing with the race, then they make the wrong call. It's frustrating, but show me. We'll see what happens."
Did you tell him that?
Do you have confidence in race control over the next 10 weeks, given what you've just said?
"Ask me in 10 weeks (laughter)."
With what happened at Richmond, then Darlington a little bit different with the tire, looking at the bonus points that you lost the last two weeks, do you go into the Playoffs now more motivated or are you worried things might be going downhill now?
"Certainly the last four laps of the last two races have been tough. But at the same time I think we've had just a really, really strong season. Certainly would love to have 10 extra points on top of what we have already. But I'm proud of what we've done. I mean, the stage wins especially, it's amazing to see the laps we led and the stages we won. Certainly few races that got away. The last two stick out most. But I think we'll be okay. I think it's certainly not going to hurt our momentum or confidence the way the last two finished out. Sometimes circumstances in racing you can't control happen. That's just the way it goes. So I think we're in good shape. We'll just have to see how it all plays out."
Have you experienced issues with ambulances not finding their way to the medical center quickly after a wreck?
"Yeah, I mean, if you were in bad shape or you were hurt or something was going on, bad timing, it could be rough. I had the same issue last week at Richmond. I think we were stuck in traffic trying to get there. We sat there for five minutes. Guys, we need to get going. There are some things we need to look at behind the scenes like that. Certainly if you were in bad shape, it would be very crucial to get there in quick time. Sometimes ambulances don't get to us quick enough, as well. Those are all issues that need to be addressed. I don't know who's in charge of all that, who should address it. All those little things, we need to clean up now."
Would you speak up? Now with the driver council, the way you report, would you be concerned enough to say something?
"Yeah, but the lines of communication are not clear. The drivers council, I don't know 90 percent of what goes on in those meetings, I don't know what they talk about. I've never had really interaction what they talk about. That's just something else we have to work on going forward. The first year for that, I guess, so there's going to be some kinks in it."
Are you an advocate of a traveling safety crew?
"Yes. I think it would be a good thing for us. I don't know what we need to do to make it happen or why they haven't done it. Seems like the NHRA, IndyCar, guys that have those crews that travel each week, they seem to just work really efficiently. They get to the drivers quick. All the drivers in the series, they speak very highly of the programs, how they all work. Definitely worth a look. I've heard some of the reasons they don't do it, so I don't know really how that all plays out."
Are you the favorite, the title favorite? Is there a title favorite?
"I don't know. I mean, with the way the system is set up, I don't know that you can have a favorite honestly. I mean, this has got to be the toughest championship in sports to win, without a question. With the eliminations, with one race for the championship at the end especially. You're not out there one on one. There's 39 other cars, and you're racing against three of them. So, yeah, I mean, it's got to be the toughest one there is. I don't really know if you can have a favorite."
Did Sherry Pollex tell you to smile during the regular season presentation after the Richmond race?
"It's passion (laughter). She didn't. No, she didn't tell me to smile, but I think she was inside as mad as I was and didn't really want to take pictures."
She's competitive, too?
"It was tough. She's very competitive."
Are you concerned about another late race caution in the Playoffs?
"If it comes at the wrong time I am."
At Homestead, 2007 to '13, there was never a caution in the last 10 laps. Since they adopted the Playoff format, the last three years there has been, two of them for debris. Is there too much emphasis on debris?
"Yes, there is. Hopefully it won't happen again."
At Richmond, the car that hit the wall was several laps down.
Should that car have been out there? Should NASCAR start looking at forcing teams off the track late in the race? How would you determine that should be done?
"I had that exact conversation with Steve O'Donnell this week, and thought we needed to up minimum speed for cars that were not in an accident that didn't get on the five minute clock for crash damage for that very reason. We don't want to go to Homestead and have a car that's 25 laps down scrape the wall or blow a tire and change the outcome of possibly a championship or who the champion is. I think it's definitely something that they're willing to look into. I think it makes sense. Again, we'll just see how it all plays out."
From the start of the race, raise the minimum?
"Well, I think I would say that minimum speed right now is probably too far off from where we run. I mean, you'd have to be way, way off the pace to go 16 or 20 laps down under green at a short track, 400 lap race. Yeah, I mean, losing a couple laps is one thing, but 15 plus. Probably don't need to be out there."
Where would you draw the line?
"Well, there's a percentage, right? They take the fastest, what they expect to be somewhat the fastest speeds, take a percentage off of that. That's how they judge minimum speed. I think there's too much of a gap in there."
As good as you've been all year, do you feel there's still room for improvement on the 78 team?
"I think there's always room for improvement. I think there's always things you can do better driving wise, setup wise, building the cars. I mean, we're always picking everything apart, every part and piece, pit stops, pit road speeds. You name it, we look at it. So, yeah, I mean, certainly there's always room for improvement. That being said, I think we've been consistently one of the best cars all year, and we'll need to continue that. To do that, we'll need to find some more. Everybody's looking hard. Everybody's working on their stuff. Everybody's doing everything they can to step it up in these next 10 races, and we'll need to do the same to keep up."
Should that be changed, the minimum speed, just for the Playoffs or all the races?
"I don't know. That's a good question. I thought maybe for the whole season makes sense just because we need to keep that consistency. I do feel like there's too much of a gap in there. Certainly some tracks where the tires wear out a lot, it's going to be different than places where it doesn't. It's just something I think needs to be addressed. Seems like for quite a while now we've had a few cars here and there that are just so far off the pace, you don't even know where they're going to go when you get to the corner. It's not a huge issue, but I think it's something that we need to look at."
Should NASCAR share penalties sooner for at-track instances that happen before the green flag?
"It would be nice. I mean, it would be great for everybody to know the winner and not have to find out on Tuesday, encumbered wins and all that stuff. It's kind of confusing to the fans. I think people get kind of upset about it. At the same time, I don't know, if you look at inspection times now, how long those cars are in line, they get in line four hours before the race, sometimes they barely make it out on the grid now. I just don't know how they're going to be able to be thorough enough to catch those kind of things that they're finding at the R&D center. So I don't know. It just depends. I think if they do that, they're going to have to open the rules up some. They can't keep all the rules they have in place now and do it before the race. They'll have to let some things, stop looking in certain areas. Who is it up to what those areas are? That's the big question. Every team is going to have a different area they want to go away. So it's a complicated issue. It's not as clear cut and simple as everybody thinks it is. I don't really know what the answer is for that. It would be nice if we could know who the winner is and whether they were legal or not when we left the racetrack or Sunday night or Saturday night for everyone. But it's very, very complicated."
Shouldn't the regular season champion be on the driver council?
"Well, I wasn't last year the regular season champion, so I don't know. I actually don't even know the criteria. I think it's the top driver from every manufacturer, then I'm not sure what else. Past champion, I guess. I don't know. Maybe be on it next year."
Does the points gap you have help you most in the early rounds?
"I really don't know. I would say it potentially could help you in any of them, just depending on how things went. You look at it as, okay, if we had two bad races, needed to lean on some of those points, it would matter who won the other races in that round. It would matter where - (Kyle) Larson is only 20 behind, did he have a really good round or a bad round. It depends on who you're racing against, who you're maybe on that line of the cutoff against, how many points they have. It's just too early to tell how all that stuff is going to play out. Our focus, our goal is to not have to use any of those bonus points right now. Obviously we want to get through there and have them in case something bad happens. If we perform at the level we can, and we're capable of, I don't think we'll need them. But this is racing, a lot can happen. You never know. So definitely nice to have them in your pocket. How effective they'll be, I guess nobody really knows yet."
Talk a little bit about your relationship with Kyle Larson and do you see him as your closest competitor right now?
"Relationship? I mean, I don't know him (Kyle Larson) very well other than on the racetrack and around the track. He's very talented behind the wheel. I love racing with him. I think we approach racing the same way. We drive similar, I would say, believe it or not. Yeah, I mean, I expect to be racing him for the next 10 races because he's been fast everywhere. He's got a great team. I love his crew chief to death. Actually seen him the other night, he's my neighbor. Yeah, I mean, I think it will be fun. You can't pick a favorite for the championship because of the format. But I think the guys that are favored based on speed, the way the season has went, he's obviously one of them. Him and Kyle. I think him and Kyle Busch are probably the two I'm most concerned with just because of the speed they've had. But, again, you never know who's going to step up and find that speed and come out of nowhere. You got to keep your eyes open, focus on your strengths, what you've done all year. That's what we're going to do."
Call over the fence at each other?
"Across the street neighbor."
Do you see each other around?
"I was talking about his crew chief, Chad. I know him very well. He was my crew chief for a while."
Do you ever see Kyle Larson over there with him?
"I don't. No, I don't actually."
When you are so intense, the practices, qualifying, is there a chance running in a very competitive Playoff that you guys could burn yourselves out, or you're so used to operating that way that you won't?
"Yeah, I think for us, it's 10 more races. Certainly there's a lot more on the line. The repercussions from mistakes, decisions are obviously a bigger deal. We're not going to race any different. We didn't last year. We didn't the year before. Maybe that's not the right approach. I think that's just the way we do it because we know who we are, we know how we race, and we know what's got us here. Just personally I feel like that's the only way you can go race the Playoffs, is do what you know how to do. I think if you try to change who you are, you just end up making mistakes and getting out of your rhythm and doing things that you wouldn't normally do. It puts you in a bad spot. So certainly last year it didn't work out for us. But I think that's just part of racing more than a strategy."
Last year we saw the Hendrick cars get up to speed after a difficult summer. Has that put them on your radar? Seems that's the Jimmie Johnson model. How many more years can he keep doing the same thing?
"I think it's definitely a dangerous approach, if it's done on purpose. I don't know that it's been done on purpose. But, yeah, I mean, it's been amazing just to see how they can come out and change and look like a completely different team with 10 races to go. Just all of a sudden like, Where did he come from? I mean, everybody has seen it. We've seen it plenty of times. I don't think our guard is down when it comes to any team, let alone them. You have to look at them, what they've done, know they're going to be around and they're going to be tough."
With the last two years your team has had, do you think you'll ever get used to this level of competition, your possibility of winning?
"I'd say it's a little bit of both. At times it's felt surreal and it's felt like how did this all happen. Then at the same time it's, like, okay, we've worked really, really hard to get here. I had flashes of this throughout my career, that we could do it, just everything never lined up and stayed lined up long enough to gain that momentum, just that consistency. I'm definitely not surprised by it, by how the last two years have went. At the same time I'm still very just appreciative and thankful for the opportunities and know that it's a special team we have, it's a special thing we're doing. I don't take it for granted one day at all."
Do you feel like because of that past experience, you have an edge over some of the younger guys like Larson?
"I don't know. I think we emphasize pressure too much when it comes to drivers because I think for us, our entire racing career, I think we approach racing the same way. We had pressure when we raced on Saturday night because we wanted to win. We have pressure now because we want to win. It doesn't change, I don't think, for us as much as it does maybe for the teams and the guys that haven't been in those situations that you have to make the calls on Saturday night on what they're going to put in the racecar, have that confidence in it. If they have to make changes, calling the race, pit strategy, those kind of things, I think those are bigger situations where you might change your outlook or your calls based on pressure. So I think on the driver side of it, I don't think it's as big a change as people lead it out to believe."
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