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MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 16, 2017
Q. How long have you been waiting for Homestead to get here considering the season you've had?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Actually, I've been waiting for Homestead since this weekend in 2015. Honestly, since that day, we've been‑‑ since that race was over, it was like, all right, from there, we've been working since to get back here and have another shot at it. So, yeah, for a while.
Q. You look at the season you guys have had on the track, overwhelming success. Off of it, though, you guys have had a lot of hurdles and things, adversity you guys have faced. Has it just been kind of a juxtaposition of different emotions and everything?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Yeah, it's been kind of wild just to see all the things we've had to deal with. But that's part of life, you know. Obviously, everybody deals with those type of things in life.
I think for us it's been a good thing, in a way, to just make us closer, bond us together more, and learn how to get through tough times and face those challenges. I think it makes us a better team. It makes us stronger at what we do. It helps us block out pressure in big situations like this weekend, like racing for a championship.
So it's definitely been tough at times and rough, but we've always been there for each other and made it through. I think that shows a sign of strength, and hopefully we can rely on that this weekend if things get tough at some point in time.
Q. Looking back on your season, what's one moment that really sticks out to you in terms of getting here and being able to have that momentum heading into Homestead?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: You know, all the way back to Vegas to win a race that early in the season, I felt like was a huge deal for us. We'd never won early in the season before, and to get that out of the way and just know that we can just push and try to go out and just win races from there was a big relief, and it was a big confidence booster for us early in the season so we could kind of just work off of that and build on that success.
And then Charlotte, for sure, was another one for me that showed that we were ready for a championship run. To start that race‑‑ and I think we struggled to even run in the top ten‑‑ and to come back and battle through that race and end up winning was huge, I think, for all of our confidence that we could get through anything. We didn't need to start the race with the best car. We didn't need to be perfect all weekend long. We could make it happen throughout the race, and that was a big one.
Q. How did your strategy change with the reduction of tires this weekend?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I'm going to leave that question to Cole. It's certainly not the best situation because Homestead is hard on tires, and I feel like, if we run ten laps, probably six laps, everybody's going to want to put tires on. Like if you run six laps and you get a caution, it's going to be like, oh, crap, do we put them on now, or do we save a set? It's going to be tough. It's going to be a big challenge.
Just depending on how the cautions fall. If we get a bunch of long runs the first 300 miles of the race, it won't be a big deal. We'll just have to see how it plays out.
Q. Does perception, expectation kind of factor into your weekend because the expectation obviously that you are the dominant car going in?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: It does not at all. It doesn't change the outcome in any way. So we don't even think about it. I think our focus is to come in here and do the best job we can do. I feel like the team's done a great job preparing. I feel like we're in a lot better spot, obviously, than last time.
Being the favorite is great from that standpoint that we feel like we're in a lot better position now than we were in '15, when we came here and we're like we don't have enough speed, we need to find some things for this weekend. Well, we couldn't find them. So from that point of view, I feel like we're in the best position possible.
But you've still got to execute. You've still got to bring the right stuff. You've got to be fast. You've got to make the right decisions. It's a good position to be in, but it doesn't guarantee anything. So it is what it is.
Q. Because you guys are the favorites, if you don't win the championship, is it disappointing and the season as a whole doesn't feel the way maybe it should?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I don't know. We'll just have to see. If we don't, the sky's not going to fall. If we don't, the sun's going to come up Monday morning. It's not the end of the world. Certainly, it would be hard to not win it, especially thinking that every other year besides the last four years we would have already clinched. So that's kind of‑‑ I thought about that last night. I was like, wow, that's crazy. 50‑some years of NASCAR, whatever, we could have won a championship already.
But that's not the way it is. So I think, if we go out there and do our jobs and put our best on the table and it's not enough, I think we can live with that.
Q. What would it mean for you to win a championship this weekend?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: You know, I don't even know if I can comprehend that right now, to be honest. I don't know the answer to that question. I've made it farther in racing than I ever thought possible. This season's been just an incredible ride. It's been a lot of fun. And I've tried along the way to slow down and just enjoy it, each win, and just the accomplishments.
It's hard not to think about a championship and what it would mean. And to see the names that have won, just to be a part of that group would be something special. I know my family would be proud. I'd rather not talk much about it until it happens. So we'll save that for Sunday night, hopefully.
Q. How often do you think about that 2015 race? Have you kind of gotten over that feeling of after that race?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Honestly, I haven't really thought about it a lot until it was time to start preparing for here and thinking about maybe things we didn't do right or could have done a better job. At the end of the day, I think, at that point in time, we didn't have speed like we do now. It's just a huge bonus. It's so much easier to go into any of these races when you know you have speed and you know your team is going to give you what you need behind the wheel. That gives me all the confidence in the world.
What we've done this year and what my guys do for me is amazing. So I draw from that. But from the team aspect, I think we're a lot better prepared this time around. There's no guarantees, I guess, but we'll see. I feel good.
Q. Your dominance has kind of put a target on your back. Who's your biggest threat going into this weekend and why?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: They're all a threat. Any of it. This is racing. You never know. I mean, 400 miles, and you only need to be at the front at the end. You don't need to be the best car all day. We've seen crazier things happen. So just they're all a threat. You've got to just go out and race your own race and hopefully put it all together.
Q. You guys had that media tour in New York where the four of you were together. How much did Brad and Kyle talk to each other?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: They were like best pals. I'm pretty sure on the way home the three of us started singing we're the three best friends anybody could ever have or whatever. They were fine. Yeah, they were‑‑ they acted like normal people. So it was good.
Q. What makes this run for the championship different than 2015?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: 2015, we way overachieved. We just‑‑ we pointed our way in being consistent. Some of the guys had bad weeks. We didn't necessarily have top four speed. Now we do.
Q. When did that whole porch moment come to you? At what point in '13 was that where you mentioned sitting on the porch?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: It was the night I found out that Napa was pulling the plug on us at MWR. So it would have been ‑‑ we raced Saturday night. It would have been Sunday night after Richmond.
Q. You get to Furniture Row. '14 obviously did not go as planned. When did you really start to think that things were turning a corner and we could make something here?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Towards the end of the season. I want to say it was Kansas in the fall. We took a different car, different chassis, which was more like the guys that we were buying the chassis from were running, it was one of theirs, and everything felt normal to me again. It's like, okay, I'm in a race car again. It has four tires, not three.
And we went through and ran really well. We were fast all weekend. I think we qualified fourth or fifth, and we ran really good. And then the guys all looked at me like, wow, he might know what he's talking about. That was it for me. It was like a switch flipped, especially in Cole, because he was the engineer at that time. Then we could kind of see eye to eye and start talking about things, and everything just started making sense to both of us again.
He's like, okay, now things are doing what they're supposed to do. You're telling me it did that, which I think it's supposed to do that, where the rest of the year nothing did anything it was supposed to do. Just kind of that switch flipped right there, and we gained that confidence and that trust, and we just started rolling from then on.
Q. Obviously, winning the championship would be huge to you. How much more would it mean for Sherry after everything she's going through right now?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: It would be awesome to be able to just be on the top of the world with her for a few days, you know. Honestly, she's been through a lot, and I know she doesn't want this‑‑ she doesn't want me racing to get this championship for her, but I'm definitely going to try to get it for her.
Q. You were in a Chevy when you won the 2015 championship. You're in a Toyota now. How much different is it inside the car?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: It's not a lot different. We have a lot of things that are different now with the rules, but everybody's ‑‑ the biggest thing is just the support we get from everybody at Toyota, from TRD, and they're such a huge part of our program where, in 2015, when we had Chevy, we were kind of doing everything on our own.
Q. Barney won't be able to make it here?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: No, Barney's not coming. But he's feeling good. I talked to him last night, and he's pretty excited. He said he's got big plans for the surgery. He said he's already feeling good.
Q. How much will you talk to him throughout the weekend?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: You know, honestly, I'm not sure. Normally through a race weekend we don't really talk much. He comes in Sunday. We talk before the race, and he usually just sends me a message or calls me Sunday night after the race. I'm guessing, since we talked last night, I probably won't hear from him until Saturday night. He might wish me good luck.
Q. Or maybe he'll blow your phone up all weekend because he's not here?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: How's it going? What's going on? No, he's doing really good. He's very excited.
Q. If Gene Haas had not hired Kurt, where would you be?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Clamming.
Q. So if Kurt had stayed where he was, there would not be a ride for you?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: That's probably true, yeah. If my aunt was‑‑ no, I can't say that. If my aunt had‑‑
Q. You'd be going somewhere?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: There's a chance of that. There was a chance for sure.
Q. It all worked out well. When he went and took Kurt, Barney called you and went from there?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: That's correct. It worked perfect.
Q. Worked out well?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Yes.
Q. Can you ever imagine racingin Cup now without stage racing?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: No. I think it's been one of the best changes to the sport in a while. I thought it was incredible, I mean, awesome. The racing was definitely‑‑ behind the wheel, you could just feel the intensity every single lap. There was no, well, I'll let this guy go. I'm going to ride here for a while. No, if you could get the spot, you were getting it. Lap 50, lap 60, lap 70, lap 220, it didn't matter. Guys were going for it all. It was cool.
Q. Knowing that you guys had a gain on the stage racing, you guys beat all the other teams in stage racing, how much different do you think stage racing will be next year knowing that everybody is going to be on the same playing field knowing they're going to have to do what you did?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I don't think it's going to be much different. I think we all had the same goal, and that was to try to win all the stages we could. The game changer is the speed. If you've got at least 2,000 laps, so take 2014 when Harvick won‑‑ or led 2,000 some laps like we did this year, he probably would have won that many stages as well.
Everyone wants to win. It wasn't like it was a big strategy thing and we tricked them all. We just outran them. That's what speed will do. It just happened to work out that way.
Q. When you look at the totality of the season and everything you guys have faced, has it required you to take on a bigger leadership role or maybe Cole Pearn to take on a bigger leadership role?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I don't think we've changed a whole lot honestly about how we do things since he became the crew chief. I think we've gotten‑‑ probably each gotten better at what we do at the parts we handle. He's done an awesome job having the right‑‑ finding the right guys and putting them in the right positions and keeping everybody motivated because it's a grind. It's a long season.
The guys at the shop‑‑ especially for our guys. Our cars leave on Tuesday, the day before everybody else's, and they start working at 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning. It's a crazy schedule. So just to keep everybody motivated, I think he's done an amazing job.
But for me, it's really been easy with our group. I mean, they don't need a lot of motivation.
Q. Martin, speaking of the team, (inaudible) sent out a video of the guys loading the cars to leave this weekend. A lot of emotion in it. It was almost like he was sending his son off to (inaudible).
MARTIN TRUEX JR: It was bad ass. That gives you chills just to see their passion. That's why we're where we're at, no doubt in my mind. It's that passion. It's the drive to be the best. It starts with Cole. They're just relentless. They'll do whatever it takes to give us what we need to win. That's why we're competitive. That's why we're doing what we're doing.
Q. So they're not real happy with (inaudible)?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: No. They're excited. They want this as bad as I do.
Q. You said last year testing at Homestead can throw you off. This year you guys came down and‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR: We ran pretty bad last year here too.
Q. So what do you expect from the testing?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: It was more that I feel like we've got a good handle on all‑‑ for whatever reason, since I came to Furniture Row, we've really struggled here as a unit. This was always a really, really good track for me, 56, 1 car, whatever. I led a bunch of laps in both those cars here and ran up front a lot, felt good always coming here.
We've just never been able to find anything that works. It was kind of just a mindset thing or an approach, like we need to go down there just to find the right approach because we tried a couple ways and it hasn't worked at all. We've always fought the same problems when we come here. That's why we wanted to come test, and I felt like it went well.
Q. How has having that second car this year helped you guys get to this point in the season?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I don't know. That would be a better question for Cole, I guess, in the shop stuff. The amount of parts and pieces back and forth and trying things and testing parts and pieces or whatever.
From my standpoint, I feel like not a whole lot. I think that, you know, with the JGR information sharing, I thought we got‑‑ we all got stuff from them. We gave them a lot. Just that transfer back and forth, I think, was the biggest benefit the last two years.
Q. Martin, you raced against these guys for the championship a couple years ago. Homestead weekend, did it‑‑ you raced against them all year. Did anything change how they did things, what you saw on the track, whether it was practice, qualifying? Did anything change, or was it the same thing as if you'd been at Phoenix or Kansas or Texas?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I didn't feel like anything was different other than they were faster than us. And honestly, in 2015 through the last six or seven races, I felt like they were faster than us everywhere. We were just kind of grinding out the good finishes, and it got us here.
Yeah, I mean, I don't really know that we did anything wrong. I just felt like we never found extra speed to come here or in the end of the season for that matter. And other guys, it seemed like every week they were stepping it up, and we'd get further and further behind.
I feel like this year we've done a better job of keeping up and trying to stay on top.
Q. Do you feel like, if you work hard‑‑ they certainly challenged the last few weeks. Have they surpassed you?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: It's so hard to gauge one race. You know, Texas, they were really good. Charlotte, they were really good, and he ran second, and we ran first. It's just they're right there. I feel like it's going to be about execution. It's going to be about making the right changes Saturday night going into Sunday.
It's not going to be easy. There's no doubt. I mean, they've won it before. They're good at this racetrack. They're going to be tough.
Q. You mentioned some of the off the track adversity you've had to go through. Cole's had some of that as well. How have you been there for him and vice versa, what's he been able to do for you?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Just the same. Man, if you need anything, let me know. I'm going to go up to Canada this winter and do a fund‑raiser for his best friend who died, for his family, help him with that. Like anything else, he's having a hard time, you reach out to him. Hey, I'm sorry to hear you're going through a rough time, just like you do to loved ones.
So we're really like a family. Just let him know that you're there and, if they need anything, you're there to help.
Q. And he's the same way?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Absolutely. He's always the first one to reach out if we need anything and check on us. So it's definitely like a big family.
Q. Martin, oftentimes in this sport, blocking is looked on as something worse than if you punted somebody. You saw that happen last year with Carl in this race when he tried to block Joey and then they wrecked. With five laps to go, is it pretty much anything goes? If you're in first and somebody tries to pass you, you block them? Is there anything that's out of line in that situation?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I don't know. Yeah, I mean‑‑ it depends on who you ask, I think. I think that the line is very, very blurry depending on who you ask. I don't know. I mean, I know for me personally, I want to race the way I always race. I want to race‑‑ I want to beat them fair and square. No funny business. But you can't guarantee that everybody's going to play that way.
So then you're like, okay, I feel like this guy would do that. Should I do that to him if it comes up? You start thinking about it, but I don't think it's going to come to that. I really don't. I hope it doesn't.
Q. What about the restarts?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Restarts get crazy here because the track is so wide and there's so many grooves, and the track's slick, so it's real easy to spin your tires and things like that. We'll just see, play it by ear.
Q. Without the stage points meaning anything in this race, do you approach the stages differently in this race, or is this going to come down to the situation?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I would say that you probably don't really approach the stages differently, just depending on how the cautions fall. We've seen times this year where guys will take a gamble on trying to get some stage points. There will be none of that with us. There will be tires. If we need tires, we're going to get tires no matter‑‑ if there's two to three laps to go in a stage and some guys are thinking, we're going to stay out and bang some points out, we're not going to do that obviously.
We're going to do whatever it takes to put ourselves in a position to win the race, and we'll have to see how that all plays out.
Q. How much changes when you know you just have to beat three guys instead of the field? You just have to finish ahead of the other three. Does that change the way you approach it?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: It could possibly in the race, but right now it doesn't because you potentially understand that these are probably the four best cars and you're going to need to win the race to beat them all. That's the way you have to approach this. You have to approach this race as we need to go in and win. Not saying that there's not a 100 percent chance that that's going to happen, but you need to approach it with that mindset.
Q. Did you refresh Kevin on what happened here?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: No, he looked at me like I had four heads. Somebody actually put it on Twitter too that I got caught up in that big wreck at the end. And I said, well, yeah, I did, but he wrecked me on the front stretch after I passed him like halfway through the race. It was an accident. He felt bad about it because he texted me like three paragraphs after the race.
But I didn't know. I'll make sure I get up with him on that and refresh his memory.
Q. So he did even send you a text after that race last year?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Yeah, he called himself a lot of bad words.
Q. You seem to get a lot of texts like that, don't you?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Not in the years.
Q. Like from him and Gordon?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Not really, no. I've only gotten a few. I've had to give a few too.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports