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MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 15, 2018
Q. You didn't drive yourself here this time, I assume, like you did two years ago?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I drove myself here last night from the airport.
Q. If you don't win the title, would it be less disappointing than maybe it would have been last year because you haven't had like the dominant season that you had?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You know, honestly, I haven't thought about not winning it, but I haven't really thought about winning it that much either. I feel like just trying to relish the opportunity, trying to take advantage of the opportunity the best we know how, and I think that's all we're trying to do here.
So I haven't thought about it either way other than with the situation and the team going away. I know no matter what happens, we're going to give it our all, and we're going to celebrate Sunday night as a group just because of the last five years have been an unbelievable ride. It's been, as far as racing goes, by far the time of my life. I've realized dreams I've had since I was a kid because of this group and this team and what we've done.
So I guess I would probably be okay, more okay than I would have been last year, but I think no matter what we're going to celebrate and have a good time with it. Hopefully, it's up on stage with a big trophy.
Q. Having won this last year, is this more of a normal weekend, or is it less so because of the team and because it's the last race with the team?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I would say it's more normal because we've been here twice already. It seems like every time you do it, you get a little bit more used to it, and it feels a bit more of just another weekend. I think for us, you throw it out there, it's really just another race, and the more I feel like you can look at it that way and race that way, the better off your chances are. That's what we did last year. We said it's just another race. We're going to go down there and do what we've done all year long, and that's what we did.
I feel awesome, ready to go, and I can't wait to get on the track tomorrow and see what we've got.
Q. What will Barney and Furniture Row's ultimate legacy be in this sport?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Champions. At the end of the day, that's what you set out to do when you go race. That's the ultimate prize. That's what everybody ‑‑ when the season starts and you're getting ready for Daytona, everyone says, what have we got to do to win a championship this year?
So the fact that ‑‑ to be a team that's only been around like 12 years and to have a championship at this level is something to really be proud of, and it's something that may never happen again. So pretty awesome story, I think.
Q. With Furniture Row, I think he only had one win until you cam along, and you only had a couple of wins. When you look at that, why were you two so perfect together to just explode?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Just a combination of the right people. A lot of this sport is about timing. It all fell in place, and we got the right group of guys together that were hungry and determined. Barney gave us everything we needed to be successful. I think that's one of the things that stood out to me when I went there. I wasn't one of the highest paid drivers. They didn't have a big fancy shop. But everything those guys needed to ‑‑ if they could convince Barney that it would make that car faster, he'd buy it.
And that's, I think, the different mentality of that team, and it's just a different vibe. You know, it's like a small team that has a lot of money to spend to make cars fast. It's kind of ‑‑ it's been kind of a crazy thing to be a part of. I mean, it's been fun, and it's been awesome. Barney's just ‑‑ man, what a great guy. What a great place to work. He gave so many people opportunities years ago, and it took him a long time to convince some of the really smart, good guys that we have now to come to Denver, but once they did, the rest is history.
Q. Why did you take less money? Why were you willing to take less money than other drivers?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, in the beginning, it was kind of a normal thing, just because that's ‑‑ that was my only opportunity, and the team was in a pretty good place, and I felt I could go there and be successful and rebuild my name or try to hopefully continue my success. And then it kept going that direction, and I had to do it because it was really the only option. I wanted to stay at that team. I knew what we could accomplish together, and I was willing to take the hit to have the success.
I think we talked about it a few years ago when ‑‑ that's kind of when everything changed, and Barney's like, I can't spend the money. We've got to get some sponsorship. I got Johnny and Bass Pro to come on board, and we started doing all that. It was all part of that. And honestly, I just felt like we could go win a championship, and it paid back. It was worth it.
Q. What will you miss the most about working with Barney, working with this Furniture Row crew?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You know, I don't know. I haven't done it yet. It's going to be hard to say. I've never had ‑‑ I've never been on a team that I feel like makes me a better driver every single weekend. Always finds a way to make me better. I don't know if we'll be able to continue that. I don't know if we'll be able to put together a group that can keep that going. I know Cole is a really, really big part of that, so obviously, staying together with him is important.
But there's so many things that go into building a championship caliber team and so many decisions throughout the week. You know, I don't know how the dynamic will change, but just feeling the way I feel every weekend that I go to the racetrack, and I feel like we can win.
It doesn't matter what happened last week. It doesn't matter where people think we are. It doesn't matter how we feel like our cars are. I feel like every week we can go to the track, we have a shot to win. And I felt that for four years, and it's unbelievably fun to go to the track and feel that. Hopefully, we can continue it, but there's no telling. So we'll see.
Q. Martin, how did Cole earn your trust when you guys started working together? Obviously, you guys had to prove to each other that you were worthy and could work together? How did that develop into what it is today?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: That's really, really easy to answer. 2014, we struggled a lot. Our cars were not very good. We had some major issues that took a while to figure out. But he never pointed the finger at me. He was our engineer. He wasn't the crew chief. But he was the engineer, and he did a lot of the setups and a lot of the work on the cars, and he was the one writing down the notes and taking all my feedback.
As far as I know and as far as I could tell, he believed in me 100 percent in that time when we were running 20th. He just ‑‑ he always ‑‑ I felt like always had my back and was always willing to go the extra mile to figure it out. Once we did, obviously, you've seen what happened. But that just gave me the trust and the confidence that he had my back and he was my guy, and we figured it out together.
Q. Were you surprised that it was so emotional, it sounds like, for the team on Tuesday night? Was it more emotional than you thought it was going to be?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I'm not surprised. I think for all of us Sunday night it's going to be that way too. You get so ‑‑ you know, you just get tunnel vision in this sport, and you get so focused on what you're doing. Short week, short turnaround, we've got to build this car. We've got to do this. We've got to do that. We're not good enough here. We've got to figure out how to do this better. You just get so focused in on doing your normal routine, but it finally all caught up to them. It hit them at that moment when they all looked around and said, that's the last car we're sending out of here to go to the racetrack. I can certainly understand it.
I'm sure Sunday night will be the same for all of us. I kind of look forward to it just to be able feel that and celebrate and let them know how special the time was and what they all mean to me. I think that's kind of where they were at in that time and in that moment.
Q. How confident are you in the future of this sport? This season we've had decent racing, but it's also been marred by a lot of off track activity with Brian France (inaudible). How confident are you in the future and the state of this sport?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think the racing has been unbelievable this season. You look at the number of winners in the playoffs, it's the most we've ever had. I think it's the first final four we've had where everyone's won a race. It's been an unbelievable season, and I think as far as that goes, a lot of different winners, a lot of action, a lot of big moments on the racetrack. I don't really worry too much about the stuff that happened away from it.
I think the sport's in a good place and heading in a good direction. I don't really know what to say about next year and the rules and all that's going to happen other than, hey, let's give it a shot and see how it goes.
I love what we have now. I feel like we could, with some pavement changes here and there and some tire changes here and there, we could have even better racing with the cars we have now, but that's not been the option taken. So we'll see where it goes from here.
Q. But are you confident in the direction the sport is taking you?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Absolutely. I think we've got the right people in place. Jim France, I feel like, has been a huge presence since he took over. You see him around all the time. He's always willing to talk, ask questions. If you need to know something, you know where to go now, which is a big improvement, I think. I feel Steve Phelps is another guy that he's here, he's present, he's a really ‑‑ he's been around the sport. He knows everyone. He knows what's going on, and he's making some good decisions right now.
Yeah, I mean, I'm not smart enough to really know all the inner workings of everything, but I feel good about things. I've got quite a few years ahead of me to hopefully continue to be successful, and that's what I try to focus on mostly.
Q. How much was handling at play in last year's race at the end? The reason I ask is the race is starting an hour earlier this year. Just wondering if handling makes a major play towards the end of the race when you're vying for a championship?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Absolutely. Handling here is everything at this racetrack. If your car handles good, that's how you make speed. It's so low grip, and it's so hard on the tires, anything you can do to find comfort and speed and keep‑‑ somewhat keep your tires wearing evenly is huge. It goes so ‑‑ I mean, that's the key to this place.
So certainly, when the sun goes down and it starts cooling off, it makes those things a little bit easier. It kind of plays more into the car speed side of things. I think the hotter it is, the slicker it is, the harder it is. So it's definitely going to play into it.
Q. Martin, a couple weeks ago, obviously, there were some contentious circumstances with Joey. Is it kind of hit the reset button now given the dynamics of both you guys going for a title in terms of racing hard?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I mean, I would say that I won't ‑‑ I'm not approaching this race any differently because of that. You know, I don't know any other way to answer it, but I still remember what happened, and I'll use that to my advantage this weekend.
Q. Will you race the 22 differently than ‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Absolutely.
Q. Do you race all of them differently now? What would you do to win this championship?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Depends on who it is.
Q. Martin, even though you'll work with Cole next year and probably a lot of ‑‑ a great many of the same crew guys, do you think there will be a point where you might miss being kind of out on your own island as part of that organization instead of part of a larger one?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't know. Honestly, I don't know how to answer that. I think that certainly we've grown a huge fan base because of the 78 and doing it differently and doing it out of Colorado and a lot of West Coast fans and fans from west of the Mississippi and all that. It's been a really cool thing to be a part of that, be an underdog story, kind of a single car team, David versus Goliath, all those things that have been talked about and brought up over the years. That's been really fun to be a part of that.
Unfortunately, I can't do anything about it going away. And I'm ready to embrace my new role, which is a huge opportunity for me, a great team, championship winning organization that wins a lot. So the pressure will be a little bit different.
But, yeah, I don't know. It's been really, really, really fun to be a part of this team and kind of be ‑‑ to kind of be, you know, just out there and outcast, so to speak, in NASCAR and the way things go around here. It's been a lot of fun.
Q. If Logano's leading the race and you're there and you have the opportunity to take it away from him with a bump and run, do you do it?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Absolutely. I have a free pass. He already told me I could. He told me he's fair game. So here we go.
Q. Martin, how do you think a second championship would affect your (inaudible)?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, there's only been 16 guys that have more than one. So ‑‑ yeah, I guess ‑‑ I don't know if I would be 16, or there are 16 already. But the thought of that and the names, I've talked about it before, to be a champion is still hard to even ‑‑ it's hard to imagine it actually happened, right? Like it happened, but it's hard to be ‑‑ it's hard to look at my name in that list of other champions and believe it. Sometimes I feel like I'm still dreaming.
So it would be amazing. I don't know exactly what it would mean. I think that's something you look at when you retire, or down the road you might look back and say, man, that second one, that really changed things for me. I don't know. I'm very thankful to have one. I'm very thankful to have an opportunity for two, and we'll see what happens.
Q. How does Sherry handle these weeks leading up to it?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: She's terrible. She's terrible.
Q. Is she?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Nervous wreck.
Q. Worse than you?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Way worse than me. I get it. I watch my brother race, and I'm like her. I see video of her in the pit box, and she tells me what she was thinking during the race, pacing and can't sit down, and all that. I get it. It's a lot easier in the car. I'm not looking at points as they run and all that silly stuff. I'm just focused on ‑‑ I know I'm getting all I can get all the time. I have a job to do, and I don't have to think about the what ifs and all the circumstances and what if this guy ten spots behind me loses a spot or gains a spot or whatever. I can't ‑‑ I don't know what's going on there.
It's definitely easier to be behind the wheel and be focused on what you're doing and kind of have it in your hands, so to speak.
Q. And Ryan is the same for you, I guess?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I'm nervous as crap watching him race. Especially when he's running good and he's up front.
Q. Texas and Kansas didn't seem they kind of went as well as you wanted them to? Is the mile and a half program where you'd want it to be?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I would say it's probably not lights out like it was last year. I would say that throughout the season we've ‑‑ like Vegas, we had it. Vegas, we found it, and we had that race. Just we weren't good on the short runs, and the race kind of didn't play into our hands. It's been harder to hit it this year.
There's no question. It's been ‑‑ I feel like, if I compare this year to last year, I would say this year ‑‑ you know, like last year, we were lights out. The 4 car, if they could hit it, they could beat us. This year the 4 car has been lights out, and if we hit it, we can beat them. I know, if we hit it, we can beat any of them, and we showed that.
It's been harder to consistently hit that target this year. It's been more difficult. With that said, though, I felt like both Kansas and Texas, we weren't bad. Man, we had everything go against us. Like everything that could possibly happen wrong went wrong, so we really had to battle and fight. You know, pit stop issues and cautions falling at the wrong time and all that stuff, and we didn't have any of that last year.
All that being said, I feel good about this weekend. But it's going to be tough. It's not going to be easy. There's no question.
Q. Is there anything different you have to do this year compared to last year when you came in here racing for a championship?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: If we can do exactly what we did last year, that would be fine. Yeah, I don't know. It depends ‑‑ that's the thing about racing. It's always changing. It's constantly changing. Moving target. You know, I don't know how those other three guys are going to be. If they're off a little bit, then maybe we could be off a little bit and still win it. You don't come down here and feel like that's going to happen. You feel like it's going to be one of those four guys, which we've seen every single year. One of those four guys is going to hit it. You just got to hope you're the one.
I know the guys have been working hard. They're confident. Talking to Cole this week, he feels really good about it. So that gives me confidence. Usually, if they're pretty confident in what they're doing, then it translates to results. So we'll see.
Q. If it's not one of those guys, are you going to race them ‑‑ do you expect the other guys, if it's not one of those guys in the final four racing for the lead, do you expect them to race you different if you're running for a championship?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Probably not, but I would say you don't really worry about those guys too much, you know. You're not going to put yourself in danger trying to take the lead from the 42 or the 2 or somebody like that. If they're being aggressive or really pushing the issue, you're not really racing those guys, so you've got to keep that in mind.
Q. Given how crippling the pit road penalty can be, do you guys tend to back up the tolerance level a little bit compared to any other race, or is it the status quo?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You've got to push. You've got to get everything. Pit road penalties hurt, they're tough, but at the end of the day, if it comes down to that last stop and you've been losing two or three spots on pit road all night because you're playing it conservative and you lose the lead because of that, are you going to win the race? Probably not. I mean, you've got to push in every area. Everybody does it. You can't give up anything.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports