NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 22, 2005
TRACEY JUDD: Welcome, everybody, to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series are both off this Easter weekend, leaving the racing to the NASCAR Busch Series on Saturday afternoon at Nashville Superspeedway. The Cup will return to action next Sunday at Bristol while the trucks are off until April 9th, where they will go at Martinsville. The NASCAR Busch Series Pepsi 300 at Nashville will be broadcast live on FX, beginning at 3:30 p.m. eastern time, on Saturday afternoon. And our guest today is 2004 NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the No. 8 Bass Pro Shop Chevrolet Ford Chance 2 Motorsports. Martin will enter Saturday's race at Nashville 5th in the NASCAR Busch Series points standings. He has one win this season, that was an historic victory a few weeks ago in Mexico City. He also has two top fives, and two top 10s in his first five races of the year. In 54 career starts, Martin's got seven victories, 21 top fives and 31 top 10 finishes to his credit. He's also got three NASCAR NEXTEL Cup starts under his belt, including running in the Daytona 500 this season where he started an impressive 10th. He did finish 34th there due to some engine issues. Martin swept the Busch pole at both of the Nashville races last season, and in three previous races at the track, he's got one top five finish. He struggled a bit with a 23rd place finish in this event one year ago but does have the momentum of the June event in his favor. He placed second in that race. Martin, welcome and thanks for joining our call today.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yes, it's great to be here. Thank you.
TRACEY JUDD: A lot of attention has been focused recently on Carl Edwards, who is running full-time in both the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. We also have some attention being focused on some of the younger talent in the Busch Series like a Reed Sorenson. As a reigning champion, you're almost a little bit under the radar at this point in the season. Do you like it that way?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Actually, believe it or not, I do. It was like this last year. It's a real comfortable position to be in, to not always be, you know, under everybody's microscope. So far everything's been going okay. We've had some good races; we've had some bad. That's to be expected. But them other guys are doing a great job. Carl is absolutely doing a great job right now and deserves to be talked about. You know, we don't mind being under the radar. We like to do our thing. I think we're going to be fine here in the next couple of weeks.
TRACEY JUDD: Talk a bit about your NASCAR NEXTEL Cup program this year and how your limited Cup schedule and your second full season in the Busch Series can help you prepare for next year for what's planned to be a full Cup schedule for you guys.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I think for us as a team, it's the best way to go about moving to the Cup Series. Obviously, we had a great season last year. But the Cup Series is real tough. We've run two races or three races already - two last year, one this year. We've been doing actually pretty good with it. Homestead, we ran really well, I thought. The Daytona 500, I was real happy with the way that went. All them things come together. Just, you know, we plan on moving our whole team up to the number one Cup team and we feel the best way to do that is, you know, get another season in the Busch Series, try to back up our championship and run seven Cup races, try to get our team built up, try to get some cars built, get our feet wet, have a little to fall back on next year.
TRACEY JUDD: Questions for 2004 Busch Series champion Martin Truex, Jr.
Q. How many races in the Cup Series are you going to run this year
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: We're going to run seven. We've already run one. So six more.
Q. When you look at the Busch season unfolding, coming back trying to repeat as a champion, is there less or more pressure on you?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Really, I'm not sure. I guess it depends on how you look at it. But I'm not sure really. I'd like to think we could do it again. Obviously, it's going to be tough. We've got some great competition. I think it's probably going to be even tougher than last year. We've got a little bit of different rules this year with the tire rule and the new tire, impounding all the races, so it's a little bit different for us, but we're getting used to it. I think here in the next couple weeks, we'll grab hold of it pretty good and we'll be in some good shape. We're going to have to obviously steer clear of bad luck like we did last year and just keep working hard and hopefully win some more races.
Q. Nashville is the kind of track that will separate those such as yourself as veterans and some of the young guys that are coming in because of the tricky surface and what have you. At least that's my opinion. Do you agree that this is a track that may in the Busch Series separate some of the young guys from the veterans?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I'm not really sure. It's definitely a tough track. It changes. It gets really slick during the race. It's the kind of track I like. We've run well on concrete in the past, got a few wins on it. We ran really well at Nashville last year. I'm looking forward to going there. Hopefully we can just get us a good run in there. We struggled at California and Vegas. We want to put that behind us. We ran good Atlanta this past weekend and our finish didn't show how well we ran obviously. But I'd like to think we could go there and get a win and close in on that points lead and go after the championship.
Q. You talked about the struggles. With the struggles that the team has had, the entire DEI organization on the Busch side and NEXTEL Cup side, is it different than it was last year when everything was going right? What is going on inside the team as far as everybody trying to put things together?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: There's just a lot of different things going on right now, you know, that we haven't picked up on quite as quick as other people. I can't speak for the Cup teams. I'm not sure what's going on with them. As far as our team goes, just the new tire and the new impound rules and the tire rule for the races, for the whole race weekend, is a little bit different for us. It seems that our setups aren't quite -- the ones we were running last year aren't working quite as well as they did. We're not getting much practice to get them sorted out. At the same time, we're not able to use any tires in practice. So it's been tough to get a handle on it really quick. We haven't done any testing yet at any of them tracks really. You know, it's just going to take us a little bit of time to get a handle on it. I felt like we hit on some things that worked really well for us at Atlanta. We're going to take them onto Nashville and hopefully it will work for us again.
Q. I know you're a good friend with Junior. I was wondering, how he's holding up through some unaccustomed struggles. Does he confide in you? How is everybody at that side holding up, as somebody who is a good friend of Junior?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: They're doing well. I mean, their spirits are staying high. You know, they realize that it's going to take a little bit of time to get their stuff straightened out. They just start working together. Junior's actually been pretty happy the way his cars have been running. They just haven't seemed to be good at the start of the races. This week in Atlanta, he felt like he had a top five or top 10 car at the end of the race; just didn't get to show it. He's pretty happy with the way things are going. You know, I guess he realizes it was going to take a little time to get things on track. He feels like they're gaining. You know, his spirits you are always up. He knows it goes up and down.
Q. I'm assuming you're still convinced that DEI is going to be a pretty good place to work in the future?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Oh, for sure, yeah. I think it's a great place to be. People here are great. Everybody's working their butts off. Like I said, we just need to figure some of these things out that these other guys have hit on. We'll be just fine, I think.
Q. Staying in the Busch Series is good. What can you learn, though, that you don't already know? What can you learn there that you need to learn yet?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, I think the Busch cars and the Cup cars are getting closer together. I mean, you can kind of see that. Look at Carl Edwards, what he did in Atlanta. If anybody says the Busch race didn't help him, I think they're crazy. I think everything's pretty relative. The way the weekends are going now, they're starting to impound the Cup cars. You know, short practices, not much time before qualifying. A lot of things I think can help, especially running at the same tracks the same weekends. Hopefully we'll get to do some races with both on the same weekend. It will help us a bunch in the Cup race.
Q. Can you talk about a lap around Nashville. Can you take us around Nashville.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Nashville's a really fun track to race on. It's got a lot of grip. At the same time it gets really slick in the race like Dover does. It turns black. It's pretty fast. You drive into turn one pretty hard, you're on the gas pretty early. Same thing in turn three and four, lots of grip right around the bottom. A car that turns well is what you need to have at Nashville.
Q. The local folks want to know when those NEXTEL Cup races are going to occur. Can you give me an idea?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: The next one is going to be Talladega for sure. Not really positive after that. We were talking about doing all four plate races. We're kind of starting to lean towards doing some other tracks because we feel like we can run good at the plate tracks. We need to work on our other stuff a little bit. We're thinking maybe at Bristol and Dover, you know, something along them lines. Probably in Atlanta, maybe Homestead, something like that.
Q. How about the Glen?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: No. Ron Fellows is going to run the one car at the Glen. He ran there last year and finished second. They want to go back and try to win that, plus they've already got sponsorship through Kraft, I believe. So he'll be running there.
Q. I don't think they realize how good your skills are on the road courses, particularly after Mexico. That was a fantastic run.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, thanks. I joked around with him after there, asked him if I could run the Cup car at Watkins Glen. You know, obviously they have Ron in for that.
Q. You might be interested to know that the very first road race that NASCAR ran was also won by a Jersey driver by the same of Al Keller, tremendous driver, who went on to be successful at Indianapolis and also in NASCAR. He was killed unfortunately too early. You have a Jersey scene with these special road races.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Good to know.
Q. What do you think about the Cup guys, the so-called Busch Whackers, running in the Busch Series?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: It doesn't bother me a bit. I mean, you know, I get to race against them guys now, earn their respect, learn how they drive, you know, kind of compare myself to them. Obviously, next year I'll be running against them every week. So it's great for me. I think, you know, it might not be so good for some of the other guys trying to get into the series, you know, that are trying to make races that are getting knocked out of them because of them. But I think you have that in any series. I think any division you race in, there's always guys that come in that probably have more credentials or a lot more experience than you do. I think it makes everybody better as teams and as drivers.
Q. What about Mexico, not only the racing, but what was the whole experience like around that there?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: It was a lot of fun, to be honest with you. The enthusiasm of the fans was something that you don't get at every racetrack. It was welcomed from all of us. So it was a lot of fun. And to be in the spotlight, you know, to have our series in the spotlight for a weekend was kind of cool. It was a good experience for everybody.
Q. Now that you've run a Cup race and you've obviously been at Nashville before in a Busch capacity, do you think that would be a good track for the NEXTEL Cup?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I think it would be a good track for them, yeah. But so would Kentucky. They don't have any plans of going there. As far as them going there, I don't know if that will ever happen, but I think it will definitely be a good track.
Q. Do you feel when you guys are at Nashville, since there's not a Cup race, that you're the premiere event, people tend to really get behind you and show a lot of support fan-wise?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, definitely. I'd say Nashville's one of our -- it's probably there and Kentucky are probably our two biggest races, stand-alone. A lot of fans turn out, a lot of Busch Series fans turn out. It's good for all of us.
Q. If there's any one or two things that you learned from Dale Earnhardt, Jr., because to this point you guys have had similar career paths as far as Busch, getting into the Cup the way you are, what would be a couple of pieces of advice he's given you?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Probably the biggest one is finishing races, you know, just being smart, racing your own race, not trying to go out there and do anything out of the ordinary or anything crazy. Finishing races last year is what won us the championship. That's pretty much what I learned from him. That's the biggest thing.
Q. Can that be a unique trait among guys your age?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I'd like to think so. But it seems nowadays everybody's doing it. You have to do it to be competitive anymore. Everybody does such a great job when you get to this level. Everybody is such good drivers and has such good equipment. You know, usually you don't have mechanical failures that knock you out of races. The only thing that knocks you out of races, you know, is not using your head or being too aggressive. I'd like to think I'm pretty good at that. I'm not really sure, though.
TRACEY JUDD: Along those same lines, with Carl's fast start, do you see a rivalry in the making, similar to the one that you and Kyle Busch had last year, or like you just alluded to, will there be more drivers involved in the title chase this year due to the depth of the overall field in the NASCAR Busch Series?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I'd like to think it would be, you know, a pretty close battle. You know, obviously their team did really well last year with Biffle. They had a lot of engine failures that really hurt them. Without that, they'd have been right there with us. It would be a three-man race for sure. But this year I think it's going to be more than that, like you said. I think it's going to be four or five guys at the end. I'd like to think we'd be one of them. Right now it's looking pretty good for us. But we've got some things to work on. Obviously, they've got off to a fast start, Carl has, with the 60 car. We're going to need to work hard to catch him. I'm not looking towards the end of the season yet. We've got a lot of work ahead of us, a lot of racing ahead of us, so I'm not getting too far ahead of ourselves.
Q. I want to talk about the schedule. This year is a lot different. Last year in the first six weeks you had two of those weeks off. This year you're only going to have two weeks off from the start of the season till pretty much the end of September. How do you think that's going to affect things?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Not too much from my standpoint. You know, I don't mind racing every weekend. I think it's harder on the teams than anything, you know, especially we had that big West Coast swing with Mexico in there. That was pretty hard on the guys back at the shop building cars, all the guys traveling every week. But it's not too hard on us drivers. You know, they had to build road course cars, cars for Daytona, cars for Vegas and California, downforce tracks, and haven't had much time off. It's been pretty tough on them guys.
Q. The old cliche, taking it one race at a time, but you have to be looking forward to the next race at Bristol, right?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, definitely. We got our first win there in the same race last year. So I'm really looking forward to going back there. In the fall race last year, the night race, we had a strong car, got in a little bit of an accident early. Looking forward to going there. One of the funnest tracks on the series, and definitely the most exciting.
Q. You kind of hit on this earlier, but what are your thoughts on the new impounding rules? How is that going for your team? What kind of adjustments have you had to make from last year to this year because of that?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I really like it. It affects me qualifying a little bit. I don't think we'll have as many poles or front-row starts as we did last year because of the setup to race with seems like if you qualify good, you don't race good. We've kind of been just -- you know, focusing on our race setup, and if we qualify 15th, so be it, we'll race to the front. That's the only way that's really changed. The only thing I don't like about it is it seems like practice goes by awfully quick. You know, with this new tire that we've got, we've struggled a little bit off the trailer, whereas last year we had something that worked out for us pretty good. Had a system of things that we did, if we had -- if we unloaded and weren't that good. Doesn't seem to be working quite as good for us this year or the same. There's a lot of different things seem to be working with this tire. We're just starting to catch up with that. So far it's been all right for us. You know, Vegas and California were not too good to us, but I felt like if we had more practice, we could have been okay. But, you know, everybody's in the same boat, we just need to do a little bit more testing and get a handle on the tire and we'll be fine.
Q. Are you going to attend the autograph session at Opry Mills on Thursday?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I'm not really sure, to be honest with you. I usually find out that stuff about the day before I'm supposed to do it. I'm not really sure on that.
Q. Where do you like to hang out when you're in the Nashville area? What are your favorite places to go?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Last year we went -- we had to do the winner's circle program at Nashville. We went downtown there - what street was that, Josh - the FanFest, where all the people hang out.
Q. You're asking a woman for directions. But I know the area you're talking about.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Downtown where all the country bars are, where all the country singers sing and everything. It was pretty fun.
Q. Do you have anything else you want to say about Nashville, where it ranks on your list of favorite tracks?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I'd say it's pretty high on my list. I got two poles there last year, run second once. It's been a good track for me. I actually started to race there in my dad's car a couple years ago and ran pretty good. So it's always been a track I liked, always one I've seemed to run well on. I like it a lot.
Q. Everyone has been complaining about the new tires this year. Does Goodyear not listen to you guys when they complain or are they going to keep making these tires that everyone hates?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, I think they pretty much can make anything they want, and they do what they're told. NASCAR told them to make a softer tire, and they did that. Some people are having problems with it. Obviously, some people have a tight grasp on what they need to run fast with it. They do what they're told. Seems like they can make about anything they want.
Q. How do you expect this tire to respond to concrete?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Not real sure, to be honest with you. I think it will be really, really fast for a few laps. As we've seen everywhere, it will drop off quick. But I see Nashville getting a lot slicker than it has in the past with this tire. I think it will turn really black and get really slick in the race.
Q. What do you tell other drivers about the track in Nashville? What are your impressions?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I haven't really talked about it with anybody, to be honest with you. But if I had to, you know, pretty much what I just said: that it's fast. The hard thing about Nashville is your car needs to turn really good. Once the track gets slick, it's hard to make your car do that. You know, you got to put a lot on your crew chief's shoulders to get your car turning good. At the same time, if you're really loose in practice, you got to hang on to it and wait for it to come around for you in the race.
Q. One of the things that's been kicked around by NASCAR fans, try to get more tracks, more dates, more races, is maybe a Thursday night race a couple of times during the summer. Can you describe the challenges that you would go through as a driver as opposed to your crew? Would it be a world of difference?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I don't think -- no, I don't think. I don't think it matters if we race on a Monday night or Sunday night. I'd probably race any day of the week, maybe even twice a week if I could. I'm sure the crews couldn't handle that or the teams building cars. I don't think it would make much difference with them either. They'd have the weekend off with their families, it probably would be a good thing.
Q. If they ever did a Thursday or Sunday day race in the same week.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I don't think that would ever work. There's so much that goes into building these cars. You need two cars for every race. Just turning cars around from one race to the next seems to take three or four days. It would be pretty tough to do that.
TRACEY JUDD: Martin, we appreciate you taking the time to join us on the teleconference today. Best of luck to you and the 8 team at Nashville on Saturday.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Thanks, everybody, for the questions. We'll see you.
TRACEY JUDD: We'd like to thank all of you for your participation on the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference today. If you do have it, have a great off week. For everyone, do enjoy your Easter holiday.
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