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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
May 29, 2007
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to all the media for joining us. I'd like to welcome everyone to the weekly NASCAR teleconference. It's in advance of this weekend's National Series triple-header at Dover International Speedway, Dover, Delaware. Friday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, the AAA Insurance 200, will be followed Saturday by the NASCAR Busch Series race, the Dover 200. Then finally on Sunday, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event, the Autism Speaks 400, presented by Visa.
Today's teleconference guest is Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. Martin is from Mayetta, New Jersey, only a couple hours' drive from Dover. More or less that's Martin's home track of sorts.
Martin, you're on the move in the points, up to 16th this week. What is the outlook going into Dover and what is the outlook for the sixth race of the season with the new car, meaning the Car of Tomorrow?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Really looking forward to Dover. That's the kind of race I've always got circled on my calendar as one I look forward to going to. Close to where I grew up. A lot of friends and family come to the race there. Got a good history of running well there, too. Really looking forward to it. Our season's been going pretty good. Been kind of up and down. Our car has been running real strong, the COT and the current car. We'll look forward to Dover this weekend.
HERB BRANHAM: We're ready to go to the media for questions for this week's guest, Martin Truex, Jr.
Q. You've kind of followed the career path of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., winning the Busch Series titles. You've been kind of strong. When you first got into the NEXTEL Cup Series, was he the guy you were looking at as kind of a mentor?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I would say yeah because, you know, he was my teammate and I was able to go to him for information. He kind of helped me along the way with anything I ever needed help with. So, yeah, he was my mentor, more or less.
Q. How has it been at DEI, knowing he's not going to be there next year?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: To be honest with you, not really much has changed. We're still going ahead with all our plans, trying to make every department of the company stronger, trying to get our engines better, trying to get our engineering program better.
Things are business as usual really. The 18 is working real hard, trying to get better each week. They've been running really strong. I don't really think much has changed in that.
Q. Have you talked to Dale about it?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Honestly, no. We haven't talked about it a bit. I actually spent quite a bit of time around him since then. It's kind of one of those things we don't talk about. Business is business. We're great friends. We'll continue to be. We don't really for some reason talk about it.
Q. When Dale Jr. was going through his contract negotiations, I talked to you about avoiding the distractions, the fact you guys didn't talk about it, you had to avoid when other people were talking about it. Once Dale Jr. let his future be known, did that affect how much people talked to you about it and what your future would be now that it is known?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I mean, I get a lot of questions about it obviously. Everybody wants to know what I think about it and all that. You know, I really don't think it affects me. Obviously I think it will open some new doors for me here at DEI. It will kind of put me a little bit more as a team leader, kind of being the No. 1 guy right now depending on who our teammate is next year.
You know, it doesn't really change much. I'm going out there, working hard, trying to get better each week. Our race team's doing a great job. That's the biggest thing I look at, is where we're at with our race team, and things are looking good. We're going forward, getting better each week. With a little bit of luck, we could be sitting here with two or three wins already. We're excited about the rest of the year and the future here at DEI.
Q. What kind of opportunities do you think this opens up for you?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, I think it will kind of put me a little bit more in the limelight or spotlight, so to speak. I think I'll have more opportunities with some sponsors coming into DEI working with me instead of everybody wanting to come here and work with Dale, Jr.
It's kind of been a little difficult at times playing second fiddle to him. So in that aspect, it will open some doors for me, give me some new opportunities, which I look forward to.
Q. Have you talked to the folks at DEI about stepping up, being the No. 1 guy?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: We're working on that. We've kind of touched on it a little bit. We're going to sit down actually today and talk about some stuff for the future, ways we can get my name out there and get DEI associated with some great companies for the future.
Q. Your cousin Curtis Truex, Jr. picked up a late-model stock win in North Carolina. Wanted to get some thoughts from you on that.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, it was awesome. Really happy for him, really excited for him. Got the news while we were out at the racetrack this weekend. Wish I could have been there. He started running the late models for Dale Jr.'s race team last year, been doing real well with it. I look forward to him honing his skills, hopefully getting a chance to move up the ladder with Junior's company. Hopefully we'll see him in the Busch Series in a couple years or something like that. But real excited for him.
Actually my little brother won his first race last weekend, too, in the Legends car. The Truex name it coming out there. Hopefully we'll have a couple more of us up here in the Cup Series in a few years.
Q. Jeffrey Earnhardt obviously signed a developmental deal with DEI several months back. He's been making some waves, doing pretty well. Where do you think his career might be headed?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: We'll just have to see. He has been doing a great job so far. He's only ran a few races in the Busch East Series. It's a really great series for young up-and-coming drivers. Got a lot of great race teams this year competing, a lot of great drivers. I just look back and think back to when I was doing that, how much I learned, how great and how instrumental that series was in my career. I think it will be no different for Jeffrey. He'll get some experience. He'll definitely have the opportunities if he can get the job done, move up the ladder.
As a kid, a young kid in Jeffrey's shoes, that's all you can ask for, is good equipment, a great place to race like the Busch East Series, and an opportunity with a company like Dale Earnhardt Incorporated down the line.
Q. You said with Junior leaving DEI, might put you in more of a team leader situation. Sounds like that's a role you would feel comfortable in.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I do. I mean, we've got a great -- great people all around here at DEI. I've always been behind all them. They've always been behind me. That's one of the things that I've been so proud about since I started here, was since day one, nobody knew me here, they treated me like family, stood behind me a hundred percent. That's never changed. No matter if we run 20th or contending for wins, that's not changed. It feels good. I've always stood behind all these guys. I like to pat them on the back, I like to tell them how good they are when they do a good job.
I think I could fit in that role. I don't bash them when they make mistakes. I know everybody does that. I know there's room for improvement obviously. But we're doing all the right things. People are working hard. All you can do is pat them on the back and tell them to keep doing better.
Q. You got Pocono coming up next week. Last year you went there, finished 24th in the first race, came back and finished 10th in the second race. What things did you learn from the first race where obviously you made a great improvement? What are some of the things that make Pocono unique from the other tracks on the circuit?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, we actually ran very well in both of the Pocono races. I think the first race we were running in the top 10 pretty much all day long and had a little trouble. I think we had a flat tire towards the end or something. We actually ran -- we had probably top-five cars in both races. Obviously we got a 10th in the second one, which was good, an improvement. We ran very well both of them.
I really enjoyed the racetrack. It was my first time there last year obviously. I really enjoyed it. All three corners are different. Most racetracks we go to, it's not like that. Really long straightaways. The corners are semi-flat. Turn three is really flat. Very challenging racetrack to get your car working good on, and one I really enjoy a lot.
Q. Everybody is talking about your role increasing. A lot of drivers say, I need to step up and be a leader. Do you feel now you need to be the quarterback, step up a bit as a leader on the team with Dale Jr. leaving?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I think in a certain way I will have to. I don't think I have to go out there and tell them all how to do their job, tell them if they're doing it right or wrong. We've got people to do that.
As we get to running better, I think before the year is out we could maybe win a few races, make the Chase, do a lot of things that are good for the company, good for the people's morale around here. Dale Jr. leaves, but it's not over. People keep saying, It's over, what are they going to do? Dale Jr. is a great asset to the company, obviously, but we can go on, we can thrive, we can win races. To show them that will be a great step in that direction.
Just performing on the racetrack is the biggest thing. I think we're gaining on that each week.
Q. In a way, is it kind of an exciting thing? Does it add more inspiration to go out there? Nobody hates losing worse than Martin Truex, Jr., and losing isn't winning. Is it exciting and does it add some momentum?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, it gives us something to shoot for. I think it lights a fire under everybody's butt around here saying, Look, we've got something to prove. Dale Jr. didn't think we were good enough. Now go out there and win championships. And if we do that, we'll just try even harder to do that now, just to prove him wrong and everybody else out there that thinks we can't do it.
We'll wait and see what happens. I'm excited. I love my race team. They're doing a great job for me. That's the biggest thing. I look forward to it.
Q. I know there's a measure of a learning curve when you come into a new series like you did when you jumped from Busch to Cup. At this point you actually, before Lowe's, had strung together a couple other good runs as well. Talk about where you feel your team is at. Do you feel like you've reached a point where you guys really can start getting a lot of attention every week?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I mean, I think we've come a long way since last year. I believe every single race this year we've had a car that was a top-10 race car. With the exception of maybe Bristol, really every week we've had good cars, the older car and the COT. We've been real excited about it.
We're not where we want to be at. We're not a top-five car every week, like the 48, the 20, guys like that. We've got a little ways to go. We've got a lot to work on. But we're looking forward to it. We've had a shot to run in the top five or have a shot at maybe a win or two already. We've had a little bit of bad we need to get rid of. Our car has been running good. I feel like we're getting there. We're not there where we want to be yet. We want to be the guy to beat each week, but we're getting there. We'll see.
Q. Obviously as a driver, what do you feel like is on your shoulders? What do you need to improve to add to the team to get you to that point?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Just continue to work on our race cars and try to give them all the information I can about what we need to get better on. Just focus in on that, focus in on my race cars really, get them a little bit better. We're getting there, so...
I don't think there's one thing that we need to fix. It's just real small things. Little things go a long way. Do a few things here and there, we'll be there right with them.
Q. Talk about your comfort level with the Car of Tomorrow, the challenge at Dover, the intricacies that car needs to run well at a racetrack.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I'm very comfortable in that car. It drives a little bit different than what we're used to, but not a whole lot. The biggest thing on that car is making it turn good. It's hard to do because they limit the front travel. A place like Dover is going to be a challenge because getting in the corner, the car really falls down in the front. You're going to need to figure a way to keep the front end off the racetrack. It's a lot of speed getting in the corners there. You drop way down into the corner. It's a lot of banking. A lot of force on the front end there. You're going to need to find a way to keep the car off the racetrack, but at the same time Dover has been a track that's notorious for being really tight and getting tighter as the weekend goes on. You are going to have to have a car that will turn well and have some adjustability go into it for the end of the race.
Q. Have you seen a tendency with this car when you unload it's pretty much what you've got or are you seeing some adjustability that you can really find some things as the weekend goes?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I think the line is a lot finer on this race car of having it drive -- having it be good or be bad. With the other car, there were so many things you could do with the setup, so many different ways to approach it. This new car, it's a little bit of a finer line, a little bit harder to get right where you want to be, which is difficult. Our guys have been bringing good cars to the track. Usually when we get there, we're pretty good, and we can fine tune on it. It's hard to really make wholesale changes on it and get any better, but we've been pretty strong out of the box with it so far.
Q. What did winning the NEXTEL Open do for you and the team in terms of confidence?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I think it did a lot. It was a really fun race to be a part of. Everybody wants to be in the All-Star race. We had a chance in the fan vote, I think. We got a lot of fans out there. Cool racing our way in, really show everybody that we deserved to be in that race, be part of a race with all the elite drivers in the sport. So it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun for the guys to be part of. It was great for our confidence, to show that our race cars were running good and we can get the job done if the circumstances are right. We look forward to getting a win here soon in the points race.
Q. I know you've had a lot of success in the Busch Series at Dover. Are you running in the Busch Series this weekend?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: No, I won't be.
Q. Any reasoning for that?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, we talked about it earlier in the year. I kind of wanted to run there because I love racing there so much. The Busch Series has been really good to me at that track. I raced there last year and led most of the race, had a radiator break at the end so we didn't get to win that. I was kind of frustrated. I kind of wanted to go back and do it.
Being there with the COT this weekend, felt like the jumping back and forth might hurt a little bit, so we decided not to do it this weekend.
Q. Will you expect to be there in September?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I don't know. Probably not because we'll be running the COT there again. We kind of talked about trying not to really run the Busch race the same weekend as the COT, thinking it would help us. So far we've been running well with that COT car. We really need to just focus in on that.
Q. You started off by saying you liked Dover. What is it about this track you like so much?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I don't know. I've always felt really comfortable at it ever since the first time I ran there. I've really enjoyed the track. I don't know exactly why we always run well there. I know exactly what I need. Like right now I know how I need my car to drive when I get there on Friday for practice. That's a huge -- it's huge for confidence. You can, you know, believe a hundred percent in what you're telling your crew chief, that goes a long way. Bono is really good at setting the car up to go around there, too.
It's kind of fit right in with what we do. It's always been good to us.
Q. Do you recall the first time you went there as a fan or driver?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: The first time was as a driver. I ran the Busch North race and the Busch Series race in the same weekend there. I think it was 2001 or 2002. I can't remember.
Q. When you come here to Dover, what is it like? What is the normal weekend like? Do you have any free time?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, a little bit. I get a little bit of free time each weekend. I usually just stay at the track and spend it in my motorhome. The cool thing about going to Dover for me is on Saturday and on Sunday I have a lot of friends, a lot of family come down to the race, come see me. Get to hang out a little bit on Saturday usually before the race on Sunday. That's a lot of fun to get to see some people I usually don't get to see. Seems like I have a lot more fans up there in the stands at that track than most so that's really cool, too.
Q. You've won in the Busch Series before. What would it mean to you to get into Victory Lane in the NEXTEL Cup car?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: It would be great. Obviously we'd like to win the very next race no matter where it is or what weekend it is. But Dover would be extra special. Being one of my favorite tracks, being close to home, having a lot of people there supporting us would be great. No better time than now. Hopefully it will happen. We'll see. We look forward to it. It's going to be a lot of fun. We really enjoy it there.
Q. The merger of Childress engine department and DEI, how do you think that's going to affect you?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I think it's going to be great for our company. Any time you can take two organizations that do great work and put them together, it's twice the people, twice the ideas. Only good things can come from that. Our engines will get stronger. That's a good thing. We need a little bit of help in that department I think right now. I think they do, too. It will be a great merger. We've already started on some stuff. Actually putting one of the R07s in one of the cars they built right now. Things are happening quick. They're building engines. We should be running them within the next two weeks. Hopefully we'll make some power and stay together. We look forward to it.
Q. Last week you finally got yourself back into the lead lap. Everybody, including yourself, waited until it was impossible for you to get back in the fight of things. Why did everybody wait so long?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: You're sitting there with 60 laps to go. It's a 600-mile race. You don't know if it's going to come down to fuel mileage. 90% of the time it doesn't come down to it. You'll get a caution, pit for tires. Most guys probably ran better on 30- or 40-lap tires. Seems like everybody would pit after that many laps. You just don't think it's going to come down to that three- or four-lap short deal at the end.
It was just unfortunate. Somehow a few of those guys made it. Not sure how they did it. Like I was saying, we were getting really good fuel mileage, we felt like. I don't know, they must have some pretty tricked-up fuel cells or something.
Q. Will there be any effects one way or the other by not testing the Car of Tomorrow at Dover?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I think it's going to hurt some people, there's no doubt. Dover's a really unique racetrack with the corner entry, the problems that it causes with these race cars. Especially with the COT, the limited amount of front travel I talked about earlier, it's going to be difficult. It's going to be difficult to kind of guess and come up with what you need to start with to keep the car on the racetrack.
Some guys are going to hit it, some guys are going to not, dragging the track. It's going to take them a little while for them to figure out what they need to do to hold the car up off the racetrack properly. The guys that are going to hit it right are going to be way ahead of the game, way ahead of the curve. The guys that didn't, it's going to take them a long time to catch up. When Sunday comes around, everybody will have their stuff figured out, like they do every week. Every race team has got smart people. They'll get it figured out before Sunday comes around.
Q. What are your thoughts on them going to the COT full-time next season?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I'm fine with it. Our COT has ran about the same if not maybe a little bit better than our current car usually. We feel good about it. Still need to work on it some. Obviously there's a few teams out there that are ahead of everybody else, I think. Ours have been running strong. We are still tuning on it, working on it. We look forward to it.
Q. You've talked about the tightness of Dover. There's only been one race with the COT. How will the concrete affect the running of the race?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: The concrete will be the same as it always is. It changes drastically throughout the weekend because it builds up rubber and the rubber gets in all the cracks of the concrete, makes the track get really rough feeling. Gets a lot slicker as the weekend goes on. It makes your car harder to turn, makes it not want to turn as well. That's the big thing we fight with the COT. It's going to be interesting to see just how tough it's going to be to get that car to work there.
We really haven't went to a racetrack like Dover where we used to go there and travel a really excessive amount in the front end to try to get the car down in the racetrack and have some grip without being real bouncy across the concrete. It's going to be interesting. It's going to be a huge challenge I think for everyone to get their cars driving good there.
But we feel like we're up for the challenge and feel like we can do a good job there, hopefully contend for the win. We ran real strong there last week. We're real excited about the weekend.
Q. Can you talk about overcoming routine distractions in your job as compared to an interference like the media frenzy over Dale Jr.'s decision to leave DEI?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: You know, there's not really a whole lot of distractions for me. I'm a low-key guy. I don't pay attention to a lot of things out there like a lot of people do. Some people go through life worried about what everybody thinks. I'm kind of the opposite. I mind my own business, work hard on my cars, come to the shop. I'm actually here right now going through some stuff, trying to get ready for Dover this weekend. All that stuff that goes on with the media, with the other drivers, the other crew chiefs, the teams, I don't really pay much attention to it. I do my thing, come in here and work hard on my race car.
Q. It's easy for fans to be critics in the stands. What do you think fans most misunderstand about driving at the Cup level?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Probably just how tough it really is, how competitive it is, how it takes one or two little tiny things to make you run bad or have a bad day.
HERB BRANHAM: I want to thank all of the media for joining us today. Martin, thank you very much for taking time out of your schedule. Best of luck this weekend, pal.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.
HERB BRANHAM: Once again, thanks to the media. As always, we appreciate the coverage. We'll see you later.
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