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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 16, 2007
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the weekly NASCAR teleconference. This week in advance of Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, the Subway 500. That's the sixth race in the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. We have five to go in the Chase.
The Chase is the final ten races and determines the series champion. And the drivers in the chase are those who are in the top 12 in the standings after 26 races of the 36â€‘race season.
Our guest today, currently 11th in the Chase standings is Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated.
Thanks for joining us. First of all, obviously the Chase so far probably hasn't gone the way you would have liked it to. But maybe can you talk about your outlook over these last five races. I know you're going to keep running hard and try to end the season as high as you can.
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Yeah, sure, we sure are. I've been real proud of my team and their efforts. We've had some great race cars throughout the Chase. Just seems that everything that could go wrong has went wrong. It's been frustrating. But we're looking forward to the last five races. We'll go out there and race as hard as we can, and try to win a few of them and hopefully move up in the points towards the front.
HERB BRANHAM: Very Good. We'll take questions from the media now for today's teleconference guest, Martin Truex, Jr.
Q. When drivers like Johnson and Gordon get off to a quick start, and you know, build that early lead and they're so consistent, how frustrating is it for you to try to make up that ground knowing that they're always going to be in the Top 5, Top 10? What is your mindset going in there?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: It's definitely hard. Once you get behind, you really need to pray for a lot of things going your way for you to catch them. Obviously, they were the point leaders coming in for a reason. They've been strong, you know, for a long time.
So for us, we just try to do the best job we could. We knew we could perform well enough to run with them. I think even until now, we've done that. It's just a matter of getting the finishes. For some reason we've had a lot of trouble just to, you know, have good races and not have stuff happen to us. We've just been in the wrong place at the wrong time a lot since the Chase started.
We haven't had things go right for us, so that's frustrating. On the flip side, we can look back and look at how we ran and say we performed well enough to be right there with them, we just haven't been able to get it done. That is the most frustrating part for us.
Q. With the offâ€‘season fast approaching, only five races left, and you guys have very little time between the end of the season and November and January testing. What are some of the things that you do in the offâ€‘season just to unwind? Do you go to a special island in the Bahamas or something like that?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't have any plans yet. I don't know. I just relax. And to tell you the truth, it goes by really fast. By the time you get a month into it you get bored already and you're ready to get back racing.
So I kind of feel like it would be better if we had more breaks throughout the year, and maybe the offâ€‘season be even shorter than it is, to be honest with you, but it's fun.
I'll just relax and do the things I like. I spend a lot of time at home. I don't really need to go do too many crazy things. I have a few hunting trips planned and I'll probably go on vacation after homestead. Other than that, I'll probably spend some time at home and relax a little bit.
Q. In the Chase, three straight weeks you had trouble, but none of it was really your doing. Does that make it more frustrating when you have problems like that and it's kind of out of your control?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Well, yes and no. I mean, it is definitely, it definitely stinks when you can't do anything about it. You know, it seems like a lot of our seasons went that way. But I think it would be worse if we weren't running well, if we were struggling. That wouldn't feel good for me and my team.
So we're still excited. We're real proud of the way we ran. We're proud of what we've been able to do throughout the season to get where we're at. But yeah, it's kind of an empty spot there where we had them bad races and it just took us out of the Chase for the Championship.
So it's tough not to think about what might have been or what could have been, but we're just going to go on and race as hard as we can, and do the best job we can. Just hope to have a great season and get ready for next year.
Q. Is being in the Chase and being in the race up to the Chase brought about any noticeable increase in your souvenir sales or number of people seeking your autograph or so? How has it been from a publicity standpoint for you?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I think I've gotten a lot more attention being one of the 12 guys in the Chase is pretty awesome. It's an honor to be in it with them guys. And it definitely makes your name bigger. Makes people cheer for you more. I think I've got a lot more fans out of it. So I don't know about the souvenir sales. I don't pay much attention to that. I've been seeing more shirts and hats around, so it can't be too bad.
Q. I've got a general question about the Chase. Not about the points, per se, but the racetrack. Do you think these current 10 are the best for determining a champion? And if you were in charge of the schedule, would you change any of the tracks used in the Chase?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I think it's a good mix. Obviously, this year with the C.O.T. and the regular car, it's been half and half, which is good, I think. There's a good mix of tracks at Richmond. Richmond's not even in it, Martinsville and Bristol, short tracks.
But I don't know. I think they do a good job of going to the right places. I think it doesn't really matter where you go. You've got to be competitive everywhere. It's not easy to be competitive at all these different tracks. Even if they're two different mile and a halves, they're still different.
So I think it doesn't really matter where we go. I know a lot of people like to see a road course in there. I'm not sure if that's the right way to go, but I think it's a good mix right now.
Q. I was just curious if you could talk a little about so many changes going on with your team and DEI next year. Talk a little about what you expect not only from your race team but from the new acquisitions you have and Dale Jr. Being gone?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Well, for our team I expect a lot of things to stay the same. We've got a great bunch of guys here and everybody's going to stay around for next year. So we're looking forward to that. Just continuing to build this team to a championship contender where we can win championships.
I feel like we've had a great shot this year. Some things just didn't go the way we needed them to, but we've done a good job and we continue to get better which is good for the future for us, so looking forward to that.
It's going to be different next year having some new teammates around. Looking forward to working with Mark Martin some more. Getting our teams to work together, closer than they have so far. You know, looking forward to working with Eric and Regan and Paul some more, and, hopefully, get Paul to where he's consistently running up toward the front. It will be fun for me.
It's a lot better condition than I've been in in the past. It's always me going to someone for help. I think we've got to the point now where we can stand doing some great things for the company, helping the younger drivers out. Definitely looking forward to that. It's going to be something new for me, and it's going to be a lot of fun.
So looking forward to all of that, and hopefully a lot of other things stay the same. We'll just keep doing what we've been doing.
Q. You just answered most of my question. I was curious about the attitude at DEI. Whether you are looking toward next year already, and sort of with the atmosphereâ€ â€‘â€‘ what the atmosphere is like with the team so far, and the management?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Yeah, things are going really well. Everybody's really happy. We're excited about what we're going been able to accomplish already, and just keep working on that. We're going to have a lot of challenges next year with the C.O.T. going to all the tracks that we haven't been to yet, all the mile and a half, two miles. So we've definitely got some work to do. But we're definitely looking forward to it. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Q. I guess you kind of just touched on this, too. With all the changes coming to DEI and with the way the Chase is going, do you think at this point it's best to start shifting into 2008 more for your team?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I don't think so. We've got to finish what we've started this year. We've got to go out there and finish strong for our team and our sponsors. You know, I feel like we can win a few races before the year's out. We've got some great tracks for us coming up. And we just look forward to that. We need to figure out Martinsville better.
So that's what's in store for this week. We haven't been too successful there, so we're looking forward to that challenge, and we've got some good tracks after that coming up. Actually, all the last four are real good for us. Hopefully, we can go out, win some races, move up in the points and be proud of what we've accomplished this year, and we'll turn to next year and start working hard throughout the winter.
I've got a great team here and they're doing an awesome job for me. I'm definitely looking forward to next year, especially with all the things we've been able to do this year with our team. I feel like we're getting better still each week. So I think next year will be even better than this one, and we're looking forward to both of them.
Q. Where you look at these final five races, and I was talking to Jeff Burton yesterday, and he said a lot of people don't realize how many laps we have left in this chase, and it's still a long way to go. So back up to the first part of my question, do you feel the same way in the fact that you still have a shot at this championship?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Well, there's always a chance. Unless you're mathematically eliminated, there is always a chance. With the way we've been running, I don't think anything's out of the question. But it's going to be, you know, the guys that are up ahead of us are going to have the same amount of troubles that we did. And I don't know how likely that is.
But we'll just have to see. For sure we don't give up, and we feel like if we keep doing the best job we can, that's really all we can ask for. We're just going to go out there and do what we can do. Every weekend, we're going to go out, run hard, try to win the race.
When it comes down to Homestead, hopefully we'll have a shot. It's going to take some misfortune on some of those other guys parts just like we had.
Q. Has anyone talked to you about taking a leadership role?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I don't know. We really haven't talked about. Ever since a lot of people start talking about it, there's not a set, you know, standard of, you know, a sheet of things they want me to do and take care of. They just want me to do my job the best I can. And, you know maybe this winter we'll go through some more stuff, I'm sure.
But really not much has changed. I'm just trying to do the best I can for the company and my race team. Whatever it takes to make us better, I'm willing to do. And I think that is the biggest thing they're looking at is am I willing to do what I need to do. So not a lot has changed, I don't think it's a huge deal or as big of a deal as a lot of people think it is.
Q. I feel like I'm going to be giving you a ditto here because everybody's asking the same thing. Can you give us fans maybe at the end of it how you got started in racing, if you would? Talk about your first win and making the Chase prepare you for the next season of Nextel Cup?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Well, obviously, I think being in this situation, being successful as we have this year, just makes you want more, we want to win more races and be up there challenging for the championship. If it doesn't happen this year, we'll feel real good about our chances next year.
But we're going into the season, end of the season here we have a lot of confidence. We've got some good race cars, and my team's doing an awesome job for me. So I think we can go out and win a few of them, and get momentum and get started on the right foot. If we can do that, we'll have a great season.
This year we started off slow. We had a lot of trouble just the last few weeks. Just everything that seems it could go wrong, went wrong for us. We found ourselves way back in the points and we really had to work hard and rally around each other, and we were able to make the Chase.
It was a great year. We had a lot of fun, and I expect even better next year. So we'll just have to wait and see.
But I got started in racing in go carts. Grew up around it. My dad and uncles all raced when I was growing up, so it was kind of natural for me. It was kind of all I was ever really interested in as a kid. And going to the racetrack, and working on the cars during the week, and I start racing go carts when I was 11 and just been working my way up.
Q. What is the garage or the shop situation for your team now that Ginn Racing has come on board with you guys? Do you have some cars in one shop and others in another? How's that split up?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: The 15 and 01 are over at the new shop that we got from GINN. And this winter we'll move 8 and 1 over there, so all four cars will be together. We're really looking forward to that. I know I am. I know how much of a difference it made when the 8 and the 1 got together back this winter.
So you just get the team working closer together. You get the guys working around each other all of the time and, you know, communication and the transfer of information just goes so much smoother. That helped us a bunch. I know if we get all four in the same shot, we'll really get to working well together.
The guys will all know each other and know how to get along and communicate. You know, I think all four teams will be on the same page, which will make our company stronger, and I'm definitely looking forward to that.
Q. When you look at this season, do you see it as a plusâ€‘season, a minusâ€‘season, or middleâ€‘ofâ€‘theâ€‘road?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I think it's about middleâ€‘ofâ€‘theâ€‘road for us. There's been a lot of plusses, but there's been a lot of times just like the Chase right here, it's hard not to think about what might have been. We've had a lot of rough luck. A lot of bad races this year, and we've had a lot of good races. So it's kind of been half and half.
Fortunately we've had enough good that we've been able to outweigh the bad, I think. We made the Chase, we've got our first win. We've been competitive every week, Top 5s, Top 10s, we've run in there every week. So we've been proud of that.
The results still aren't where we expected or where we would have liked them to have been up to this point, so I'll keep working hard. And hopefully end the year on a strong note and have a chance for a championship, and go into next year and hope that we can improve in all positions.
Q. What is the one thing this team needs to improve?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: We just need to quit having bad luck, to be honest with you. It's pretty simple. Like I said, we've run really strong, just pretty much every week. And a lot of things have gone wrong, especially in the Chase here with the two wrecks toward the end of the races and the engine at Talladega.
So we just need to be a little bit more consistent, and, you know, I feel like if we can just keep the bad luck off us, we'll be in great shape.
Q. I'll buy you a good luck voodoo doll.
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Appreciate it.
Q. Is the information and data starting to flow back and forth between you and DEI? And are you starting to see benefits from the merger?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Between the teams, I think it's getting better. Obviously the 01 team, they were passed halfway through the season. They were having a good year, and kind of doing their own thing. That's what race teams do, they've all got ways of doing things.
So we haven't quite got on the same page with them yet. Their race cars are still different. I think the first time we ran a common car was at Dover, and Mark really liked it. And all the teams ran well and ran pretty much the same setâ€‘up. So it's getting better I think throughout the winter and going into next year it will be where it needs to be. We'll all have the same cars so the information will go back and forth better.
But as far as the 8 and 1, and the 15, things have been going really well with that. Things have been working closely on setâ€‘ups. Here lately, we've all been performing really well and been doing all the same things to our cars to make them run.
So things are looking good for next year, and I think getting everyone in the same shop will definitely help that situation a lot, too.
HERB BRANHAM: Martin Truex Jr., thanks, pal for joining us. Taking time out of this week. Best of luck to you. I don't think anybody would be surprised if you didn't start climbing up the standings here during these last five weeks, so good luck.
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Thank you.
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