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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
June 24, 2008
HERB BRANHAM: Welcome to today's NASCAR CAM video teleconference. It's in advance of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. That is the Magic Mile in Loudon, New Hampshire. And the race is the Lenox Industrial Tools 301.
Special guest today joining us from the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina, we have Martin Truex. Martin's the driver of the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boat Chevrolet for DEI. Martin's currently 17th in the series standings. He's only 107 points out of 12th place, which is the final cutoff for eligibility into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Martin, two top 5 finishes at New Hampshire last year. Great efforts both instances. What did those runs do for you as you come into this year and this week's event?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, we're definitely looking forward to going back to New Hampshire. It's always been a good track for me. From back in my Busch series days, I won a Busch race there. And we've always run well in the Cup Series.
So had a great car there last year both races. Had a shot at winning the first one, led some laps and came up a little short at the end. But definitely looking forward to going back there this year and trying to get on a roll here. We need to make up some points and try to get in the Chase.
Q. Your name has been thrown up a lot in the garage as far as your future goes -- can you give us any indication right now what you're thinking about for the future?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Way to start it off. You know, I'm not sure. Right now we're working hard with DEI to put some things together for next year. Really it's just a lot of -- it's taken a little bit longer than expected for both of us, both sides - on my side and on DEI's side.
We're just trying to get through the details. For me, it's just trying to get comfortable and be comfortable in the position I'm in - what they're doing and the direction they're headed for the future, so I can make sure that we can be together for a long time.
Q. What are you looking for as far as comfort? Is it the fact that you want race victories? What else are you looking for?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, a lot of things. You know, good direction for the future of a championship. I think obviously there are some things going on with our race cars and other teams that I'm not quite sure what's happened with them. So just a lot of things here and there.
The performance hasn't been as good as it's been this year for whatever reason. We've had an okay season. We've run really well at times and we've run not so well at times. So we've had a lot of bad luck spread throughout the season, especially the beginning part of the year which has got us in this position right now.
We really just need to dig deep for now and try to get a win or two before the Chase starts. We really just need to get some points and try to make the Chase and battle for that championship like we did last year.
Q. Do you have a timetable for that decision?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: No. But we're working on it every day, really, so just as soon as we can get it all ironed out.
Q. Where you are in the points and what not right now, over the next ten races leading to the Chase, does this make you want to race more aggressive, take more chances because you're 17th in points? Or do you maybe have the points race now more than you ever had to?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: You know for us we're really we need to be aggressive. We need to get all we can. You know, we really dug ourselves a hole up until this point. Like I said earlier, we had a lot of good runs early part of the season you know that slipped away for whatever reason.
We had a lot of bad luck. We made some mistakes. We had some problems with our cars as far as engine failures and things of that nature. So we really dug ourselves a pretty big hole that I don't feel like as a race team we should be in.
We've got a great team, and I think we're more than capable of being in the Chase. But it's all about results, and we haven't got them. So we need to go out and get them now. We're running out of time. There's no time for excuses.
We can't say what might have been or we should have done this, we should have done that. It's not going to get anything done. So guys are working really hard at the shop. Bono and all the guys on my team have been doing a good job. We just need to put it all together and it's go time for us now.
Q. As far as the tracks go, what do you think is the biggest challenge in these next ten?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I'm not sure. I don't think any of them are more of a challenge than the next. We've run very well at all different racetracks. I think if we can go to Loudon this weekend and have a really good run and get that momentum back on our side, that will help a lot.
Daytona is a little bit of a crap shoot, but, other than that, I feel like we've run well everywhere. So we just need to go out and get the results.
Q. Just wanted to ask you, you mentioned your success at New Hampshire and I know that you came up through the ranks. I wonder if you could speak about what it was like as a younger driver on the -- I guess it was the Busch North Series back then -- what it meant to get to New Hampshire? How it helped you, and how it can help other guys that are in these developing series to come off the bull rings a little bit and to get to race in a facility like this?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah. New Hampshire was the biggest race of the year for us every time we went there. It was like our Daytona. It was the biggest, fastest track we raced on. Most of the other places were half mile, three-quarter mile bull rings. When we go there, the Cup cars would be there or the Busch cars and the trucks.
So we'd get to racing in front of a lot of people that could give us a chance one day. That's how it happened for me. It helped jump start my career, had a lot of success there growing up. And that is the big reason why I've got the chances I've had and where I'm at today.
I don't think that's changed to this day. When the guys are in running in the World Series up there, they're up there to showcase their talent. They're up there knowing that everybody in the Cup series is up there on the trail watching for some new talent. It's a big weekend for everybody to just go in and race.
Q. I noticed your crew chief has got modified racing on Saturday. Does it eat your heart out at all that you're not in that race on Saturday? Have you ever been tempted to go back in to a mod for a racing adventure?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I get he tempted all the time to do a lot of different stuff like that. Especially, with the modified. But I think I've kind of come to my senses and thought better of it. I think if something happened to jeopardize my Sunday. So just trying to focus on that and do the best job I can with that.
Q. Just wanted to ask you if you could talk about what it would mean for you personally to win at New Hampshire. Especially with Kevin Manion as your crew chief? You guys have so many local fans there.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: It would mean a lot. We won our first race at Dover. That was huge, that was a big deal for all of us, especially for me and my family. To win at New Hampshire would be right there with it. Growing up, racing there. Watching my dad win races. He won his first Busch North race back in the day at that track.
Like I said before, it's been a really, really good track for me. It's a big part of the reason why I'm sitting here today talking to you guys. It would definitely mean a lot. It would be right up there with the first one, I think.
Q. Can you also explain what are some of the challenges of New Hampshire as far as the track goes?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I mean, it's a tough little racetrack especially since they redid the banking on it. They made it real, real racy. The second groove is really the preferred groove now, and it makes for really good side-by-side racing.
It's really, really hard to complete a pass. You can get under a guy in the corner and go down under the corner underneath him. It's really hard to complete the pass. So guys run side by side all day. It makes it a lot of fun.
The challenges are like any short track. You use a lot of brake in New Hampshire kind of like Richmond. It's really hard to get your car turned in the middle of the corner, so you're basically working on that all weekend. Probably the biggest challenge is getting your car turned to center.
Q. I don't know if you had the opportunity to talk a little about the experience you drew upon when you first got into a DEI car? That was when you replaced Dale when he got burned out in Sonoma and did it at New Hampshire. Did you kind of feel the full weight of what it was like to sit in that car and to maybe be the point person of DEI?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, that was kind of a weird situation for me, you know. Getting into Junior's car that day was -- I don't know -- I did it more as a favor to him as a friend. I hated to see him in the situation he was in. He was having a good season up until then and he got hurt. I hated to see that.
I really wasn't in any way excited to get in the car, to be honest with you. I just did it for him and his team and the whole company to try to make the best out of the situation.
Q. You think that might have opened their eyes to you as to possibly being someone that could fit in with that company?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, I think. I mean, we've already won races. And I think if I remember right we'd already won a championship in Busch Series. So we were kind of on our way to building something for the future.
But I think when I got in there, and that was my first time ever really sitting in a Cup car, and I went out there and qualified third with it. So that was exciting for all of us. You know, I think they were excited about it, and looking forward to the possibilities of running me in a Cup car in the future.
Q. Last year there was so much made about you being the new face of DEI when Dale left the company. Do you feel like you've settled into that role now?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I do. I feel comfortable with where I'm at and what I'm doing. You know, not a lot has changed as far as the way I go about doing my job, which has been good.
The cars, like I said, the cars haven't been running quite as good as we wanted them to. I've taken a lot of that on my shoulders and trying to get them better. Trying to get in there and work with the right people and help them figure out what's wrong.
That's really the only thing that's changed is they put a lot more on my shoulders as far as that goes.
I just go out and do the same thing I've always done. I race hard. Put 110% into everything I do at the racetrack and during the week trying to get ready for the next race. That's what I've always done.
Q. Is it strange to race against Dale Jr. as an opponent now or competitor versus a teammate?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: It's not a whole lot different. We're still really good friends. We talk about racing still. We talk about other stuff. It's good to see him having the success he's having with the changes that he made.
I'm just trying to do the best I can and just really looking forward to this weekend. Really looking forward to trying to getting in the 112 points or so we need to get in the Chase. We were looking good earlier and made some mistakes and had some things happen. We really, really need to get in that deal, so we need to get to work.
Q. This time last year we were asking about Dale and that whole situation swelling around, and you've already been asked about your situation. We've heard a conversation about Mark Martin now. Do you feel that you've actually gotten the chance to race there without some sort of controversy hanging over you or the team?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: No, I really haven't, to be honest with you. I think part of that is DEI being Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated. It's always been under a tough microscope. I think whether it was before Dale Jr. or after Dale Jr. it's always been that way. I think a lot of the people are harsh in their opinions of DEI and what they are, you know, the job they're able to do.
I think the perception of DEI is not as good as what it really is. So that's been tough at times. I've always had to -- seems like I've always had to stick up for them when there is really nothing to stick up for. So it's been a weird situation. It's always been something a little different. But there's always been somebody trying to, you know, make their job a little tougher than it should be, I think.
Q. How do you not let that distraction impact what you're trying to do on the track?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, for me, it's easy. I'm a racer. That's all I've ever done. I go to the racetrack to win. I put 110% of my efforts throughout the week to try to get ready for the next race, to try to do the best job I can for the company. You know, that's never changed.
No matter of circumstances, and I don't think it will ever. If it does, I'll probably quit. That's just what I do. That's what all the guys on my team have done. We just need to buckle down here and get it finished for the Chase.
Q. How much do you read about or try not to be distracted about what everybody writes about where you're going or what the internet says? If you let it, it could completely be distracting right now. It could be a lot of pressure on your shoulders and your decision to try to improve the team.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I guess it's been whether I read it or not. Sometimes it's funny to look at it all and read about what people think they know. Sometimes it's aggravating that people are talking about you and it's making people on your team mad.
You know, guys are in the shop talking about it. Worried about what's going to happen, worried about their jobs and their futures. So from that side of it, it is really frustrating.
It's just the nature of the story. It's how it's been since I've been involved with it. It's always been like that. It seems that silly season starts earlier every single year. It seems like I'm in the middle of it every year somehow.
Q. A lot of people used to talk about Dale Earnhardt Jr. having the pressure, and he didn't like it of trying to improve the company. He felt it was on his shoulders. He's so free now because he doesn't have that, which now seems to be on your shoulders. If you would leave, they would say that's going to hurt the team. If you stay, you're trying to improve the cause. Do you like that pressure to be that involved?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yes and no. I mean, I'm not one to just walk out and take the easy road. I don't mind the challenge. I think if we succeed and we do our job, it's a lot more gratifying. We've got more pride in it.
Like when we won last year and we made the Chase, that was a huge deal for us, for me and my whole team. It would be no different this year if we can do it again.
So I think we're a bit of an underdog. I kind of like that situation. But at the same time if things aren't going right and people are pointing the finger and asking why you're not getting the job done, you've got to take the heat then, too. So it's a tough situation either way.
But I've really enjoyed my time there at DEI. I'm having fun still. As long as I can keep having fun and racing and being competitive, I think we're going to win a race in the next couple of weeks. I really feel good about this weekend.
In just a couple of weeks a lot of things could change. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.
Q. You touched on a little bit about your relationship with Bono. Could you just tell us a little more about his influence on you and how it's changed your strategy when you race and things like that?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, the biggest thing that me and Bono have going for us is confidence in each other. That's a big part of what we do. You know, communication between driver and crew chief, not just communications, but the trust and the confidence knowing that you can know that they're doing their very best for you. They believe in you and they think you're the best there is. I feel that way about Bono, and I think he feels the same way about me.
It all started from the first time I ever met him. We went to test in 2003 at Richmond. I was going to run Busch race there for a chance, too, which is how it all started for me, really, in the Busch Series. We went there to test. Then Dale Jr. got in the car, made a couple of laps. Came in and told him how the car was.
He told me to jump in it. Of course I didn't really know. I knew how to drive. I knew what I was going to go out there and try to do. But I was a little uncomfortable, I was a little nervous. I didn't know the guys, I didn't know Bono. And I remember it like it was yesterday. He said, Get in there. You know what you're doing. Just go do what you do.
It's always been like that with him. He's just been really, really good to work with. Very fun to work with, and he does a great job. I think he's one of the best crew chiefs there is out there.
Q. Seems like the anticipation and excitement goes up to another gear, you know, coming home and everything. Did he talk to you all about -- I don't know -- can you just kind of sense what it means for him? A lot of guys say this is their home area up here.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I could only hear part of that.
Q. Can you give a sense how much they want to win up here because this is kind of their old stomping grounds and where they grew up?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I mean, we would take one anywhere, obviously. But New Hampshire is a cool place for all of us to go. A bunch of the guys on the team raced modifieds and things like that up there for a long time. And Bono's from up in Massachusetts. So it would be special.
A lot of us raced there in the Cup series. So that would be a big deal for all of us.
Q. Do you have maybe two sets of agendas for this weekend because New Hampshire falls in the first race in the Chase? Maybe taking notes from this weekend to probably apply to that second race?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: No, not really. I think we just need to go in there and, you know, make it happen. We need to get on a roll. We need to get some points. We need to get momentum going on our side like we did last year. We're a couple weeks later than we were last year, but, hopefully, it will come still.
You know, our flat track cars, short track cars have been good this year. Probably the best we've ever been. We're consistent on short tracks. So I look forward to New Hampshire.
I mean, looking forward to the second race there is important, but not as important as this week. So we need to just hope that we've got all our I's dotted and T's crossed and we just show up there on Friday.
Q. About the hot and cold streaks, success seems to burst at this level. Do you have any methods with your team to achieve success or retrieve it?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: It's definitely an up-and-down sport. You know, seems that there are a lot more bad days than there are good. It's an emotional roller coaster. It's a lot of fun at times. I've really enjoyed the challenges of all the different race tracks, all the different things we've got thrown at us.
This year with the new car a lot of things have been different. A lot of teams have been hot and cold. You know, without a lot of the problems and the bad luck, I really think that we wouldn't be sitting where we are. We wouldn't be feeling so bad about our season.
For a long time there we ran in the top 10 each week. We haven't had cars capable of winning like we did last year. We haven't been up leading in the top 5 every week. But we've been consistently in the top 10.
So it's just frustrating when you can't get the results. It's what if? We should have done this; we should have done that. It's frustrating. So we just need to minimize the mistakes. Perform better than we have all year from here on out.
It's important that we make the Chase. We need to. We made it last year. There's no reason our team shouldn't be up there. We've got a great team. You know, we need to make it.
Q. Is success mostly hard work? You mentioned the bad luck. Is success mostly hard work or good luck or is it more than that?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Success it takes a lot of different things. You need, you know, you don't need a lot of good luck, you just can't have any bad. We've had too much bad. But like I said, we haven't performed quite as well as we had last year.
So there's a lot that goes into it. With this new car a lot of teams have been developing stuff over the winter. A lot of teams have gotten better from where they were with this car last year. We haven't really found a lot that helped our cars.
We ran really good with the C.O.T. last year. We really haven't found a lot from last year that's helped us.
So I think we've kind of fell behind a little bit or stayed where we were And a lot of guys caught up and passed. So a lot goes into it. The guys at the shop are working hard. Everybody's putting a lot of effort in. We just haven't quite found the success we're looking for yet.
Q. A lot of the talk this week has been about Regan not having sponsorship. How would you feel about DEI going to three teams next year?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I don't think it would be good at all. I think it would be a step backwards. I think part of the whole reason with the deal was to go to four teams, four drivers, four cars, four teams, more information spread throughout the company, more testing, more everything.
So if we're going to be competitive, we need to do it with four teams to keep up with Roush and Hendrick and them guys. So we'll just see what happens.
Regan's done a really, really good job. His new crew chief is really working well with him. They seem to work together really good. And he's done a really good job keeping that car in the top 35. So I think a couple of good runs, he'll get noticed. He won't have any problems get something sponsorship, and we won't have to worry about that.
Q. We have been asking this of other drivers and we keep pointing it out because of the popularity of NASCAR -- the question to us media people keeps coming up from younger people and even Parents -- what advice can you give to a young person want to go get into NASCAR? And how much have things changed since you started your career?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I don't think things have changed a whole lot since I've started. You know, it's a tough sport to get into. But the only thing you can do is go out and race and do what you love to do whether it's racing, working on the car, being the crew chief.
Whatever it is, if you love to race, you put everything you have into it. Work really, really hard, because it doesn't come easy. Just hope that you get that opportunity.
You know, there are a lot, a lot of people out there who can do jobs, who can driver these cars that are out there racing that never get the opportunity.
There's only 43 of us out there every weekend. We're a select few. We're very, very fortunate. But we've all worked hard to get here, and it can happen to anyone. You've just got to put your heart and soul into it and hope you get that opportunity.
Q. I wanted to ask you from week to week during the season how frustrating is it that you're not in the top 12? Do you and Bono sort of go over things to keep your spirits up?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: It's very frustrating for us. Especially when we sit and look at the things that have happened to us and the amount of points that we've just let go, you know, thrown away, lost out on. It's very frustrating to look at that. But at the same time to take how well we ran, that is something that you can look at and we can build on.
It helps us with our confidence, definitely. If we run in the top 5 and we finish 43rd. We don't care if we finished 43; we ran in the top 5. That's what we have to look at. Without doing that you can't go to the next week and perform your best.
We take the positives out of everything we can. At the same time we don't try to fool ourselves. If we need to get better, we know it. So we work hard and try to do that.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to Martin Truex Jr. Joining us today for the NASCAR cam video teleconference. Best of luck this weekend in New Hampshire
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Thank you, appreciate it.
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