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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
June 1, 2010
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's NASCAR teleconference in advance of the weekend's events at Pocono Raceway. Joining us today is Martin Truex, Jr., who is the driver of the No. 56 NAPA Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. He's 14th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, only 14 points out of 12th place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series eligibility.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Thank you.
DENISE MALOOF: That's pretty much the focus now, everybody is going full bore towards that Chase eligibility.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Absolutely. I think it's something that you pay attention to all year long right from the start of the Daytona 500. You just do all you can each week to get those points and you really pay attention to that.
I think the focus of every team every year is just to make the Chase. Hopefully when that time comes around, you'll have something to go out and race for a championship.
Nothing different for our team with our NAPA Toyota. We have a great team. We've been running with some momentum here lately. We're excited to go to Pocono this weekend and try to get back in the top 12.
DENISE MALOOF: We'll go straight to media questions for Martin Truex, Jr.
Q. Have you paid attention to what's happened with Carl Edwards' team? He led the series with nine wins a couple years ago. He's not even scratching for top fives right now. When you see that happen, what goes through your mind?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, I mean, I don't know. I think that can happen to any team at any point in time. It's just so competitive. If you get off just a little bit, the next thing you know, you're running 20th.
It's just very competitive. I think what Carl and his team have going for them, they haven't been running like they want, but they're still hanging in there, doing what it takes to get decent finishes, staying up in that top 12.
Where it comes time when they get it figured out, if they're still in the hunt, they can take advantage of it. No matter how you're running, it's important to get those good finishes and fight and claw each week for everything you can get.
Q. Talking about getting into the Chase, we're halfway there. I guess historically on average about nine of the top 12 that we see now do end up making the Chase. You're just outside of it by about 15 points. What do you think your chances are and is it all points racing from here on out for the next 13 or so?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I think our chances are really good. I feel like we're getting stronger each week as a team. I know the 600 didn't go as we had planned. I really felt going in we would have a shot to win based on how we had been the last two weeks at Charlotte. It didn't work out for us. We fought some things with the car that were unexpected.
I think our chances are good. Obviously we've done a good job of being consistent up to this point. We're constantly working on trying to be more competitive, be quicker each week. Obviously it would be nice to be in by a comfortable margin right now so you could go out there and really work and try some things, try some things to get faster.
On one hand, you have to be a little bit conservative because you want to be consistent and run in the top 10 or 15 and get those points. But at the same time you need to keep pushing forward and need to take some chances on your setups, work on your racecar to try to find that speed it takes to win.
We're kind of stuck in the middle right now. But the guys on the team have done great. I feel like we're getting better each week. For us being a new team, to be where we're at right now, from here going forward, we're just going to keep getting strong, hopefully move into that top 12, be solid, be able to go out and race for wins. Right now that's what we're looking towards doing.
Q. Being with a new team, you're 13 races in at Michael Waltrip Racing, with your second crew chief since you started into NASCAR. Do you feel like you have settled in comfortably or is there more work to go before you hit that chemistry?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I think we're on course where we thought we'd be. Obviously, the transition for me was very easy going to a new team. Hardest part about it was making the decision, pulling the trigger to do it. Everything has been going really well. The team has done a great job. They've got great leadership.
You know, Pat has done a great job. He's been easy to work with. He's been a lot of fun. He's very smart about his racecars. We've been having a good time with it.
So it's been good. Again, it's just about us continuing to work together, him getting to know what I'm saying a little bit better, and us both understanding our racecars a little bit better.
Like I said, Charlotte was a little bit unexpected. But here as of late, the past month and a half or so, I've been very happy with the performance of the cars and the way things have been going.
We just need to continue to work towards being faster and being more competitive each week.
Q. This past weekend Tony Stewart ran into a crew member of Greg Biffle on pit road. He's doing okay, which is good news. How much do you think of that as you are zipping in and out of pit road?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, it doesn't happen very often. Obviously we don't hear it very often. I'm not sure what happened in that case, I haven't seen it. I've only actually hit one person before and it was my own crew guy, first time I ever went to Daytona. You come down pit road at Daytona, you're used to running 185 or 190 some miles an hour. You come down pit road, it's slippery. I just slid right through my box, hit my jackman, put him up on the hood.
For the most part guys do a good job of paying attention, not only the crew guys paying attention who is coming in behind 'em and things like that, to what's going on. So you don't see it very often. Obviously you hate to see it happen. Glad the guy is okay.
Q. Every year about this time we hear comparing Pocono to Indianapolis. How much can you truly learn this weekend and use it down the road at Indianapolis?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I don't know. I've never really thought of them as being similar. I mean, the surfaces are so much different at the two tracks. The only thing I feel like they have in common is that they're semi-flat. Pocono has three different turns, a lot of bumps in it, which Indianapolis is very smooth. I've never been able to compare the two that much.
Aerodynamically, I think the cars are similar or need similar things to get around there, which isn't a big issue these days with the COT. I don't know. You know, it's hard to say. But sometimes you'll see a guy run good at both places, sometimes a guy will dominate at one place and struggle at the other. I think it takes a lot different setup than it used to at those two racetracks.
Q. You used the word 'consistent' earlier. You have been consistent with the exception of Fontana. Talk about that. At this point of the season, it's all about getting into the Chase, being able to finish races. You've been able to do that for the most part.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, we have. That's been obviously a big part of our program. You talk about California. We lost an engine there. The other race we had trouble at was Atlanta, which was one of the best runs we had all year. We got caught in that green-white-checkered accident running fifth or sixth.
The consistency has been there. We understand that. We want to run up front, compete for wins for NAPA and everybody on our team. I feel like we're getting closer. We've had a few times where we've had cars capable of getting up here and doing it; haven't taken advantage of it. We need to make sure when we have those days, we take advantage of it. When we don't have the best of days, we need to get good finishes. That's what we're focused on.
A big part of that is teamwork, chemistry on the team, what Pat is doing with his leadership, obviously our pit crew has been phenomenal, doing all the little things right. Just need to keep doing that and be consistent, take advantage of the good days when we have 'em.
Q. You talk about Dover being your home track. What are your feelings about Pocono? I take it racing at Pocono is not as much fun for you as Dover.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Pocono is fun. I enjoy the track. Obviously we talked about how challenging it is with the three turns being different, the surface being old and wore out and bumpy. It's a huge challenge to get a car to go around there the way you want it to.
Heck, Pocono is almost as close to home as Dover. You know, I enjoy going up there. I spent a lot of time up there as a kid skiing in the wintertime. The Race of Champions for the modifieds used to be at Pocono. I used to watch my dad and uncles there.
It's another track I consider kind of a home game. I've had some good runs there in the past. The last couple times there haven't been too good for me. Looking forward to going back there with my new team, see what kind of car we'll bring, and I think it should be a great weekend for us.
Q. You're kind of on that Chase bubble right now. Does your experience from a few years ago help you at all?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I mean, I think it does a little bit. You know, obviously you're not panicking when you're sitting there 15 or 20 some points out, throwing things at the car that you shouldn't, just driving yourself crazy with it. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. Like I said earlier, I've got a great team and they're doing all the right things.
We just need to make sure we take advantage of all our opportunities, just keep doing what we've been doing. I was really disappointed in our run this weekend. But the guys are working hard on that. I know nobody was more disappointed than Pat. We just need to be consistent. That's the name of the game, being consistent, getting those top-10, top-12 finishes. That's what it's going to take to get there.
So we're focused on that. If we do everything right, if we do all the things we can control, the points will take care of themselves and we'll be in.
Q. As far as Pocono, the three different turns, do you find the challenge fun or frustrating?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I've had it both ways. A couple years ago, we had some really good runs there, had a shot to win two of 'em. That's one of those places, like Dover, where when you get your car pretty good, you're competitive, it's a lot of fun. But when your stuff is off, it makes for a very, very long, challenging, difficult, frustrating kind of day. When you're off, you're so far off. It can go both ways.
I'm looking forward to going back there. I enjoy the challenge of three different turns. I feel if we can get our car pretty close, I'm pretty comfortable running there. I like it enough I can hopefully make up the difference.
Q. We've all been talking about the Chase. It's open to anyone. Can you explain to the race fans in your own words how much fire does that put into you and also the entire race team?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, it puts a lot in us. When you're sitting there on the edge, you know you have a chance, your team is capable, that's kind of like the light at the end of the tunnel. It's a huge deal to get in the Chase. It's very, very difficult. There's a lot of teams capable of doing it. It's just a matter of making it happen.
It puts a lot of drive in everyone on the team. Really, you know, when you're coming into the season, that's one of your first goals. Okay, you want to get to Victory Lane, you want to run up front, but you want to make the Chase. That's a big deal for us.
You know, it really drives us. That's really what we're focused on right now.
Q. After Pocono, it's the Michigan track where you can run almost wide open. Doesn't a track like Michigan push all the drivers to go out there and sort of just let it all hang out?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, I think these days it's so competitive, you have to let it all hang out everywhere. Every lap on the racetrack, the first lap on the track off the trailer, everybody in practice is wide open. That's just the mentality of what it takes nowadays.
Michigan, again, is a very big, fast racetrack. It takes a lot of finesse. It's very slick, wears tires out. You have to be smooth at the same time and have a good-handling car.
Q. Does your calm personality change a lot when you get behind the wheel and race? As competitive as you guys are, isn't it kind of expected that tempers are going to flair from time to time and you get results like we've seen every once in a while on the track?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I think it's expected that people are going to lose their tempers at times. It's very intense being in that racecar. You know, people talk about guys hollering and yelling and screaming on the radio sometimes. There's no one in there to talk to. The only thing you have is that button, so you just want to start yelling.
But, you know, I get fired up in the car just as much as anybody else does. I think I'm a bit of a different person when I put on the helmet. At least that's what some people say. At the same time I think my calm demeanor helps me in the racecar stay calm at times, more calm than some would at certain points in the race. There's a lot of times that that's very important. You got to keep your focus in there and keep focused on the goals, the challenges ahead of you.
You know, it works out for me sometimes. I don't know (laughter).
Q. Did your demeanor come to you naturally? You come from a racing family. Do you think you kind of picked that up from being around it?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: A little bit, I guess. I don't know. I guess it's just kind of my personality. Everybody's different. So it's just the way I go about my business. I think it works well for me.
Q. Just wanted to get your thoughts. You're with a brand-new race team this year. Obviously you had some expectations at the beginning of the season. How are some of those coming about you now that you're a partial way through?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I think they're lining up with what I kind of expected. You know, obviously it was a big deal for me, a big change for me, a new team, new sponsor with NAPA, new crew chief. There were a lot of things new. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I was very optimistic and excited about the opportunity. I felt really good about the team. I felt like they were doing everything right to be competitive.
It's gone about as well as I thought it would, maybe even a little better on some occasions. Yeah, it's been really good. It's been rewarding. It's been a lot of fun. It's been a lot of work, but everything is going very, very well. I've been very happy with the race team they put together for me to drive for.
You know, I feel like we're probably ahead of schedule as far as the performance has gone, the team coming together, getting on the same page, starting to understand things.
So I think going forward, we're just going to keep getting better, and hopefully that's the case.
DENISE MALOOF: Martin, thank you very much for joining us today. We appreciate your time. Best of luck this weekend.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Thank you very much for having me.
DENISE MALOOF: Thanks to the media that participated. We always appreciate your participation every week.
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