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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 15, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Okay, we're getting a head start on the 2012 season here down at Daytona with this NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test to do several different things, but obviously to identify a good aerodynamic baseline package for when we come back for preseason thunder in January. Also, it's an opportunity to test the electronic fuel injection.
But joining us now is Martin Truex Jr. He drives the No. 86 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota for Michael Wallace Racing, and a very solid restrictor plate racing in his own right. Martin, talk about some of the thing that's you've seen out here on the tests today and are trying to accomplish, and maybe some of the combinations that you've seen and maybe what the cars doing a little bit differently?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Well, first of all, I know the off-seasons get shorter every year, but dang, working on 2012 already is kind of crazy. Yeah, I believe I'm not sure exactly what NASCAR's goal is. They haven't really said, here's what we're trying to do. We're going out there and trying different packages and it feels like we're trying to put an end to the two-car draft, or at least make it so we can only get together for a lap or two or have to switch or run in a pack.
So far we've been taking the spoiler off, taking a rear spring out of the car to try to get them to be a little bit more slick, get through the air better, and run faster and trying to make it so they're uncomfortable getting pushed. So far we haven't been able to get there.
We've picked up a second and a half from what we've raced here in the summertime. So it seems the faster we go, the better they drive. So, you know, I think where we need to go is making the radiator smaller so we overheat faster.
So far we're trying some things, and we have some smaller spoilers to go yet and less rear springs to try to get the back of the car out of the air more and try to free it up some. I believe we're going to try a bigger plate in a qualifying round here too, so that will be fun to go faster around here than I ever have, so I'm looking forward to that.
Other than that, that's about it, just going through some packages, standard issue. So far everything's going good. And that's a testament to the grip and pavement here at Daytona. I honestly feel like we could run 230 miles an hour here and still have the car stick and be able to run wide open. So it's pretty cool.
Q. If you're heading towards the point where you can't drive them anymore, how fine a line and how much concern is there that you're going to find out when it's a little bit too late?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: There is a fine line there because what we're doing today with the tandem, it's likeable to do the tandem in the race, but there's not 35 other cars around. When you're in a two-car pack and you're catching a pack of six cars or something, the cars drive different than they do with us being out here today, just two cars on the racetrack.
So there is a little bit there still where we don't know exactly how these changes are going to affect the cars until we actually get out there in race conditions.
That is something we talk about every week with these cars. They're so aero dependent. When you get in the race, the car changes just because there are more cars on the racetrack. And it's something you can't test for. The only way to prepare for it is really experience and kind of educated guesses.
But so far it feels like we could go a lot faster and still be comfortable. But, again, that could change with more cars on the racetrack and less air on the front of the car as opposed to getting all the air off the back of the car.
Q. Did you like tandem racing at all? Is there anything good about it, or would you rather just see it go away?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Yeah, I don't know. Honestly, I like both ways. I like the old way. I like the tandem. It's fun at times. The only thing I don't like about it is having to rely on somebody.
You know, you talk about Cup racing and we're all kind of out there racing against each other, our team against their team. When you get into these plate races now with the tandem deal, if you don't have a partner that's committed to you, and you being committed to somebody else, your chances of finishing it up front or even a chance to win is out the window.
So it's different. You have to have a different mindset going in because of that, so because of that, I think that's probably a part I don't like about it. I do enjoy getting pushed around and threading the needle and passing guys at 10 miles an hour faster. That kind of thing is fun. The racing part of it is fun.
I think watching the races, I feel like the old-style racing was a little bit more exciting with the 43-car pack shucking and jiving and making moves. I feel like that's more exciting to watch.
As a driver, I feel like it's harder to do that. It's harder to win at that because there is a lot more strategy involved and putting yourself in different positions where now you get behind somebody, push them as hard as you can and hope you end up at the front, or you hope the guy pushes you to the front. There's a bit more luck involved now and happenstance than maybe what it was before.
Q. To follow up on the testing, are you pretty confident that NASCAR will sort it all out? It seems your guys are doing this. I guess the worst case scenario would be figuring out the rules of engagement on the fly as you head into the latter part of speed weeks.
MARTIN TRUEX JR: There is no doubt they'll figure it out. I think what they're trying to figure it out is how they want to get to the end result. I think they know what they want. If they know what they want, they'll figure out how to get it. They're smart enough with how these cars work.
Right now it's just a matter of going through a few steps to see if the changes they're thinking will do exactly what they think they will.
I think as far as the speed pick-up per change I think they're right on track of what they thought it would be. At least that's what it sounds like from talking to them.
I feel like they have a good idea of where they want to be. Before you know it, we'll probably all find out that they knew before we got here today, probably, where we were going to end up. It's just a matter of them backing up their thoughts and their plans. I think we'll be in good shape. It's just up to them what they want to see.
Q. Electronic fuel injection, is that part of this today?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: It is.
Q. Can you tell a big difference?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: To be honest with you, if you didn't know when you got in the car, you couldn't tell the difference. Only thing that's different is the way it starts. You don't have to pump the gas like a normal carburetor. You just flip the switch and crank it up. That's the biggest difference I've noticed. Now we've had some growing pains with it with it being a new system. Back earlier in the testing where we've had some issues, the same kind of issues with a carburetor stumbles, running bad in the pits, flooding and turning to the right, things like that. But for the most part, all that stuff's worked out. It's really no different than the carburetor.
Along the lines of fuel mileage and things like that, I'm not sure where that all is right now. But the guys at TRD and Toyota have done a good job with getting the system figured out and implementing all the new changes and things. It's something they're constantly working on, and still working on.
I know they have some new stuff on the car today, but as far as being behind the wheel, it's really not a big difference.
Q. The EFI is basically what you're saying is you're not concerned about that at this point?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: No, sir.
Q. Okay, as far as have you had any hairy moments out there with the smaller spoilers and all that?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: No. No, so far, like I said, everything's been stable. I honestly feel like the faster it goes, the more stable it is in the corner. What happens here is the track has so much grip and so much banking that you don't have to put a lot of wheel in the car instead of the tires. You don't have a lot of load against the tires.
It's almost like the tire tries to turn and move around on the wheel a little bit because you're not constantly loading it to keep it turned one way. The faster you go, the more lateral load it puts on the tires and it stabilizes the cars.
So it actually feels better the faster we go so far. Now I'm sure there will be a point where it doesn't feel better anymore. I'm not sure where that is yet. Maybe we'll find that out here this afternoon. We've got a few more steps to go with speed, so we'll see what happens there.
Q. Finally, the Speedway got a lot of negative feedback about tandem racing after the July race here. They did a survey. Has your fan base told you that they don't really like this kind of racing?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Honestly, I think it's been kind of split. I think half the people really like it, and half of them like the old style better. I thought that the racing has been good. Like I said, I think the old style is a little better to watch.
Again, if the fans want it to be the old way, that's why we're here. But I think it's been a split decision. I think a lot of people enjoy the new way, and a lot of people liked it the old way better.
Q. Dale Jr. is on record saying he doesn't like this way of racing, that he was coming here to try to do whatever he could to help eliminate it. Why did you come? Did you volunteer? Were you asked?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I just do what I'm told (laughing). I follow directions. I do what I'm told. Honestly, I was asked to do it, and it's part of my job to do. I'm not going to say I hate it, and I came here to change it. At the end of the day, it's NASCAR's decision, it doesn't matter what we think about it to some degree.
I'm just here to help them get the data they need, and give them the feedback to the best of my abilities of what I'm feeling the cars and what the changes are doing, and they'll make their decisions based on that.
Q. You don't have any radical idea that's you would try to eliminate it?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Well, in my opinion there are only two ways to get rid of a two-car draft. One is to take the bumper off the back of the car so you can't push it; or two, make it so you can't push because you overheat too fast. Those are the best two options.
Making the cars uncomfortable is not the best way to go, because I feel like with the repave here, and the repave at Talladega, we'll be going upwards of 220 miles an hour to make them get uncomfortable.
Of course, we all know what happens, the car gets off the ground and that's a bad thing making them push is not an option. The speeds are too high when that point comes.
Small radiators, which they know, they're talking about it and that. It's just a matter of them going through the season, seeing the two-car tango as it's called and seeing, do the fans really not like it? If they don't like it, we'll get rid of it. I think they're seeing steps to try to figure out exactly where we stand and how we're going to eliminate it if we need to eliminate it.
Q. As we head down to Homestead, who do you like for the championship?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Boy, I don't know. It's anybody's race. Based on prior seasons, I would have to go with Carl just because of the way he ran there last year. I was fortunate enough to have a really fast car there last year and lead a bunch of that race.
Carl was right there. It was me and him battling for the first 30 miles. We got a flat tire, and he ended up winning. He was really strong, so based off of that, I'd have to give him the edge.
But the way the 14 has been running, I mean, they've been stellar. I'd say it's going to come down to the end. I'm looking forward to seeing it.
Q. What you said about last year and what you and Chad have found, (Inaudible)?
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I think we are. I truly believe that. I get kind of tired because I feel like a win has been around the corner because we've been close. We've had some points in the season where we've been close and been capable, had cars capable of winning.
But I feel good going down there after the run we had there last year. We took a brand-new car to Texas that we've been really working on for a good part of this season, the last few months, building a new chassis with this stuff. We took it to Texas. I was really happy with it. It was one of the better mile and a half cars we've had all year long.
So I feel like we made some strides there, and it would be nice to end the season on a high note. We're taking that car there, and Homestead has been a good track for me. I've run up front and finished second there a few times.
So I'm looking forward to hopefully getting to Victory Lane before the year's over.
MARTIN TRUEX JR: I've worked with them before, so it won't be anything new. I know Mark well. Have a lot of respect for him and what he's accomplished, obviously. He's been paying more attention to us the last few weeks. We've been talking about our cars, and how we're running, things we're good at, things we're bad at.
Definitely he's paying more attention. Once we get the season over with, hopefully he'll spend more time around the shop and we'll get to talk about things and see what his thoughts are and everything, but looking forward to it.
I'm looking forward to him and Clint coming over, and hopefully coming out of the box strong next year and having a good season.
I do need to add the deal with David. I feel terrible for him. He's become a really, really good friend of mine, and I have a lot of respect for him as a driver. He's been an awesome teammate for me. Like I said, we've become good friends, so I hate to see him go; and I hope he finds something good for next year.
THE MODERATOR: Martin, we appreciate your time. Well put on all fronts. Thank you for coming down here for the test. And we'll be watching you on Sunday to see if you can get to Victory Lane.
MARTIN TRUEX JR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports