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August 6, 2017

Martin Truex, Jr.

Watkins Glen, New York

THE MODERATOR: We will continue our post‑race media availabilities. We're now joined by the winner of the I Love New York 355 at the Glen, Martin Truex Jr., the driver of the No.78 Furniture Row Denver Mattress Toyota for Furniture Row Racing. You're the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series point leader right now. You've been running strong all season. How does it feel to finally get the win here?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It feels amazing. Been wanting to win here a long time. Been coming here a long time. Started coming here before I was driving anything but go‑karts. Watching my dad race here a couple times and coming here as just a kid running through the garage trying to learn about race cars and then racing here in the Busch North Series myself kind of before I got my big break. Definitely feels really special to finally get that win here. I consider it one of my home tracks with Pocono, Dover, New Hampshire, and Watkins Glen. (Laughter.)
I mean, these are the Northeast tracks, where we grew up racing. This is where my family raced. This is where my dad raced. This is really the group of tracks that got me an opportunity to drive cars for a living.
Really cool to check this one off the list as well as everybody wants to win on road courses because it's kind of a feather‑in‑the‑cap type of deal. Now to have one at each of the road courses is pretty special, and definitely an awesome day, an awesome weekend.

Q. 2016 was a year where you had a lot of success, but you also saw a lot of chances to win slip away, a lot of bad luck, just things happening to you. Here you found yourself in second going into the last corner with a shot to try to make a move and then you found yourself spinning around into the wall. Can you contrast that with this year, getting all the stage wins, getting four wins now on the year, and like you said, putting the feather in your cap?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I think more than anything, it's just progress. You know, as a group. I think that we've been together four years now, and I think it's just evolution of our group and what we've been doing, the things we work on.
You know, last year was certainly a successful season but felt like we didn't show how good we really were. We didn't achieve the things that we thought we were capable of, and so this year I feel like we've done a better job. Obviously we've been more consistent with the points lead and the stage wins and all those things.
So really it's just, yeah, it's just progress, work in progress all the time, and I feel like we're getting to where we want to be. But we've got to keep working hard. This sport is very tough. It changes week to week. You never know what the next week is going to bring or three weeks from now, and our ultimate goal this year is to win our first championship together. We're going to keep working very hard, not take these wins for granted but keep working hard to try to get to where we want to go.

Q. Did you feel you had saved enough gas to make it to the end in the sense of if you had run out would you have been like‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No way. As slow as I felt like I was going, I felt like I could have run 10 more laps. I literally was like, you've got to be kidding me, I need to go even slower? It's excruciating to go that slow here and to try to save that much fuel. I mean, literally there was‑‑ I mean, I was barely using any brake at all at the highest braking racetrack we go to, so that tells you how much I was letting off the throttle early. It was definitely tough. The toughest part really was just watching the 2 pass and go on and then watching the 21 pass and go on. It's like, all right, if they don't run out of gas, we're going to look really dumb.
Fortunately it worked out for us, and we've worked more this year on saving fuel I would say than years past just for this type of situation, in case we got into it, and it turns out that I saved more than I think they even thought I did, so that's always a good thing. It's a good gauge to have in your mind kind of for future races. But just glad it worked out. It's 11 years I've never won a fuel mileage race. I've dominated a lot of races that were won on fuel mileage; that wasn't me. But to finally win one this way was pretty neat and definitely different.

Q. Following up on what you were saying about having to let Keselowski go and letting Blaney go, the spectrum of that to the last lap where suddenly it seemed like you were just letting it all hang out to try to keep Kenseth from passing you, that must have been difficult to go from letting guys go to racing and making all these nifty moves to win?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It's definitely hard to flip the switch, but at a place like this, it's such a rhythm track that I felt like once I said to myself, okay, it's one to go, I never ran 100 percent because I didn't have to. I ran hard enough to try to just manage that gap, so I had my marks kind of where I knew I needed to brake and those type of things. But even still, I had run 20 laps nowhere near running the maximum grip with my tires, so I really didn't know what I had, and actually went into Turn 10 on the last lap and locked the left front up thinking I was not going very fast, and that was a little bit of a moment because I slid over the curb and kind of lost some speed there, but luckily we were able to hold him off. But yeah, it's a little bit tough to flip the switch for sure because you don't know how much your tires have fallen off in that period of time when you've been running slow and you've got a lot less fuel. The weight bias is different in the car and all those kind of things. But fortunately for us, like today it worked out.

Q. 33 playoff points now; you're almost assured of probably having 50 going into the playoffs. I know you guys are going to want to win every race‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Can we get more than 50?

Q. You can have 60. I don't think there's any limit it seems like at this point. I know you want to win every race, but at this point could you almost start focusing on the last seven races? It's almost like you're establishing a bye for yourself in the first round at this rate.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, honestly, I don't know. I feel like with the way we run, coupled with the bonus points, we should essentially be a lock for Homestead. I really feel that way. But at the same time, this is racing, and anything can happen. If we have three horrible weekends in a row and one in round 2, I don't know if it'll be enough. I mean, it just depends on what everybody else does, right.
So I think we feel good about what we're doing and the playoff points, but it doesn't mean that it's a free pass or we're just going to skate through. We're still going to work hard and try to do the best we can. But I do think that as the playoffs start, the thought process probably shifts more towards how do we figure out how to run really well at Homestead, have a shot at winning there, because that's what it's going to come down to.
We'll see if we can put it all together, but for right now focused on more playoff points so we can make sure we can have a shot at getting there.

Q. Coming here as a young man and rolling tires and helping your dad, that's just character building for where you are today, right?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Absolutely, yeah. I wouldn't‑‑ I used to love coming up here and actually sat and talked to you quite a few times about how my dad wasn't driving the car right. (Laughter.)
But yeah, I mean, all the tracks that you grow up going to are special to you. Each driver has their own, obviously, and for me I'm fortunate that I get to race in the Cup Series at some of those tracks, as well. A lot of guys don't get to go back to the tracks they kind of cut their teeth on, so to speak. So it's cool for me. It's definitely a unique feeling, and I always get a little bit of a sense of extra pride coming to a couple of these tracks. So definitely fun.

Q. You talked about not taking a bye or anything like that, but at what point in the season with the playoff points and the accumulation you've gotten did you realize, holy crap, we've got a huge lead going forward, or was that the plan all along from the start of the season? Did you break it down and actually say, we could really get ahead of everybody by focusing on this?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I don't think we had a master plan. Our plan was to try to run the best we could every week, and we knew they were out there, and we've talked about this before, that it wasn't like we changed strategies or changed who we were to try to get playoff points.
I think it's just a credit to the team for being consistent, bringing fast cars consistently, pit crew being awesome and consistent and not having a lot of mistakes, no part failures really or anything to speak of. The consistency has been a big part of it.
And then taking advantage of the speed being up front all the time and leading laps, that's kind of where those bonus points come from. We were able to do the same thing last year, but there was no bonus points to be had. I don't know that we're surprised, but when I look at the number of points we have compared to second, it is a bit surprising to me. It's always a reminder, like man, this has been really, really an incredible season, and it's so hard to win races at this level, let alone do what we've done.
I'm just taking it one week at a time and enjoying myself and kind of pinching myself every Monday morning when I wake up and start a new week. But it's been awesome, been fun. Hopefully we can keep it up.

Q. Have you thought about at the end of this going na‑na‑na‑na‑na?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No, I don't think I would do that. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't do that.

Q. Not publicly, right?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No, I wouldn't.

Q. Were you surprised that Suárez was blocking you as hard as he was coming to the end of stage 2?

Q. It really was an impressive drive for him, finishing third, and looked liked he was doing whatever he could to make sure he got himself into position to get that playoff point at the end and looked like he was throwing some wild blocks at you.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, actually really just the last one going into the final turn was the only one that really was almost an issue. I didn't expect him to‑‑ I guess the block wasn't an issue. I didn't expect him to slow down as quick‑‑ he braked a little earlier than I thought, and I all but just ran him over.
Luckily I had pretty good brakes on my car today and I was able to keep out of the back of him. But yeah, I think it just shows the importance of stages. It shows how bad everybody wants to win them. You look at a guy like Daniel, it's rookie team, rookie driver. It's a big deal for them to win a stage. Small victories, right? It's just another step in their progression, and he looked really good out there today. He did a really good job, and he had a little bit older tires, but definitely looked smooth out there and looked like he was having a good time, so it was cool.

Q. You've got Kenseth behind you. While he's in the playoffs, it's kind of by the skin of his teeth. Were you concerned he might do something to just get into the playoffs or the fact that he's looking for a ride next year, did that‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No, I mean, honestly, no. At that point our destiny was up to us. We were either going to go fast enough to stay in front of him or run out of gas. I mean, that literally was the plan for me the last lap. I knew he was closing in on us, but I figured that if‑‑ I was going to run fast enough to stay ahead of him, and if I ran out of gas, so be it. I really wasn't thinking in that direction.

Q. Being from New Jersey, was it cool to win a race called the I Love New York, or is it kind of weird, and did they make you say that in Victory Lane?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: They didn't make me say it, but it's okay, I like New York. I love New Jersey, I like New York. I like this part of New York a lot, especially today.

Q. Can you just talk a little bit about your progress as a road course driver? Was there a time where maybe you were horrible at it or didn't like it or just kind of how you've maybe gotten better over the years at driving at the road courses?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I would say I've always enjoyed it, and I feel like I've always been pretty good at it. The first thing I ever raced was a go‑kart, and that was on road courses, so I kind of grew up doing that a little bit, and then as I mentioned, had some K&N East experience at Lime Rock and also here at Watkins Glen, and I felt like when I started in the Busch Series, I was pretty comfortable at it. We won Mexico City there that first time we went down there in '05 and had some really good runs here.
When we first started, Sonoma was a little bit slower to kind of figure out I thought, for me personally. It took me two or three years to figure that out because I had never been there before, but I feel like after that, these have been some of my better racetracks. Even in years where maybe I wasn't with‑‑ we weren't having the best years, our cars maybe weren't that fast or we weren't doing all the little things right, I felt like we could come here and run pretty good. I think the stats kind of back that up.
And then of course winning at Sonoma a few years ago, as well. I've always loved the road courses. It's a lot of fun to come to them twice a year and do something a little different, and again, at the same time, it's a unique challenge, and it's kind of, I think, something the drivers look forward to as a different challenge than what we face every other week.

Q. Just curious if you got around Erik Jones at all today, and do you kind of see him as a mini‑me for Kyle Busch as far as how he attacks a track and how much speed he has?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think I got to him and passed him once. He was on older tires. I don't know about the mini‑me. Have you compared their hairdos? Just sayin'. Erik is also a lot skinnier than Kyle. What? Erik is really skinny. Y'all haven't noticed? He's like a little string bean.
I think when he races trucks and he races XFINITY he shows that a bit more. I think he's still getting comfortable in the Cup cars with the horsepower, the downforce, and most importantly just with him team, I think they're still kind of figuring things out together. But I mean, I think‑‑ I don't know. Honestly, I haven't really compared their driving styles to be honest. I mean, I haven't spent a whole lot of time racing around Erik this year. We do have a lot of data and stuff we can look at. I would say he does mimic him a little bit more than some guys, but to say they're very similar would be hard for me.

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