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September 3, 2017

Martin Truex, Jr.

Darlington, South Carolina

THE MODERATOR: We've now been joined by Martin Truex Jr., and obviously I know you would much prefer to be here under a different circumstance as far as going to Victory Lane after that run tonight, but you did clinch the regular season championship which I know can give you a little bit of breathing room next weekend going into Richmond and then into the playoffs. Talk a little bit about your race and the overall performance of your team this season to be in this position one race ahead and going into Richmond?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I mean, it was definitely a bittersweet night for us, to come up just two laps short there, blow a tire at the end after having no issues with tires all night and having such a good race car. I don't know if that last run was the longest one we made all night. I'm not really sure to be honest. I was kind of out there caught up driving my guts out at the end trying to hang on. It's unfortunate we blew the tire, but really proud of everybody on this team for an amazing season so far, and to lock up the regular season points is a huge accomplishment for us, for our team. I feel like we've come a long way in just a few years together and continue to climb.
Proud of everybody. Wish we could have won, but that's the breaks. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don't, and tonight we come up a little short. But definitely a lot to be proud of.

Q. Martin, before you blew that last tire, did you think you were going to be able to hang on to the end and outlast it?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, the plan was to try, you know. I didn't know how far back they were. I didn't know how fast they were going, I didn't know how many laps fresher their tires were. They told me that they thought I could hold him off and they gave me the intervals and how fast he was catching me. With two to go, I seen him coming, but catching somebody and passing him is a whole different deal here, and I was really holding my own pretty well if I could get some clean air, and every time I'd catch a lap car they'd just drive off in the corner, slide up in front of me and then I was just so loose on those old tires around other cars that there wasn't much I could do to keep my pace, my momentum.
That was really the only reason he even caught us, besides the flat tire. I don't know, we may have blew a tire either way, obviously, you never know. But it's interesting, Cole said he wanted to wait two more laps to pit, and with two to go we blew a tire. It's crazy how those things work out sometimes.
Just sometimes it's just not your night, you know. Tonight wasn't our night. Guys did a fantastic job. Obviously we had a super strong race car, and I think we lost the lead four or five times in the pits. The guys had a little bit of an off night, and we were able to get back to the lead on those long runs. We had a great car, just didn't work out for us tonight, but a lot to be proud of, like I said, and to come here and have a shot at winning this race two years in a row, it's a hell of an accomplishment. This place is so tough, and to run 498 miles an inch from the fence and scrape it four or five times with the right rear and never tear my car up and be leading the race is something I'm really proud of. It wasn't our night, but we've got a lot to be proud of.

Q. Was it the right front tire?

Q. How hard did you hit the wall?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Not hard. It was literally at the end of the backstretch. I was so high getting in the corner anyway that I only had six inches to go to hit it. I literally stepped on the brake. The car turned right. I was a foot from the wall when the tire popped, and I just kind of glanced off it and glanced around the track. It really wasn't bad at all, and I was actually able to make two laps with the thing on the inner liner and finish eighth. Not bad, just disappointing more than anything.

Q. Martin, I could tell just when you walked in here and even on TV, you were leaning against the car. Everybody looks wore out. This racetrack has a penchant for being a physical race, but tonight seemed like it was tougher than the last couple of years. Why was that, and what did you feel throughout the course of the race?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It was definitely tougher for a lot of reasons. I think that these cars are a lot harder to drive than they were last year. Track is a year older, tires are wearing out faster, cars have less downforce, cars have more horsepower. The competition is closer. It was really hot today, and for some reason these cars, it just seems like they just keep getting hotter and hotter and hotter inside. All those things combined, and the mental focus it takes to run here. I was talking about 498 miles against the fence and going forward, scraping it. If you screw up two inches, you're done. You could ruin your night.
It's all those things on top of each other. It's just the mental focus and the physical part of it for me I think at the end was just‑‑ I ran out of‑‑ I keep Gatorade in my drink bag in my car, and I ran out with like 100 to go, and we had no caution. We had a couple green flag stops, and typically there's no time to grab a drink from the crew, so I just kind of got dehydrated a little bit at the end there, the last 100, and it was just hot, man. Pouring your guts out. I gave it everything I had the last 100 laps, and come up two laps short.

Q. Were you surprised how much green there was in that last half?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I was surprised. Typically here you'll have a guy scrape the wall, hit the wall, tear off some debris. Some guys are riding around tore up with Bear Bond and stuff flapping. You'd think something would fall off at some point in time. Yeah, you just never know how these things are going to play out. Had we had a late caution, we might have been in really good shape, but we might have also got beat on a restart. You never know, so it just didn't work out tonight. Like I said, two laps, man. Two laps.

Q. Everybody had talked about there should be something more for the regular season champ. Now that there is, do you feel like you've accomplished something bigger because of the playoff points involved?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I think it's a huge accomplishment. I don't really understand exactly what you're asking me.

Q. Because now that there's playoff points and actual something that's more impactful in the playoffs, does it mean more to‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't know if it means more to the team. It's not harder to do because of that. I think it's‑‑ I think in the past it's meant a lot. We've seen the guys that have won it. It's a lot to be proud of. It's so difficult to do in this sport and this series. It's so competitive. I would say it's not harder to do, but there's a lot more benefit to doing it, and I'm glad we picked the right time to do it. I think we're‑‑ the regular season winner is deserving of those extra points because it's so difficult to do, and I think it was a good decision to make that change.
They did it because of the difficult level and the guys that had performed at a really high level throughout the regular season and then have a bad race or two in the playoffs and lost their shot at winning a championship. It would suck to win the regular season championship and just completely lose your shot at winning a title based on some kind of racing luck. I mean, racing is just the way it goes; sometimes you have a couple bad weeks. And this way it rewards the guys that deserve to be around late in the playoffs.

Q. Martin, a bittersweet night, but the fact that you wrapped up the regular season championship with a week to spare, is there any kind of extra satisfaction in that or maybe kind of unbelievable that you were able to accomplish that?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, it's definitely special. It feels great. Definitely can go to Richmond without any pressure, which is awesome. The other cool part is I clinched my first NASCAR championship here back in '04 in the Busch Series back then. To do it here again tonight was really cool. It was just kind of a neat connection. Darlington has been good to me. I love coming here, and for that reason I guess it's a little bit extra special to do it here tonight.

Q. At one point Kyle Larson was trying to stay on the lead lap. Did you get into him? You guys looked like you were pretty close.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I got a big run on him off of 2, and I was hoping he'd give me the outside, and he slowed down to give me the inside down the backstretch, and I just bumped him a little bit in the tail and then turned inside of him and went on. Little miscommunication on our parts, but yeah, he was giving me a lane to go in and just I was hoping he'd give me the opposite one he did. We happened to bump a little bit, but yeah, it was all good. We raced a lot together, especially early in the race, raced hard with Kyle a lot and in general a lot this year, and man, he's so much fun to race with. He's so talented. I definitely appreciated him giving me the room there at the end when I was trying to get through lap cars, but enjoyed racing with him for sure. He's awesome.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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