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October 22, 2017
Kansas City, Kansas
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by today's race winner, none other than Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No.78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota for Furniture Row Racing.
I know this has been a rollercoaster 24 hours for the team, but let's focus on the positives. Today you won for the seventh time this season. You led more than 2,000 laps in this season. You became the first driver to win four consecutive races on mile‑and‑a‑half tracks. Big day for this 78 team. How wild and wonderful is this season becoming for you?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It's still unbelievable. Just got to pinch myself, you know, on some of these days. It's just unreal. Really proud of my team. Really proud of everybody. Just a dream come true to drive for them and just do what we've done all season long.
Today was a challenge, for sure, with all the obstacles we faced, all the adversity we had to deal with. But we just kept our heads down, kept fighting, found ourselves in the lead late and took advantage of it.
Happy for everybody, all my guys. It was a tough day for them, losing one of their teammates last night. For all of us, just come together and talking about, Hey, let's go win this one for Jim. We did it. Feels good. Really proud of everybody just for getting through it and having each other's backs, holding each other up, getting out there and getting the job done.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor for questions.
Q. You said in Victory Lane that you got a text from Cole late last night. What was last night actually like for you? Did you get any sleep?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I mean, Cole texted me at like 11:15 or something, said, I'm at the hospital. Jim just had a heart attack and they lost him, they couldn't get him going.
I was like, Oh, my God, that's awful. Is there anything I can do?
He's like, No, we're all here. There's nothing we can do. We just wanted to be here to be here.
I thought about those guys a lot obviously last night. I don't go to bed too early anyway. I had a little bit of time to think about it. Just a shame, you know, to see. 55 years old, have that. He's got family at home. It's definitely hard to deal with that.
But, you know, it's part of life, unfortunately. We got to move on. Today the best we could do is win for him, in his honor. Just celebrate his life, what he meant to us, the job he did for us.
Q. How well did you know Jim? I know there's a lot of guys on the crew.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Sure.
Q. How well did you know him? Considering what you've been through the last few years with Sherry, does that help you manage something like this?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Honestly, I didn't know him really well. I don't know if I've ever had a real conversation with him, more than three or four words. He was kind of a guy that worked between both cars, 77 and 78. He was kind of our track fabricator. I didn't see him a whole lot. He was just kind of bouncing around.
But, you know, still he's part of our team. He's part of what makes us who we are. A lot of our guys are really close with him. It was definitely a lot harder for those guys on our team than it was for me.
Again, I think we all come together in times like this, no matter what it is. Certainly I was there if there was anything I could do to make it better on anyone. But definitely there were some guys on our team that it hit harder than others, that grew closer to Jim in his time at Furniture Row.
For me personally, I think over the years I've definitely got better at being able to get in the car no matter what's going on in the outside world or in my life, to get in there, turn my focus to just what I have to do in the next couple hours. It's just another example of doing that, focusing on my job, just trying to block out all the noise.
Q. Turning to some other tough stuff you've had to deal with at this track, if memory serves, the last time you raced here, the race went to red when there was the big pileup and Aric Almirola was extricated. Did you feel déjà vu when it goes to red and then caution?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, for sure. That's two races here in a row where we've had one huge wreck. I seen it literally happen right in front of me, the start of it. Then I seen them all crash in my mirror as I made it through there. I figured that when I got back around to turn two, it was going to look like a Talladega crash, just cars everywhere, scrap metal, cars and piles. It was crazy. It was one of those deals where the way he spun, he was running third, at the front of the pack, everybody was tight coming off of two. This place is so fast, it's pretty hard to slow down.
Luckily for us, we were on the bottom. Still barely snuck by. Definitely pretty wild to have two giant crashes like that here in two races.
Q. There was so much drama as the race unfolded with Jimmie, with Kyle, with Ryan being cycled to the back of the pack, everything that happened with Kenseth. Was it nice to be able to be above that, not have to worry about that cut line? Also, how familiar were you with the seven man over the wall rule? In a situation like that, how easy would it be for a mistake to be made?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I'm not real familiar with the rule other than hearing about it the last couple weeks especially because it was talked about at Talladega with guys trying to fix their cars, the 48 having their issue, all that stuff. It's definitely come up more frequently these past few weeks. I guess we're more aware of it now. I'm sure it's something that Cole has his arms around, understands, make sure our guys understand.
Things like today, it's definitely easier when you know you're locked in, you don't have to worry about it. Had we been on the cut line, plus or minus a few points today, it would have been a lot harder to deal with what we had to deal with. The next couple weeks, it's back to not being locked in. You never know what can happen.
This was definitely good practice, honestly, to face the adversity, know we can get through it. We've had this happen a few times this year. Chicago comes to mind, I think, when we had some issues, had to come back through the field to win that race.
Any time you get to practice, be successful at coming through a lot of adversity during a race, being able to go to Victory Lane, is a big confidence booster for the times when the pressure's really on.
Q. The guys that are out now, Matt Kenseth, the other probably your biggest, closest competitor with Kyle Larson, the guy that was favorite to do the best at Homestead. What kind of relief do you have? Or does it suck you're not going to get to battle with him for the championship?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You know, I don't know. Again, I mean, there's no guarantee we'll even get to Homestead yet. One race at a time. You look at me like I'm crazy, but Larson was plus 20 what today, 29? He was second in points. He didn't make it.
I mean, where did he finish last week? 15th? 13th, 15th? I've been saying it all year, they all say I'm a lock because I got so many Playoff points. I'm telling you, it's not that simple. We got to go out and perform, can't have an engine failure, can't get in a crash five laps into Martinsville. We got to focus on one race at a time and do the best job we can do, try to keep the momentum going.
To answer your question, I really don't care who I'm racing at Homestead. If we can go there, do what we know how to do, get the job done, we'll take care of ourselves. I'm looking to go there and trying to win my first race that I've ever won there. No better time to do it than now.
Q. Cole said you were talking about Jim apparently in the drivers meeting when they mentioned not being able to restart below the line. How surprised were you when you got that penalty? The 4 car followed you down but didn't have to go to the back of the pack.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, just the way it is, I guess (laughter). I don't know. It doesn't make sense to me. I don't make the rules. I don't call 'em.
In the spring, we did that multiple times during the race, never even received a warning. I guess if they said it in the drivers meeting, I need to pay better attention.
Q. They said it.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I didn't hear it. I guess I need to wake up earlier (laughter). I definitely didn't hear it. It affected us a lot. It cost us a shot at two more points. Yeah, you got to get all you can get.
Q. Could you comment on becoming the first Cup driver to sweep a weekend at Kansas.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It's amazing, honestly. I think back to really throughout my career here at Kansas, the runs that we've had, the laps that we've led. Heck, even back when I was running for MWR, we hadn't won a race yet, not having the greatest season. We led the most laps here, had a heartbreaking loss.
It's crazy how it works out. You go through all those years of heartbreaks, leading laps, What do I have to do to win here? Today, having a penalty and having a loose wheel, having to come from a lap down, it's like you can't do anything wrong.
Now I kind of see that when you watch the 48 win five championships in a row, it's like they couldn't do anything wrong. It really pissed you off. I guess a lot of people are tired of watching this. God, Truex won again. What the heck?
It's really neat. It feels unbelievable. Just we're having the time of our lives. I think we understand that we are. We're just soaking it all in. It feels amazing. It feels good to be on the right side of things for a while year.
Q. You're the 12th guy in the modern era to get to 2,000 laps led. You now own the single‑season record with five mile‑and‑a‑half wins. You broke a record for most consecutive wins, four in a row on mile‑and‑a‑half's. Any significance to any of those for you? Probably think about it more after the season. Are those some pretty nice milestones to check off?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think they're huge, absolutely. To win more mile‑and‑a‑half's in one year than anyone, that's just crazy. It's craziness. It reminds me of last year, all the miles we led in the Coke 600. No one had ever done that in the history of the sport. To be doing things like that this day and age with the competition level the way it is, how close everyone is, it's unbelievable. It's a credit to my team and all our partners and everybody, honestly, who makes this possible.
It just shows that we just have the right combination right now. I don't know. I don't know how, why, or what, but it sure does feel good.
Q. You say I'm crazy about locking into Homestead, but you got three in a row coming up. What is the next track you think you probably have the best shot of getting a win and locking yourself in?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: For sure, Texas. Out of the next round, Texas sticks out to me. Repave, mile‑and‑a‑half. But similar to Kentucky, I would classify it. Mile‑and‑a‑half with newer pavement, flatter corners. It's a challenging place, for sure.
We ran decent there in the spring race. I feel like there's some areas we know how to get better from what we did there. I'm optimistic that will be a good one for us.
Martinsville is a challenging little track. It's been one of the tracks that I feel like we've been chipping away at, getting closer. We've been kind of knocking on the door of those top fives consistently in speed. Our short track program really has gotten a lot better this season, as well.
I'm looking forward to going there and hopefully having the best race we've ever had there. That's what we need to do. That's what we're working towards next week.
Q. How would you characterize the mood of your team today before the race? If you had come into this race being in a position of Jimmie Johnson or Kenseth in the points, would it have been difficult?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Like I said earlier, it's definitely easier to deal with a day like today when you're locked in. You don't have to worry, whether it's the news about Jim, the somber feeling around the team, everybody feeling like they're dragging a bit today, or just the adversity on the racetrack. All those things are easier to deal with, I guess, when your whole season is not on the line, I guess.
But it's still something you have to deal with. I thought everybody did a good job of getting through it.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I would say it was, but it was also kind of in a quiet, fired‑up fashion, like, Let's go kick their butts for Jim, let's go do it for him. It was a little bit of both, I'd say.
Q. Because you mentioned the 48 car, I'll bring him up again. I'm guessing it's no big shock.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: He made it again, didn't he?
Q. Yes, he did.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Spinning through the grass, still going on (laughter).
Q. No big shock he did what he did today, huh?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No, it's not. Simple as that. It's not a shock.
I'll tell you what shocking, that the 42 car lost an engine. That's very shocking.
THE MODERATOR: Martin, it's certainly not shocking you were joining us here today. Good luck on your quest to get that championship.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Thank you, guys, very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports