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November 19, 2017
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we are now joined by the winner of the Ford EcoBoost 400 and 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. Martin, especially the last 10, 15 laps there was probably as good a finish to a race as we've seen this year. Talk to us a little bit about that from your perspective.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I don't think anybody was sitting down, were they? It was pretty exciting, right? I was a little bit nervous.
You know, all day long, we didn't have the car where we needed it, to be honest with you. You know, we were probably third best out of the four for the most part for a while, and just kept clawing and scratching. I just kept trying to get everything I could out of it and giving them the info, giving Cole and the guys the info that I needed, the adjustments I needed, what I needed the car to do different.
We really weren't making a lot of ground on it. I felt like we just missed it a little bit. But we stayed positive. We kept working, and Cole had some pit strategy, got us the lead, and then once he got me the lead, I was like, okay, now it's all up to me now. There's no one in the world that I want to let down less than them. I was like, I can't‑‑ I've got to hold the lead no matter what happens. This is it. This is my opportunity. They gave me the lead, and I've got to find a way to get it done.
I found a way to‑‑ I just found a line that worked for my car with 20 laps to go that I couldn't find all day long. I had searched for it all day, could never find it, then all of a sudden with 20 to go, I found it. Not only did it help my car but it hurt Kyle's car, the 18. He got to second, and when he did, he was three, four tenths faster than I was before I found the line, and that was the difference.
Just found it when I needed it. The timing was right, and we made it happen.
THE MODERATOR: A couple of quick facts I wanted to share. First, you are the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion from the state of New Jersey‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Jersey.
THE MODERATOR: Of course you posted eight wins, 19 top 5s, 26 top 10s and three poles this year.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Eight wins? Geez, that's ridiculous.
THE MODERATOR: You joined Bobby Labonte, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski as only the fifth driver all‑time to boast both a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and a NASCAR XFINITY championship, and in tonight's race you led 78 laps en route to the win.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Wow, it was meant to be, wasn't it. Hallelujah.
Are you serious, 78 laps? You're not kidding?
THE MODERATOR: No, sir.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You know, some things are just meant to be, I guess. That's all you can say. Last year wasn't meant to be. We worked just as hard as we did this year, and this year just it all came together. It felt right. It was our time, and that's proof right there, there is a higher power. My buddy Darrell Gwynn gave me a good luck charm yesterday, a lucky rabbit's foot that he had two amazing weeks in a row with, right, Indy and Pomona, national record fast time, won the race, and then you went to England and got hurt right after that, and you didn't have it with you. So he had a lucky rabbit's foot that sat in his trophy case for 27 years, and he gave it to me yesterday, and he said, if this works for you, I get to keep it; if it doesn't, I need it back for my trophy case. (Laughter.) That son of a bitch worked. (Laughter.) You ain't getting it back, sorry.
So some things are meant to be, and there is something to be said about luck and fate and putting yourself in the right position and being a good person, and I believe that that's what we've seen here tonight.
Q. Your 2253 laps led were more than Jimmie Johnson ever led in route to a championship‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Damn right.
Q. I thought you'd like that. Can you talk about the influence Cole Pearn has had‑‑ it's like that team was transformed when he‑‑ nothing against Todd, but once you got together with Cole, that was almost like the catalyst that really set you guys in this direction.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, absolutely. Nothing against Todd at all. We love Todd. He works with JGR now. He's a big part of our team. He's always in the hauler. He's very proud of our team because he was part of building it, and we're very thankful to Todd, and he still does a lot for us.
Yes, absolutely. You know, 2014 when we started out together, it was tough, and we struggled together. We couldn't find anything, and they'd run‑‑ they'd come off their best year. All they changed was the driver, until they found out that they changed the chassis, and like something is not right, it's doing this, it's doing that, and we couldn't find it. It was like shooting at a target that just was moving all over the place, you know. We had no consistency. We had nothing.
But I think the turning point honestly for our team was when we figured it out towards the end of 2014. We built another car, which was like the other guys were doing it at the time, and stuff‑‑ we came to Kansas, started running good, and stuff just started to make sense. It was back to normal.
And Cole, I remember Cole specifically, like looking at me and having this look like, damn, I think this guy actually knows what he's talking about. That was it right there. That was like the switch that flipped, and me and him could see eye to eye, and he bought into what I was saying, I bought into what he was saying, and when they made him the crew chief in 2015, he went from being this guy behind the scenes that was really quiet to this is my team, I'm going to run it the way I think I need to, and the rest is history. I mean, really, he is the No.1 reason, besides Barney, giving him the things he needs to make our cars fast that have transformed this team, and he said, this is how I want it to be, this is how I'm going to do it. He brought Jazzy in, who he'd worked with at RCR engineering. They'd both worked with Harvick and been there for a while. But similar backgrounds for all of us, racing growing up, Jazzy raced RC cars, Cole raced with his dad like I did. We're a bunch of misfits, but we get along, and we love racing and we work hard. We have a lot of confidence in each other and what they're doing, and we all do our own thing, and it works.
That was it right there. That's what made it all happen.
Q. What did it mean to you to be able to celebrate this with Dale on his final day and to have him come crash the victory stage?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It was awesome. It was so awesome because Dale gave me my opportunity to move to North Carolina, to race cars for a living. You know, I wouldn't be here today without him. My path would surely be different. I wouldn't have won two XFINITY championships right out of the gate. There's a lot of things that would be different if it wasn't for Dale, and just the friend he's been over the years, the mentor that he's been to me over the years, it's been amazing. He's such a great person.
He's changed a lot throughout the years, I will say, from when I met him to who he is now, but he's always changed for the better, and he's just been an amazing friend and always been there no matter what I needed.
Yeah, Dale has meant so much to me, and to see how happy he was, genuinely happy tonight to come to Victory Lane, and I love him like a brother, and I'm so proud of his career and who he is and the fact that this sport means so much to him that he's going to stay around next year and do TV. We had hours of sitting around at our hunting property together drinking beers a couple weeks ago, and he's so excited about that, and that just made me feel so good for him that he was ready to move on and do something different. He was so passionate about it. He's like, I'm going to work as hard at this as I did at racing cars. That's a big step.
So I'm really proud of him, and it meant a ton that him and Amy came over and said congratulations and just genuine happiness, and that's what friends are all about, true friends.
Q. When in your career did you think that you could run those final 20 laps like you did today, or do you think it's just fate?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't know. I feel like I've run 20 laps before like that a lot in my career but never with that on the line. You know, in 2015, I think I could have done it, but I don't know. Before 2014 I know I couldn't have. I would have been probably spun out a bit, nervous as all hell. But tonight I was like, okay, just got to find something. Just got to find a little bit. And I found it, and it was like, okay, here we go, I've got this. Start clicking them off, and we got to about five to go, and I was like, this is working pretty good. Just don't screw up, dummy.
I don't know that before 2014 I could have done it to be honest with you. I don't know. A lot has changed since 2014, and I just‑‑ I love what I'm doing. I've got confidence in what I'm doing, and I know that if I screw up, tomorrow is going to come.
Q. You were spun out a little bit on the radio early in the race about squawking on the radio‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: That's more annoyed than spun out. Like figure out whose radio is making all kinds of crazy noises. It hurts my ears. It's very loud. You go through the middle of the corner and you're sideways, and this radio is like‑‑ what the hell. Seriously, technology? This is 2017; fix your damned radios.
Q. You talked about finding the line or the lines there at the end of the race almost like surgically looking for something, but it looked like to me after the race you were either exhausted or overwhelmed by the emotion of it‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Definitely overwhelmed. Definitely not exhausted at all.
Q. Were you not running just very hard, sort of beyond the edge to stay in front of Kyle because you know what Kyle can do.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I was running very hard, I was running over the edge, but I was nowhere near tired. Charlotte I was tired. Kansas‑‑ no, not Kansas. I'm trying to think of the last really hot race we had. When I won Charlotte I was whipped, like just from the humidity. Tonight I wasn't tired at all. Just I was overcome. I took the checkered flag and I was just junk. Like I couldn't talk, I couldn't think. I had no idea what to do. I was bawling like a little kid. It was insane, and I don't even know why. All the things I've been through flashed through my head. All the people that have got me here flashed through my head. There's so many things along the way that led me down this path, that got me here tonight, so many people that sacrificed things to get me here, and all those things flashed through my head. It was just more than I could handle. But it felt pretty damned good. As bad as it hurt, it felt damned good. Crazy.
Q. Going back to Dale, he had said that at one point during this weekend, you were talking to him about images that were popping up on the deer cam, and he started laughing and said, what the hell, man, you're chasing a championship and you're thinking about deer. Were you that relaxed this weekend‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I was. I was totally relaxed. I was bored more than anything, especially last night. It's like‑‑ when we got done with practice, done with our meetings, and it's 5:00. Like, okay, watch the XFINITY race, okay, this is fun, awesome race, on the edge of your seat, excited about that championship race. You didn't think so?
Q. Cole's 16‑second lead?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I was talking about the championship race. Yeah, JR Motorsports was going to win no matter what, Cole Custer was going to win no matter what, but the 1 and the 9 going at it with 20 to go, it was kind of like tonight. It was awesome. But then afterward I was like, I'm bored, I want to go race. What am I going to do all night. So generally when I'm at the track I'm pretty bored when I'm not in the car and we're not working or having meetings or doing something. So yeah, I like looking at my trail cameras and watching my deer walk around and stuff. A big one pops up and I'm like, hey, Dale, when are you going to Ohio. He said, Friday. I was telling him what stand to go to and stuff, to pass the time.
Honestly when I got here this weekend, I did not feel any stress. I did not feel any pressure. I was ready to go race. Everybody wanted to say, oh, what's Truex going to do, he has no championships. What's the 78 going to do? Are they going to buckle under pressure? We've been here before. We've been here in 2015. We had a lot of stuff this year that could have derailed us, a lot of challenges off the track. Jim Watson passing away at the racetrack at Kansas during the weekend, all the things Sherry has went through, the team is part of that. They love her. She's part of our team. You know, Cole's best friend dying, and we win Watkins Glen. I think we thrive under pressure.
And all those crappy days we went through, we had to look at each other and hug each other and say, I've got your back. You know, you doing okay, what do you need, do you need something. All those days that we had each other's back like that, when the pressure of the championship‑‑ Ford Championship Weekend came along, it was like, let's go show them who we are, show them what we're all about, and we did it.
Q. You had said earlier that at the white flag you knew it was over‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Over.
Q. But when you come off 4 and Clayton starts screaming to the effect of how about that, Martin Truex Jr., the champion, what's the first thing‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I just started crying. I couldn't even talk. I had no idea what to do. I literally held it together completely, 100 percent. I'm not even BSing you. White flag was like, all right, I've got this, they're done, game over. And I nailed the last lap exactly the way I nailed the lap before that, and literally as soon as I seen the checkered flag and Clayton started yelling, I was done. Like I couldn't think of anything. Complete junk. I don't know how to explain it. Water works. It's crazy.
Q. Where does this moment rank in your racing career‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Serious question?
Q. Yes. Is it better than like an XFINITY‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Come on, man. Come on, man. ESPN, come on, man. Top of the top, top of the world.
Q. Better than the slime?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yes, way better than the slime. Top of the world, buddy.
Q. A lot of the adversity you faced this season, how does being able to cap it off winning this championship?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I mean, that's just part of our story along the way. It's part of the things that we had to overcome. I don't know‑‑ I don't know. I really can't answer that. It's who we are. It's how we got here. It's part of the story. I can't think of it any other way.
Q. Along the lines of not being concerned and looking at your trail cameras, did you think at all about we've had such a fantastic season and we've overcome so much, what happens if we don't win? Were you prepared to deal with that or was that just not a consideration?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It was never a thought. I was fully prepared to come here and give our best effort. We all were. And I wholeheartedly felt that we had a championship caliber season. Best season we've ever had. Probably never could have imagined having a season as good as we did. But I don't think we ever said if we don't win this championship, this season sucked. You know?
The format the way it is, it's tough. It all comes down to one race. We know that. You know, NASCAR has been around 70 something years, 70 years, something like that. Until the last four years we would have been the champion already before tonight. So I kind of thought about that like Thursday night and was like, yeah, that's pretty awesome. I'm really, really proud of that. I just said that I think we all felt that we were going to give it our best. That's all we could do, and we would be happy with whatever the outcome as long as we gave our best and didn't screw up or let the pressure get to us or anything like that, and we didn't.
There was a long time in the race tonight where we didn't think we probably could win. I didn't think we could win, but we never quit. We never said‑‑ we never threw in the towel. We just kept digging, kept looking for it and searching for it, and we found it.
Q. After everything you've been through on and off the track, has the feeling sunk in that after 12 years of doing this at the premier level, you're a champion?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Not really.
Q. When do you expect it to sink in?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I really don't know. I mean, this is craziness, man. I mean, I can't‑‑ I really just can't believe it. I'm so grateful for my team and thankful for the opportunity and just feel like I'm‑‑ I don't even know. I don't know what to say. This is a dream come true. I've been dreaming since I was a little kid about winning championships, watching my heroes win races on Sundays on TV. It's just crazy to be here right now.
Q. You guys have a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, you guys share information, but do you feel like what you all have accomplished is a win for the little guy, and do you take some pride in the fact that you kind of beat some of the bigger teams of NASCAR almost at their own game?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah. I mean, there's no doubt about it, we couldn't be here tonight without Gibbs and all those guys there that are part of our program and we share information with and they build our chassis and TRD building our engines, all that. The Toyota alliance has been amazing for our team. It's without a doubt took us to the next level. We couldn't do any of this without all of that.
But to be able to take all their stuff and beat them with it is pretty damn awesome. You know, I mean, trust me, there was years where you‑‑ as a driver I was struggling, and you watch other guys dominate, and you're like, man, I know I can do that. I know I can. Give me the damn chance. That's the coolest part of it is just showing people that you've got it, that you can do it.
It's the best feeling in the world to have the same thing as somebody else and beat them with it. So thank you so all those guys that are part of our team that I feel like we're a part of their team, as well. We share everything. They're great teammates, great partners. We definitely couldn't be here without them, but damn, it feels good to go faster than Kyle and just to beat him felt pretty damn awesome, a champion, one of the best drivers ever. To beat him was just awesome.
Q. How much of a mentor have you been to your teammate Erik Jones, and how much has he been able to aid your team this season?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: That's a good question. I probably haven't been much, honestly, of a mentor to him. We've had our own thing going on this year, and I feel like I've always‑‑ we're friendly for sure. We talk a lot. We're just‑‑ he's real quiet. I think he's the kind of guy that doesn't ask for a lot of help. He kind of goes about things and says I want to learn them on my own. We have our meetings together and all that stuff, and I think that's probably the biggest thing we share is just that part of it. No real, hey, can you help me with this. We've never really had any of that.
I would say that not a whole lot, but it was there if he wanted it. But he's done a good job and went about it in a quiet way, which is kind of how I probably did it when I was younger. But not much of a mentor at all for sure.
Q. Not everybody believes in lucky rabbit's feet and things like that; why did you‑‑ why was it important for you‑‑ why did you carry it in the car, and did you have anything else in your uniform or in the car that was a special thing for a night like this?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't believe in lucky charms. I don't have superstitions. I carried it because I respect Darrell a lot. He's a good friend of mine, and the fact that it meant enough to him‑‑ this weekend meant enough to him for him to take something out of his trophy case after 27 years that he really believed would help me, I was going to put it in my