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MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES: COKE ZERO SUGAR 400


July 7, 2018


A. J. Allmendinger

Martin Truex, Jr.


Daytona Beach, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by tonight's second‑ and third‑place finishers for the 60th annual Coke Zero Sugar 400. We have Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No.78 Bass Pro Shops 5‑Hour Energy Toyota for Furniture Row Racing, and we also have third‑place finisher AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No.47 Kroger Clicklist Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing.

Q. AJ, you got third tonight, your best finish, I believe, this year. Is it surprising you got it here at this race?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: No, I mean, we've‑‑ for whatever reason, we run well here. My guys, they‑‑ we really work hard on setup and trying to get at least a good handling race car, especially in the 4th of July race, and Daytona, the last, I think, four races I've had a shot to win the race.
You know, tonight was strange. Tried to ride at the back early on, and still got wrecked and had a lot of damage on the left rear of the race car, so my guys did a good job to fix it good enough. Heck, I probably missed another seven wrecks after that. It was just kind of chaos out there.
You know, it was a little bit of survival, and there at the end it was just trying to make the right moves. With that damage on the left side of the race car, it put a lot of drag in it, so I didn't really know if we had a great shot to win it. I knew my only shot was going to be off of Turn 4 and try to make the right move. Going down into 3, Martin was battling with Erik there and made a move and tried to push Martin and obviously get as much as I could, and we salvaged a great result out of it. We had two cars in the top 5 out of our race team. You know, I mean, it's just a solid night. It's one of these nights where you've just got to survive. It's not pretty. I think that was a lot of crazy racing, but we survived.

Q. Martin, you were obviously teammates with Erik last year. What do you think about him finally getting that first win? Did you think it would come earlier? What were you thinking as well as on the last lap considering you probably know him as well as anybody out there?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I mean, definitely happy to see those guys get their first win. I can remember what my first win felt like. It's pretty damned amazing. For them to get it here at a big race, it was really cool to see. I really obviously wanted to beat him, but happy for him. If you're going to run second to somebody, that's kind of the story, I guess, you'd want to see out of it.
All in all, I think for us it was a good night, and did all the things we needed to do. I've just got to work on my mirror driving skills. I'm not real good at it. Never have been. And just happy to get through here alive and finish. I joked all week that I hadn't finished this race in eight or ten years, and that's not‑‑ I mean, it's kind of funny but it's not really. It's true and sad.
To finally get to the end of one of these races and then have a shot at it was cool. I wish I could have done a better job for my team because our car was really fast, and I thought it was for sure the best car we've had on the plate tracks probably the last two years. The good news is it's still in one piece, so feel good about that, but definitely congrats to Erik and his team. They've been fighting hard to get to where they're at, and always good to see a first‑time winner. Now maybe ISC and those guys can be a little bit happier about things.

Q. Martin, you knew it was Erik up in front of you coming on that last lap; no matter who it was, would you have worked harder if it was somebody else to get the win?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Oh, hell no. I didn't give him anything. He earned it straight up. You know, so the race‑‑ really where it changed was we got a good start. 95 was a good pusher. He got me out front. We got separated a bit. I broke away from him a little too much, and just as I broke away, him and the 20‑‑ the 20 jumped back in line behind him and gave him a big shove, and he got a run on me, and like I said earlier, I did a terrible job of blocking. He got to my rear corner, we got side‑by‑side and then the race was on. Those guys ganged up behind and came with a big run to the outside of the 95, and it just got a little crazy from there. He was just in the right spot, got the right run, timed it, got past me, and there was nothing I could do. The guys behind me were racing hard. I was just kind of sitting there with no momentum the last lap, and he drove on off to the sunset for the win.

Q. Both in February and this race, it seems like all the wrecks, the big multi‑car wrecks are happening at the front. Is it blocking? Is it just the urgency of needing to be up front because if you get shuffled back you can't get back up there? Any reason for that?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yes, yes and yes. Go ahead.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I agree. No, I mean, I think it's‑‑ some of the wrecks happen at the end of the stages. You know, the 500 especially. You know, the stage points, especially to start the year, I think everybody is aggressive on them, trying to get more stage points and get your season kicked off right. Hell, I don't know what happened tonight. I was trying to ride at the back, and it just seemed like‑‑ the blocking, it seems aggressive. I mean, it is very aggressive. The urgency, whether it's to stay up front, even if there's a lot of time left to get back to the front, I'm not really sure why, but to me that's what's causing it.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think it's just‑‑ it's a desperation kind of race. There's a lot of guys out there that need a win, want a win, feel like it's their best shot, and they're willing to take big risk, big gambles. You look at the guys that were involved in the wrecks tonight and involved in kind of instigating them. They're all guys that were not willing to lift. We've seen a couple guys wreck a few times, cause a few wrecks.
Yeah, there's a lot on the line. It's a big deal to win at this level, at this racetrack, and I think a lot of guys just wing it, go for broke.

Q. Martin, you brought it up with the young driver issue. Seriously, you're the only one of the big three that survived tonight, but with Erik getting this win, does that get the younger NASCAR generation some momentum?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, for this week. I mean‑‑
AJ ALLMENDINGER: One of those three are going to win next week, so I don't know.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You know, again, for me personally, I just think it's cool for Erik. I like him. He's a good kid. He's worked hard. I don't know the repercussions of him winning here, what they're going to be. But I think for me, it's a good story. So happy for him, happy for his family and his fans. Again, he's put a lot of effort in to getting here and he's in a good position and he's got a lot of pressure on him, so to finally get that first one out of the way, I think it'll help him a bunch, and we'll see where he takes it from here.

Q. Martin, just wanted to get your thoughts on kind of your strategy throughout this thing because you kind of drifted back at different times of the race and moved up to the front. Was it just survival at that point?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It was. It was complete survival. The first part of the race I wanted to see what our car would do, kind of how it handled, so we ran probably 25 laps up there, 20 laps up there in the middle of the pack and realized we weren't going anywhere. I kind of knew what I needed to do to my car to make it better, and I just bailed out and from there rode around and took it easy and watched them all crash and then said, coming to Stage 2, it's like‑‑ we were up to like 10th, and ‑‑ we were literally in the back, the crash happened, we didn't pit, and we were like 10th, and I was like, damn, a lot of cars were in that one. Even then I made up my mind to not try to go racing in Stage 2, not try to worry about stage points, just chill out, and they wrecked again, so it was a good decision.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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