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July 14, 2018

Martin Truex, Jr.

Sparta, Kentucky

THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by the man of the hour, or should we say the night, driver of the No.78 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota, Martin Truex Jr., and Martin, we were just chatting previously before you walked in about how prior to the 2016 season you had two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins. Tonight marks your 19th win. A lot has changed in the last three years. Just talk a little bit about your race team, really just how you guys continue to impress week after week, and coming home tonight with another win.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, yeah. Really the last three years have been just having the time of my life and just lucky to have great people around us, a great car owner. Barney Visser gives us all the tools we need, and great partners throughout the years to continue to build this team up.
Just feel really lucky. I've been on the other side of it before where teams were struggling and struggled to get in position to win races, and having a lot of things kind of going against you and kind of fighting that uphill battle. So it's amazing to be on this side of it. I can't tell you how proud I am of all the guys on our team and what they've done, and I honestly just enjoy every single one of these wins like it's my first because you never know when they're going to come to an end. You never know when you're going to have your last one. You never know what's going to happen next. Just trying to ride the wave of momentum and enjoy it all, and my team is just so badass, I can't even explain it. They're amazing. Really lucky to be a part of that.
All our partners the last couple years, you look at Bass Pro and Johnny Morris and the support he's given me throughout my career, without guys like him I wouldn't be here. This year having 5‑hour and Auto Owners and everybody at Toyota and TRD, Salisbury and Costa Mesa as part of our team, JGR chassis shop and all those guys that we work with, with Toyota, it's just a dream come true to be part of all of it, and definitely feel lucky right now, and hopefully we can continue this wave of momentum and go after another championship.

Q. Obviously there's more people you're racing against than just two other guys, but it's been you and two other guys a good part of the season to have that success. What does it mean to beat those guys, and it seems like one week it's one guy, one week it's another. How is this game playing out?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, they've got five wins, we've got four. That's how it's played out so far. But I think all three of us have great teams. Those two guys are great drivers. Obviously I have a lot of respect for them. It's pretty amazing to be a part of this group, honestly. I think when I was a kid and you seen Dale and Rusty and guys like that, Terry Labonte and you had guys that just dominated and won everything, and watching them, it was like, man, that's so cool, they're heros and they're such a big deal, and to think that I'm one of those guys this year and I guess last year, too, is just‑‑ it's amazing to me. I still pinch myself. I still enjoy every win like it's the first, and I realize just how lucky I am to be in this position.
You know, I don't know. I don't think a whole lot about it other than that. Just try to show up every weekend and do the best job I can do for my team because I know they're unbelievable and they deserve a great driver and they deserve for me to get the job done behind the wheel. They help me be a better driver every single weekend, and I just try to hold up my end. So far it's been going pretty good, and hopefully we can keep it up.

Q. Next week you have the chance to do something for the first time, and that's win back‑to‑back in the Cup Series. What's it going to take for your team to do that and get the job done at Loudon?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You know, for us Loudon has been an unbelievably good racetrack. We've led so many laps there the last few years and have not been able to get the win. I think for us it's just to figure out how do we lead those last 75, 50 or 75. We've always led the first 200 it seems like, or always been capable of it. It's that last 100 or last 50 that we've struggled to be good enough, especially since they've started spraying that VHT on the track. So I think our mindset and our approach is to try and figure that out and see if we can come up with a game plan this week that'll work for that.
But it's an unbelievably special track to me because I've been going there for so long and spent a lot of my childhood there. It's really instrumental in my career as far as getting me to the Busch North series and the Busch Series and now the Cup Series. It was the first big track I ever won on, and the first time I ever went to a race and watched Cup cars run. So there's just a lot of history there, and it would be a really big one to win. We're working hard on it. If I wasn't a dummy last week, we'd have two in a row right now, but you can't change the past, so hopefully next weekend we can get it done.

Q. When Barney was in a little earlier, he said something to the effect of five years ago we weren't talking about you, but you were still a great driver then. Before your recent string of success at Furniture Row, was it ever hard to believe that you still had the ability that you're able to showcase with them now?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: That's a tough one to answer. I would say that I always felt like I could get the job done, and I had enough glimpses of really good days or glimpses of greatness that I think it just kept me alive, kept me hungry enough to keep fighting for it.
You know, obviously we won a race at DEI my second year in Cup and should have won a few more. Really at MWR we were in position to win a handful of races, and I felt like back in those days we were just jinxed. But more so than that, we just didn't do a lot of the little things right that it took. But we were able to at times take equipment that probably wasn't the best and dominate and lead some laps and have a shot at wins.
I can remember leading a ton of laps at places like Atlanta and Texas, a late caution spoiling a chance at us winning because we didn't have fast pit stops.
I think through the years there was just‑‑ for me personally, and I don't know what everybody else thought, I know I had some people that probably didn't think I was that good. That's part of this deal. You're only as good as your last race. And if you're not getting results now, people question your ability. No matter what you're accomplishing, it's we're ‑‑ before. For me personally, I always like I could be a good driver, be a great driver. I never knew I'd get to where I was last year, and I never really knew I could go on a championship run and win 17 races in three years. So it's been‑‑ that's been amazing. It's been humbling. It's been fun.
Like I said earlier, they all still feel like the first, and I'm going to keep treating them that way because you never know when it's going to stop.

Q. Somebody mentioned after the race that the way you dominated again here that the most exciting part of it for you might have been at the end there with the victory burnout, having to jump off the car as it rolled away. Can you describe what happened there?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, the car was just sitting on the banking in second or third gear, and it just started rolling. I kind of felt it start, and I was like, yeah, whatever, I'm going to jump of off here, do an interview. Marty was standing there, so I didn't want to leave him hanging, take off down after the car. Yeah, just left it in gear, and the front stretch has got enough banking in it that it just rolled away. Ghost riding it. Remember when you were a kid and you'd ghost ride your bike? Take off pedaling and ghost ride it off a jump? That's kind of what it was.

Q. The dominance that you described of the top three guys, what do you think is the reason that you've been able to achieve some separation? And do you think that's good for the sport?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, great teams, great drivers, just doing all the little things right. It takes so many people, so many parts and pieces and people to do this job and to be at the top of this sport. It just shows that across the board how good our teams are, I think.
You have one or two guys not doing that job, you have a driver that's not focused, you have just any one of those things in that circle are messed up, you're not going to be able to get results that we're getting. Just a perfectly oiled machine. The three teams seem like they're very close. You think about the rules package‑‑ you think about the rules we have today and how many things are scrutinized by NASCAR and just how difficult it is just to get these cars through tech alone, to think three teams have been able to figure it out consistently how to be better than everybody else is just‑‑ it's pretty amazing.
Is it good for the sport? I don't know. I really don't care. My job is to go win races. My job is to win championships. And that's what I'm here to do. They keep changing rules, they can change things all they want, and we're going to try to figure it out. That's just what we do.
With that being said, you never know when it's going to change. I keep saying it, but I can't tell you just how difficult it is and how much goes into this. We have 70 people on our team. I don't know, I'm just guessing, picking a number. One of those people screws up, we're not winning next weekend. It just shows what kind of team sport this is and how much it takes. The sophistication behind setting these cars up and the simulation and our engineers and the job Cole does and all those things pulled together is just‑‑ it's crazy how good it's been working, and hopefully we can keep it going.

Q. It seemed like on every pit‑‑ every time the cars came out of the pits somebody took two tires. Did any of those guys worry you, and on any level was it making it more fun because you at least got to pass?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I wouldn't say I was worried. I knew that in 10 laps or so I'd be able to chase them down. Passing them was definitely difficult, but I was able to make it happen each and every time. I think the only time you get worried is if you have maybe a guy take two, and before you pass him you get another caution and you have a couple more guys take two and you kind of fall back in the order and maybe lose that track position. You get back fifth or sixth, it's going to be really difficult to get back to the lead.
I think the furthest back we ran all night without green flag pit stops was third, and was able to recover from third, but really much further back than that, it would have been difficult. It would have taken a while, not just because it's hard to pass, but it's hard to be that much faster than everybody else to run them down. I mean, it's‑‑ even as dominant as we were and how big of a lead we could get at the end of the race, we were still only a tenth or two faster than the guy in second. So you look at that, I mean, it's small. It's a small advantage. And you get back too far, then you're going to be in bad shape.

Q. Martin, we saw you go on this run last year about this time. Are there things that you see that your team is doing now that remind you of last year, or is this completely different?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I feel really‑‑ I've been saying this for weeks. Even when we had a string of bad things happen, I feel really good about our team, where we're at. I think right now we have more top 5s, more wins than we had last year. That's a really good place to be in.
We came here focusing on trying to get more stage points, trying to get more playoff points. Check. That worked out. So yeah, I mean, I feel great about where we're at. Most importantly, I feel like as a team we're getting dialed in more so like we were last year. Like last year I felt like we could really show up to the racetracks and be really, really close, not really struggle, not really have to throw a lot of things at it for the race, between practice and the race, things like that, and I feel like we're getting there again. I feel like this weekend we unloaded really strong off the trailer. We only made one qualifying run. I wasn't even a good one and we went out and got the pole because we made good adjustments. I do feel like we're getting closer, getting more dialed in to what we're doing, to what the car wants with the new rules and things, and that's how I felt like we were last year.
To answer your question, yes, I think we're getting there. As we go down this road, we'll see where we're at. We've got some good tracks for us coming up, New Hampshire, Watkins Glen, love the road courses. We'll just see‑‑ it's important to carry momentum through these summer months and get ready for the playoffs, and hopefully we can keep it going.

Q. (On the success of the weekend.)
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, for sure it was. I think I had a good practice, got the pole, won two stages, won the race. I think the other four poles that we had this year we struggled to finish in the top 5, so for sure it was a more complete weekend in all facets of what you need to do. We were definitely more dialed in.

Q. You've talked about your process here in terms of‑‑ especially a couple years ago, you felt like you let one go, and then you won last year. What about this year's race? What about this track that you kind of discovered maybe even more than those other two races?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I actually discovered it two years ago, and I've just been using it ever since. I can't tell you what it is.

Q. Well, did it seem to help now with becoming used to the repave‑‑

Q. And the reconfiguration? Did that really seem to help you more this year?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You know, I think actually this year, the things I tried to make my car do here, the things I know that are important for your car to do in practice that are easy to overlook probably came into play more so tonight than on any other weekend since they repaved it. I felt like the track changed more from practice to the race this year than any other year we've raced here since the repave. The first run of the race, it was amazing how bad my car felt, yet how much better it was than the guys behind me. It was‑‑ the track changed dramatically from practice.
The things that I tried to get my car to do in practice, the things that we worked on after practice for the race just played into our hands perfectly, and so that goes just back to having confidence in what you're doing, in the things that you're thinking about, and honestly, more than anything, just having confidence and making those changes, knowing what to do to fix it and running with it, and tonight it worked for us.

Q. You were talking earlier, you're still down a win on Kyle and Kevin, you've got four, but you've got three in the last six races and almost won a fourth during that stretch. Do you feel like you guys are starting to gain the upper hand and becoming the de facto team right now?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I feel good about where we're at. I don't know. I don't know what the other guys fought tonight. Obviously last weekend was a totally different situation. Half the field was crashed. More than half. It's hard to say. But yeah, I mean, we won Pocono and felt strong there. You never know what other guys are going through, where they're at, what they're trying. Maybe they battled a couple things that came up and they didn't expect. You just never know where anyone is at.
For us, we just try to focus on what we're doing, and as I talked to Dustin earlier, just feeling more like we're getting dialed into the package and what we need to look for and the things that we need to work on is key for us. So from that standpoint, I feel like we're right there, and if we can just keep the momentum going, sure, we can definitely feel like we have the upper hand.
With that being said, it all changes when the playoffs start, and you've got to be ready for anything.

Q. This is hard‑hitting, so what does a guy do with two giant juke boxes?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: One is in my basement. I use it all the time. That sucker is Bluetooth, so you can just turn on your phone, Bluetooth, sit down there and jam out and drink beers in your basement by yourself or with your buddies or whatever. It's really cool.
You know, I have a shop in Mooresville where every time I win I take the trophy there and I leave it there for a while. I have a fan store where I have a lot of merchandise and sell things and fans can come in and take pictures with trophies, kind of check out stuff. So I'll put it there probably, and maybe I'll make sure it just plays like all the time so when people come in they can check it out, and then after that, I don't know what I'll do with it. Maybe‑‑ I'd say Cole probably deserves one, so maybe I'll keep it for a while on display and then send it to Cole's house. I think he deserves it, so I'm going to go tell him I'm going to give it to him.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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