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April 13, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by members of our race‑winning team from tonight's Toyota owners 400 here at Richmond Raceway. We have team owner coach Joe Gibbs and we have crew chief Cole Pearn with the No.19 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota.
Q. The last six or five races, Martin has led I believe almost 600 laps, and something at the end has happened to kind of derail your guys' chances. Were you guys kind of waiting for that to happen, the bad luck to go your way again, or were you thinking this might be the time?
COLE PEARN: I was waiting to get passed because I didn't think we were very good. Yeah, usually when you're running away from it, you're worried about the bad luck coming in. But tonight it was just a matter of grinding it out, and Martin was able to do that.
Yeah, I mean, I know when the 22 got clear and got to our bumper, it was like, oh, man, here we go, but we managed to make it through and had a lot better result than the last time that happened.
Q. Coach Gibbs, I know Martin was itching to get his first win. Were you telling him stories about your first season with the Redskins and how it took a little bit longer than you expected to get your first win and that it would come?
JOE GIBBS: I should have done that. Only five, that was brutal. But I think for Cole and Martin, we just‑‑ we wanted them to get that win because I think a lot of things this year haven't gone well for them in races, and I think we've really been good, and know how good they are. So they were the ones that were putting pressure on themselves.
It wasn't me. I kept trying to encourage them and saying, look, we're going to get this, don't worry about it. But I know how competitive they are, Cole and Martin both, and the whole team there, and our pit crew. This was a huge deal tonight for our pit crew, for them to really perform well as kind of a new group, be able to get this win. It's a huge deal for them.
And then of course for our sponsors. We have a new sponsor on that car, Auto Owners, and Jeff Tagsold and all those guys, everybody knows here in this sport you can't race without a great sponsor. That was a huge deal for us. I called Johnny Morris because he's also on that car and Bass Pro and Cabela's, and it's a huge deal for us all the way around. But I think they were upset and putting pressure on, it wasn't me.
Q. Coach, what's it mean to get the 19 car back in Victory Lane?
JOE GIBBS: It means a lot to us. You know, you kind of go through a lot over these‑‑ and we had a great alliance with Barney and everybody over there at the 78, got to know these guys, and we really admired them, how well they ran and what they were able to do, and when everything took place last season off, then I know for Toyota and Dave and everybody here, we wanted to make sure that Martin and Cole and the team there tried‑‑ we wanted to try and keep them together and keep them with us and keep them inside Toyota. So that was our push and that's what we wanted, and I'm sure glad we got that done.
Q. You guys have done six of nine races. Can you possibly be that much better than everybody else, or what's going on?
JOE GIBBS: No, I think sometimes in pro sports you get on a roll, things go well. For instance, last week we didn't have the best car. Everybody here knows that. The two Fords were better than us, and that pit stop just worked out perfectly for us and we got Kyle out front. But I think that's the reason why I need to enjoy it in pro sports, because you know the odds are this ain't going to keep happening.
But there are times when teams get on a run and on a roll, and I appreciate our guys and certainly getting Cole and Martin on board with a win is a huge deal for us, and I know it's a huge deal for Toyota.
But I also know it's very hard in pro sports to stay up there, and we're just getting going in the season, but we're going to work hard at it, but it's a hard thing to do.
Q. Martin for 0 for 81 or 82, whatever the number is, had never won at a short track in 80‑some tries. Was tonight dramatically different on track that got him this first victory on a short track, or have there been other occasions when he maybe should have won a short track race?
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I think there's a lot of other races that we've been way better than we were tonight and had something happen and go wrong. But at the end of the day, tonight we just executed well. We didn't really have the best car, but we had good restarts and good pit stops and managed traffic well and kept our nose up there all day, and ultimately that was enough. I know a lot of other times we've had a lot better cars and didn't have it work out.
To get it over the hump and not have to be something we have to talk about anymore is a good feeling, and just getting a win is a great thing.
Q. Cole, was part of the win today getting through tech? Of all the guys who failed, I think only Hamlin was top 10, and usually we see guys have to start in the rear and they can drive right through.
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I mean, track position definitely was important. I know kind of we were I think fifth or so at the start, and we kind of clogged our way through there a bit through pit stops and restarts. And every time we got close to the front, it drove better for sure.
It was definitely a race, and managing that. We did swap the lead back and forth with the 2 there. On that one run they were better than us for a bit and got by us, and then we were able to kind of clean it up and then got back by him. So that was good feeling for sure.
But I know as good as Kyle was early in the race, and then him having to go to the back for speeding, it was definitely difficult for him to get back through.
But yeah, I mean, I think that's key everywhere, but definitely tonight it mattered for sure.
Q. For Joe, did you think that Hamlin and Erik would maybe have an easier time or be able to rally from having to start in the back, and are you good with the way things are kind of being officiated?
JOE GIBBS: To be truthful, I was pretty confident that we could handle that, you know, and get back to the front is kind of what you're saying. Obviously I think it was much tougher.
Now, Erik went right back up there, got in the top 10. We just messed him up. Really did. And then Denny wound up at the end getting there.
But I think tonight it was definitely a factor if you went to the back. You're going to have a tough time getting back through there. And Kyle I think is a good example of that.
Q. Cole and Martin, Joey kind of felt like he lost control of the race when you guys took the lead off of pit road on that pit stop. How much did that kind of change things? I know there was an exchange of leads at one point, but how much did that change things or put you guys in control, and what did that allow you guys to do toward the end?
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I mean, that was key for us. I felt like we were pretty equal to them all night. Maybe he was a little bit better on the long run than we were. But definitely getting out in front of him on pit road and getting them stuck back a little bit in traffic was good for us, and I think, just like we were talking about earlier, it was difficult to get back through there, and fortunate enough to be on the right side of it.
THE MODERATOR: Cole, thanks for joining us. Congratulations. As everyone sees, we've been joined by Martin Truex Jr., the winning driver of that No.19 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota.
Q. Martin, I was speaking to you pre‑race and I said, Man, you've got to win tonight to get that monkey off your back so we can have a different story coming into a short track with you. You were able to get that done tonight. How special is that for you?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, it feels awesome. Honestly, to finally get that first win not only on a short track but here at Richmond, at a track where we've been so strong the last couple seasons and led so many laps and had some real, real heartbreakers, some that were really tough, some really tough losses. Sometimes those things are‑‑ they're hard to get through, but they make you stronger and make you appreciate the good days.
Today we didn't have the best car, and it worked out the way we needed it to thanks to a great team and a pit crew that just was‑‑ we beat the crap out of them this week, to be honest with you. Loose wheel at Bristol last week took us out of a chance to maybe win, and we beat them up pretty good all week long.
And they stepped up tonight, and they did a great job. They got us to the lead and put us in control of the race and was really the difference.
Just, honestly, I'm really proud of those guys. They have a really, really tough job, and it seems like we only talk about them when they screw up. I'm really proud of them and really proud to get all these guys on the 19 team here in Victory Lane, our first win here at JGR, so it feels incredible.
Q. Martin, tonight was your 20th career Cup Series win. Does that number hold any personal significance?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Better than 19. 21 will be better than 20. You know, we had some really tough‑‑ some heartbreakers last year. Thinking back to Martinsville and the Roval and then Homestead finishing second. Being so close to winning a couple times this year already, any time you can win, it's special. These things are so difficult. I can't even‑‑ I know everybody knows it's hard, but I just don't know if people understand the level of difficulty in this series and what it takes to win.
I'm just really happy for everybody involved and really thankful for a great opportunity to work with a great team and a lot of great people, and Coach leads one heck of a team back there in Huntersville. Just really happy to be a part of that and hopefully continue to hold up my end of the deal.
Q. Last week you said that all you had to do was lead the last one, because the last five races you've led almost 600 laps here. I asked Cole the same thing. He said he was more concerned with you holding off the 22 and the 14 because he didn't think that you guys were going to be able to. What was going through your mind? Were you more so thinking when is the bad luck going to strike again, or let me just focus on holding off these guys?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I knew I was in trouble with 35 to go. I mean, my car got really tight. I couldn't get it to turn. I was like‑‑ I seen him back there, and I knew what lap times they were running, and I knew what I could run, and I knew once they started closing the gap, I was having to overdrive my car, and I was just making it worse.
I just tried to save a tiny little bit, if I could, until they got to me. And from there it was just try not to screw up and try not to give them a free shot at you, a free run around the outside going into 3 or something like that.
You know, the hardest part really was catching guys on the tail end of the lead lap and trying to lap them to put a gap on the 22 and the 14. Any time I could get a car between us, I could do really good, but I'd drive up to the next car and then I'd get stuck again.
You know, the reason really‑‑ the real reason that race was so good at the end and so exciting was because none of us had any air on our cars. The guys on the tail end of the lead lap right in front of me, I was faster than them, but I couldn't get any closer. I had no air, just as much as the 14 and the 22 didn't, and we all were just searching for something and sliding, and we had no grip at all.
So that's what made it a cool race. I was honestly glad we were able to hold them off. It wasn't going to be much longer. I was struggling, so it feels good to get it.
Q. What's really the biggest‑‑ what means the most to you for this win? Is it that you got your first win with Coach, is it that you got your 20th career win, which is something only 40 drivers have done, or is it that you finally won a short track?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yes. (Laughter.) Yeah, I mean, I can't pick one of those. They're all awesome.
Q. Martin, expanding on the question from a couple questions ago, looking at the last 50 laps when Clint was closing, he got under you, what was kind of the key to maintaining the outside lane there, being able to clear him with 20 to go?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Just being able to get the drive up off the corner. I knew if he was going to get beside me, I wanted him to be inside me, not outside me. I had lost the lead earlier to a guy on the outside, and when you get a guy on your outside, you can't get to the corner. You can't get the throttle down. You just spin the tires.
When he had that big charge, I just‑‑ I gave him the bottom. I went to the outside in hopes I could hold him off, and I was able to. So just made the rightdecision there. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't, and that one worked out for us.
Q. You had Joey behind you there of course and we all know what happened at Martinsville last fall. Do you think he cut you any slack knowing how mad you were at him in the fall, and are you guys cool now?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think he drove me as hard as he could without hitting me, which that's what I always expect, and that's kind of how I've always raced him. Yeah, I mean, I guess it was fine.
I don't know if we're cool, but I certainly have a lot of respect for Joey as a person and his accomplishments, and I really appreciate the way he raced me tonight. I don't know if he tried to hit me or not. Maybe he didn't or maybe he did. I don't know. I don't know, to be honest with you. I'm glad he didn't, though. I appreciate it. Hopefully we can race clean for the rest of the year.
Q. Coming down the last few races, you've gotten six top 10 finishes this year. Being in a new team kind of settling in at JGR, how much confidence does this give you going into the rest of the season, kind of settling into the 19, finally getting a win?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, the "finally" is kind of‑‑ I don't know that you can really say‑‑ what are we, nine races in with the new team? Honestly, it feels really good, and honestly I feel like we've had cars capable of winning already a few times.
It was just little things, having bad Fridays, qualifying bad, getting a bad pit stall, little mistakes here and there, not really catching any breaks along the way.
Tonight things went the way we needed them to. We didn't have the best car. We've had faster cars this year than we've had tonight, but we executed well, and the race played out the way we needed it to, and just one of those nights that was meant to be, and sometimes you'll have those.
Like I said, it's just‑‑ it's fun when you're on this side of it. Long season, though. A lot more to go. I think for me the most positive thing I can take out of tonight is I know how we could have made our car quite a bit better.
Cole and I both do. We were like: Man, we screwed up. A couple things here and there, we could have been better, and that would have been really fun.
Just excited about the future, and we've got great race cars, and hopefully we can continue to take advantage of them.
Q. Martin, I know you talked about your strategy a few minutes ago with Bowyer at like 20, 30 laps to go, but did you feel a little bit more of a pucker factor kick in when you looked to the left and saw his hood, or did you think: I got him where I want him?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I little bit of both. I felt like that was my best opportunity, like I said, was to stay on the outside so I could at least try to get off the corner. Like I said, it worked out. I got a good run off 2, he spun the tires, I cleared him, and then once I did, I think he probably used up a little bit of stuff trying to clear me or finish that pass. It took just enough out of his tires where I could stay in front of him the rest of the time.
Q. You mentioned this is a place you've had success at in the past. You've had a couple third‑place finishes including in the fall. Was today something you felt like you were maybe building to, and why is this a place you've had success over the years?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, we've had success as far as leading laps and having cars. We feel like we should have won with. But that was really it. The third‑place finish was‑‑ last year I think we led probably the first half of the race, and then we had a pit road penalty and had to go all the way to the rear and drove all the way through the field to get third. It wasn't like we just ran third.
It seems like we've had a lot of issues here for a reason. Things just not working out the way we needed them to. We had one year we led the whole thing until coming to the white flag and somebody scraped the wall and there's a caution and then we got beat out of the pits and completely destroyed on the ensuing green‑white‑checker. I mean, it's just things like you can't believe that have happened to us here.
Just from that standpoint, it just gives you confidence coming into a track where you know you feel like you know what you need as a driver. You feel like you know how to‑‑ what it takes to get around the track. You know what your car kind of needs to feel like in practice.
That's really such a key to a track like this because it's so difficult, it takes years to figure it out. You see these are the kind of tracks young guys come to and it takes them four, five, six years to finally run good, because it's hard and it's difficult.
As a team, Cole and I, I think, and James, our engineer, we just kind of gotten a feel for what it takes, and were able to apply that here this weekend.
Q. Martin, of those 20 wins, 17 have come in the last four years. After toiling with limited success for a long time, can you kind of talk about what it's been like to kind of realize what your dream was in this sport, what you thought you could do and to have it happening now?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It's just a blessing. I feel really fortunate to be around great people, and all that started in 2015 at Furniture Row. Getting started with Cole and Barney and those guys and then getting Toyota on our side in '16 and starting to work with everybody at JGR, it's just been incredible.
You can't drive slow cars fast, as Harvick always says. I had a lot of years where I had enough success to continue to go and continue to push me and drive me forward, and I won a few races and probably should have won a lot more than I did, but I didn't have all the things around me I needed to be consistently successful.
So that was a trying time, but I will definitely say that it's definitely made me a better driver, it's made me who I am on the ace track and at the racetrack, and definitely learned a lot from those things, especially getting most out of the race car and working with the team and being positive, being a good team leader even when things aren't going great, has been something that's really helped me I think the last couple seasons to be able to win a championship and be in position to win multiples.
As tough as it is not winning consistently, it really has helped me out and been a big part of the last four years successfully.
Q. We saw guys pretty much catching you but not being able to pass you. So did you run a great race that last 50 laps with very few mistakes, or is it just the way these cars are racing right now, the guy behind you has to be perfect in order to execute the pass?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I don't know, to be honest with you. I definitely didn't make any mistakes. There's no question about that. It is hard to pass, I will say that. I had a lot of trouble tonight, but I will say, though, also that, as I mentioned earlier, every time I'd catch the tail end of the field, it would put me in a bad spot, so I was in just as bad a spot as the 14 and the 22 at the end. And I think that's the reason the race got so good. If I could have put a lap car between us and had a clear track ahead, I would have been gone.
So yeah, I mean, it was a little bit of both. I definitely didn't give it up. I didn't make a mistake and I didn't give it away, and it was still difficult to hold those guys off, especially every time I'd catch the next guy.
Man, it's just tough. You already have no grip at all, your tires are completely wore out, feel like you're running on bologna skins, and you catch a car and you feel like you lose all the air in your car. I can't even tell you just what that feels like. It feels like you're driving on a road, you're driving down the road, you're going around a turn, everything is fine, you feel normal, and you hit black ice. What happens? That's the difference between being in front of a car and behind a car. You just lose all that grip.
To answer your question, I didn't screw up, I drove a great race, yes. I will say that. But also the package being the leader, you want to‑‑ being the leader is the best spot to be. I don't know if that answers your question or not, but that's all I can say.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Clearly. That's why you're sitting there and I'm sitting here. (Laughter.)
Q. I asked Cole earlier before you got in here, was the fact that you were 0 for 81 or short tracks, was that a real concern, or was that just something that, well, I'm a former champion, I've won a bunch of races but I haven't won at these three places, was that a big deal at all? And the other half of the question is when in here in light of what happened out here about five years ago makes it more special?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Which part five years ago?
Q. Well, the‑‑
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: The MWR thing? I tried to forget about that.
Q. The fact that it's your first short track win at this place.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I hadn't even thought about that one. For me it's just personal. I'm a short track guy. I grew up winning short track races. That's how I got to this point. It's funny, back in '04, '05 in the Busch Series I won those two championships. All we won was short tracks. We never won on a track over a mile I don't think. So it's just crazy how things go. But the streak, 80 is not a streak. Michael Waltrip told me this week, 80 is not a streak, 462 is a damned streak.
So I was like, man, thanks, Mikey, I really appreciate that.
But it would be one thing if we weren't good on short tracks and I didn't know what I was doing and we ran terrible and we wrote them off. For me it was personal because we've been so close and we had so many heartbreaks, really, really, really tough losses at places like here and even Martinsville last fall and Bristol last spring‑‑ spring of '16 with a speeding penalty. Yeah, it's good to knock it out of the way and know we can start stringing them together.
Q. How does it feel to finally have a short track win, come here to Richmond and for the Toyota Owners 400, and also for Gibbs, how is it to have three of your cars now with a win in the 2019 season?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I'm really excited to win here. I met a man and his wife tonight that were chosen for my team, and if I won, they won 10 grand, so I met them earlier before the race in the Toyota suite. Toyota does so much for us, for our sport, for our team. To win the Toyota Owners 400 was really cool. I got to meet a lot of those folks in the suite earlier and they were really excited to be here. It was just a big night for everyone. Our friends won 10 grand, that was cool, and a Toyota in Victory Lane is exactly what we needed tonight.
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I was thrilled that the Toyota guys, such a great partnership that we have, and to have them sponsoring the race for us to be able to win that is a big deal. Our three cars being in is huge for us. I reflect back, we've got meetings coming up these next two weeks with our sponsors, and it shows you how everything kind of fits together. If you're really performing, those meetings lots of times go well. If you're not, then you really worry about it. And so it's a huge deal for us to have three of them in, and we can concentrate now on Erik.
To be quite truthful, Erik is driving his heart out. We've had some real tough things happen to him, and it was for the last two weeks, like loose wheels. And so that's a tough deal for us. I really appreciate, I wanted to say, everybody back at the race shop, Coy and everybody that heads up everything on our operations side, and then all the people there on Mondays, we have a get‑together, and we hang a banner, which we'll do on Monday. But it's all those people back there that when you kind of look around the shop and realize how hard they work, and I brag on them all the time, for us to be able to get cars to the racetrack and to have them run well is just a huge deal for all of us. So we appreciate all of that.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports