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June 23, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We're going to get started with our post race media availabilities from today's Toyota/Save Mart 350.
We are joined by the crew chief of the winning team, the No.19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota. We have Cole Pearn with us.
We'll open it up to questions.
Q. How stressful is that 20‑lap chase for you where it's kind of completely out of your hands?
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I mean, it's really stressful. You make your bed, you got to lay in it for a little bit there. So, yeah, I mean, I knew we were getting ready to probably lose a bit of time with the 32 that just came off of pit road. Had to come a couple laps earlier than what we wanted to. Adam made the right call that he did to go three laps longer and split the run, go on the optimum strategy.
Yeah, the bed was kind of made. You weren't really sure. Kyle came out ripping off some pretty quick laps. We were having to get through lap traffic I think a little bit harder than he had to.
But Martin settled in and really took the whole run as overall and took care of the car really well. Man, just unflappable, never made a mistake. I think we were doubting it pretty hard there with 10 or 12 to go, but then we started matching them, that gives you confidence, try to relay as much as you can to Martin.
He did a great job there. I thought the 43 almost went off the track right in front of us. He didn't get too worked up over it and settled in and did a great job.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by the team owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, Joe Gibbs.
We'll continue with questions for Cole and Coach.
Q. You mentioned the lapped traffic, just a few laps to go, a couple lapped cars side by side, hung Martin up a bit. They hung up Kyle a little bit, too, but not as much. What is going through your mind as you're watching that unfold?
COLE PEARN: That just kind of comes with being the leader. I think that's every bit of racing, it's going to be a little bit harder when you're the leader. When the guy behind you has a little bit better tires, it is what it is.
Road courses are super tricky as far as where you hit them in the right spot, minimizing the time loss that you do. You get stuck in a couple spots in the track, you have to fall in for a couple corners. It could be two, three, four, five 10ths for that lap. That's enough for them to close on you, get a dive bomb. That's all we were really worried about.
Q. How has the strategy changed on road courses with the addition of stages? Seems like these have been totally different races than we saw before stages.
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I mean, before there was an element of randomness with not knowing when the cautions were going to come. Now when you know two set cautions are going to be there, I think that changes it.
We saw a mixed bag today. I think you got the car going for the win, they're going to give up stage points. Then you have the guys that are going for the stage points and are going to try to score max points. The 11, I'm guessing, they probably scored more points than we did today.
It's a tough call. If you don't win and you don't get the bonus points, you're probably a lot better off going for the stage points. It's a tough bet to make.
Q. Joe, how do you feel about the win and four cars in the top eight here, especially on a weekend where you're added to the Wall of Fame here?
JOE GIBBS: Really excited. We really appreciate everybody here. We get a chance to come out to California, northern California. It's a huge deal for our sponsors. I called Auto‑Owners, I called Bass Pro Johnny and Norm Miller from Interstate. When you think about that, our sport is so different that you have to have great partners like that. Huge deal for us. Off to a great start.
Dave Wilson from Toyota gave me an interesting‑‑ I was standing in the winner's circle. He goes, Hey, do you realize that Cole and Martin have won this race three different times with three different owners, teams?
I said, You mean, it's not the team that gets it done? You mean it's these guys? Oh, I get you.
But it is pretty amazing. I think Cole and Martin, big deal for us. Thought Kyle did a great job did today. Felt bad for Erik the last pit stop, had a tough time. Denny did a good job with FedEx.
Big deal for us. I appreciate everybody back home. Lord has blessed us with a great group of people. It was a thrill for me to come out here and be honored like you mentioned, to get on the wall there. It was a big deal for me. Any time you get something like that, an honor, you think about everybody that it took to get here.
I always think back to J.D. spent 27 years of his life building the race team. You think back to things like that when you get an opportunity to get an honor like that.
COLE PEARN: And Ty won last night, so you're not going on much sleep.
JOE GIBBS: Our little guy last night in St.Louis, we got in at 2 in the morning with that race, Ty.
Q. How was the communication with the spotter in the closing laps? How did he help the situation keeping Martin focused for the stretch?
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I mean, Clayton does a great job. We've all been together for quite a few years now. Myself, I spotted turn 11 all day, which was nice to be able to talk and communicate and relay info to Martin.
Yeah, I mean, again, total team effort. I think there's plenty of times when you're going around this track, two and a half miles, slipping and sliding the whole time, you think about how many opportunities there are to make a mistake, for something to go wrong. To hit it all right over that last run is a huge deal.
Q. Jeff Gordon is the only one that repeated at this place. Does that add specialness to it?
COLE PEARN: The road courses have been great for us. As a racer, you always go back to the ones you could have won. I feel like '17 we were really good and lost an engine and ultimately lost that race. I felt like we could easily be sitting on three in a row here.
Yeah, definitely one you circle on the calendar every year. All the road courses for us. I think over the last few years, just continue to show how good Martin is in on all these. The more you go back to them, the more you learn, you get better for next time. I think that's something special about our team.
Q. Coach, TV a couple times was saying Kyle and Martin is a rivalry. They both obviously won four races now, which is half of all the races this year. They go back to the Busch Series days together. Obviously they're teammates. Do you see them as a rivalry?
JOE GIBBS: I think that's really interesting about NASCAR. I love that aspect of it. Most sports, you got one team, everybody's fighting. This sport, which I really appreciate, is four different teams.
They have to work together, okay, because back at the shop and everything we do back there, the crew chiefs are working together, to really be the best you can be. Then when you get to the racetrack, it becomes pretty much each one of them is after it for their sponsor, for their career, for everybody that's pulling for them.
So I got to tell you the truth. When I see two of them like that, one of them coming, I start sweating because in our history, we've had a number of them. Everything from the million dollar race where Kyle gets into it with Denny. It took us two months to settle that thing back down.
But, no, I think that each fan expects what they saw today: going as hard as you can go, each team fighting for itself. I know each one of the drivers...
Also when you just hear them, they are competitive with each other. I know Kyle and Martin are at our meetings, Denny. Erik is the young guy. But those other three, they really do want to beat the other guy.
Q. Cole, you looked absolutely ecstatic right after the race. This is the fourth consecutive year you have scored at least four wins. 21 victories have come with you and Martin in the last five seasons. Is he a late‑bloomer? How much of this is the Pearn factor?
COLE PEARN: I don't know. I mean, I think the sport takes everything to go right to win. We were very fortunate to have a great relationship together. For sure, he's gotten better. I mean, I think that's one of the great things about him.
I think that's what's so hard for rookies coming into the sport these days, is the fact that you got guys that are at the top of the sport that are always trying to get better themselves. I think that about Kyle Busch, I think that about Denny Hamlin. They're trying to get better all the time.
When those guys continue to improve, you got to do the same. Martin has done a great job of that this year with all the rule changes, it's a different style of racing, a lot more downforce. You had no downforce last year to a ton of downforce this year. The fact that you can win in both configurations is really important.
Q. Coach, Matt Dibenedetto had his best career finish today. One of the people he credited was J.D. Can you talk at all about what he saw in Matt, how he helped him get where he got.
JOE GIBBS: It was a real interesting story. J.D.'s background, most of you know a lot of this, but he found Denny Hamlin and brought him aboard. Then we got a letter from California, it was a friend of Pat, my wife, out there. She said, There's a kid out here just killing it in racecars. Love to have a chance.
J.D. I think took that. At that time Steve de Souza, we look for young guys. J.D. told Steve, Let's get him back here. That kind of started Matt being back here, getting a chance to race at different places.
I was thrilled today for Bob and everybody over there at Leavine Racing, to see them up there running the way they did, I thought it was just great.
I went to the car and told him. I said, Hey, Matt, awesome job.
I think about things like that all the time when I hear stories about J.D. and how he helped somebody, because he did a lot. So thank you for mentioning that.
Q. Coach, you have a bunch of personalities back at the shop. You have Kyle and Martin with their 1‑2 finish, something of a rivalry. How do you keep them sorted out?
JOE GIBBS: Actually people always ask me, What's the difference between football and racing? I said, Really very little. We have a car over here, but other than that the point that you make, it is personalities and people working together. We all know, because all of you are on teams, have your own team, we all know that teamwork, you're trying to ask people to sacrifice their individual goals for the goals of the team. That's so hard.
But it's also the challenge of the thing that I really enjoy because the key to any real good organization or team is finding the right group of people and having them work together. That's not easy.
So you look around. Our sponsors, Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Auto‑Owners. When you look at those companies, you watch them, it's the same exact thing in the companies. The companies that really perform and do well, they're what? It's a team.
I enjoy listening to any CEO or business person that's built a team, is part of a team, because you learn a lot. We're all trying to do the same thing. So you pick the right people that are going to make you look good.
But our challenge is, too, with the personalities, we do have very different personalities. The four drivers are very different. You got Martin, real kind of cool, easy, calm. Denny is a lot like that, comes across that way, too. You have the young kid with Erik, kind of soaking everything up. Then you got Kyle (laughter). I won't use any adjectives with Kyle.
Those guys, it's interesting to watch them. The way they work together, in our meetings, it's fascinating. Everybody shares everything. Those guys, I'm telling you, they share everything about the racecar, how they drive it. It's kind of amazing to see.
Q. In Victory Lane Martin said something about what a season we turned this into. Did you have tempered expectations coming into the year given it's year one with this group?
COLE PEARN: Yeah, I think you never know how it's going to go. You're starting with a new team, a new program. All those question marks that come across. I know everything that Coach and everybody at JGR made happen to bring us in.
When you can deliver on those expectations, especially as it started to click here over the last couple of months, it's a great feeling. Just gives you that confidence to know that you can still do it even in a different building. Just really gives you confidence to keep working forward, keep getting better.
Q. Joe, you said in some ways there's not a lot of difference between racing and football. For you personally, does the competitive spirit feel similar in both? Is either more challenging or gratifying for you?
JOE GIBBS: Actually, it's a whole different world. I've explained to people, I came up as the technical person in football. I was working on structure of the offense, calling the plays on the sideline. I was a lot like Cole is here over there because I grew up in it.
The thrill of that, the agony of defeat, I mean, on that deal you're shouldering so much. In football I thought I was going to at least get my chance where I had a chance to be a head coach. I learned. I recruited the whole coaching staff. They were dependent on me. All the fans there. The front office. There's a lot on you.
I came over to racing, and it's a totally different deal because I'm not the technical person. For me, it was kind of pick the people, spend a lot of time with the people, try and keep the sponsors happy.
I told everybody the biggest thrill for me is the first of every month trying to pay the bills. I walk out of meetings, I got to go talk to the sponsor. I tell the drivers, I'll going to try to get some money so you guys can throw it away (laughter). The crew chiefs come up with everything in the world.
But anyway, it's a different world for me. The biggest thing for me is family over here. I get a chance, I worked with J.D. for those 27 years, it was a huge deal for me, because I missed so much of his life when I was coaching. Same thing with Coy. To be able to spend time now with Coy, what we did before, building the race team. Now I got the grandkids coming. It's just a huge deal for me family‑wise over here.
It's two different worlds.
Q. There aren't many people who have had two long successful careers in two different sports. At this point do you consider your contributions in motorsports even more significant than football? Do you ever think about it in those terms?
JOE GIBBS: No. I think both of them were so different, I enjoyed it so much. Football was just a thrill to be a part of that, get a chance to do all the things that you do there, go to Super Bowls.
Over here, like I said, I think why this means so much to me, I said the greatest win of my life in any sporting event was the Daytona 500. Denny won that with J.D.'s name on the car and everything.
Over here, you get the family, they're working with you all the time. You have a chance to be there and build things. Got the grandkids coming, which is a thrill for me, too. Got J.D.'s four boys.
I think from I what can tell, two of them, they want to be in front office and get after it. They're playing football right now at App. I have one that's an engineering guy that I think wants to be in the engineering group. Then I got one little guy that's still making up his mind.
I'm just saying family and everything over here is such a thrill, to be a part of this. Starting it with 17 people, all that we've been able to do, it's just really fun. It's two different worlds for me really. I don't think I can separate them at all.
Q. Coach, you were talking about family. You've had a lot of success at Joe Gibbs Racing, but it's been quite a long time since a member of your family has been actually out there racing. Ty picked up his first ARCA victory last night. What has it been like to watch a member of your family pursue their racing dreams?
JOE GIBBS: I will be honest. I was awful uptight with that. It's your grandson out there. It was a whole different emotion, you know what I mean? Not that I didn't get excited today, but last night was a big deal, Ty getting a chance to win that race at St.Louis. It was a huge deal for us and the family.
He's always wanted to race from the time he was knee high. We're going to see what he can do. It's a tough world. It's a tough world to be successful in.
Anyway, it was a thrill last night. We got in here late. Martin, fun riding these guys' coattails, fun day today.
David Wilson said to me, You realize Martin and Cole have won this race three times with three different teams.
I said, Oh, you mean it's not the race team? Means you have some talent.
Go ahead and take it.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: They were all three in a Toyota, though.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winning driver, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota.
We'll start up front with questions.
Q. What was going through your head the last 15, 20 laps when Kyle was chasing you? What were you thinking about at that point?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Just trying to get all I could out of the car, not burn my tires up too much. Just hit my marks. I knew he pitted a little bit later there at the end, so he had a little fresher tires. He was beating us pretty good there for a while.
I just had to try to manage my car the best I could to not burn the tires off trying to go faster than it wanted to go.
I knew if we could just maintain a decent gap for long enough, we would start to equal out. With 10 to go, we were equaling lap times. From there, all right, you got to run 10 perfect laps and not screw up. Was able to do that fortunately and hang onto it.
We had to pass some lapped cars. Luckily we were able to catch them in the right places to not lose too much time for Kyle. We were able to hold him off.
Feels great. Feels amazing to win here two in a row. The thought it could be three is pretty phenomenal. Thankful for an incredible team, cars, everybody that makes this thing go for us. Really lucky to drive great racecars.
Q. On TV they were kind of building up the fact that they feel like you and Kyle are a rivalry. Your history does go back to the first championship that you competed against each other in the Busch Series. Do you consider you and Kyle a rivalry?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I consider anyone that you have to beat to win races and championships a rivalry. I think it's a good rivalry. We're obviously teammates. You mentioned coming up through the Busch Series together back in '04. We've known each other a long time. We've been racing together a long time. We've raced each other really hard but with respect. I think that's part of what's made us good teammates is that we have that mutual respect for each other.
Kyle hates to lose. Everybody knows kind of how he is. For me, to me, he's just been an amazing teammate. He's really smart about his racecar, gives great information, helps the team make the cars better. We're all better for it.
The last couple years, at Furniture Row with the JGR alliance, now being in‑house at JGR, it's been a really good relationship. We have that mutual respect where we know we're both fast, we both have great teams, we can push each other to be better. It really elevates the whole company.
We race hard as we can possibly race on the racetrack and respect each other off it. It works out pretty good.
Q. Do you and Kyle keep score at all?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't. I don't know if he does. I do know they told me in Victory Lane we finished 1‑2 seven times. I beat him four out of the seven, so I got the upper hand right now. I had no idea till they told me that.
No, I don't keep track of it. I don't know if he does or not. He might (laughter).
Q. Joe Gibbs is a legend in the industry. How has this year been, how is it working with him? Is it any different than you thought it would be?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It's been great. I don't know if it's any different than I expected. I think I look at Coach, he leads by example. He works so hard. That's why everybody at his company puts in the effort they do. That's why they're successful.
You look at somebody Joe's age. He could be out golfing and screwing off. He probably doesn't have to do what he's doing. But he loves it. It's his passion. It's become his life. He puts everything he has into it.
I can tell you every time I go to the shop, he's there. If he's not on a plane somewhere meeting with sponsors, he's there. If you want to build something great, you got to lead by example, and that's what he does. That's why he is who he is. I'm sure it was the same way in football.
He's 100% committed. It's been amazing to be able to see that and learn from it, just to work for him and be part of his team. It's been a blessing. Very lucky to drive great cars for a great team. It's been incredible.
Q. You're the first repeat winner here since Jeff Gordon way back in '98, '99, 2000. Is the wine tasting sweeter this time around?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I'd like to say yes, but I can't. I just don't like wine (smiling). I'm sorry, I just don't. It's the best damn wine I've ever had, but I still don't like it. It's the wrong color (smiling).
Q. A lot of people are noticing how cool you were when Bubba nearly lost it. Describe what that was like, the approach and the pass.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I was approaching him and I knew he was struggling. Obviously he was about to get lapped. I'm sure his tires were just smoked because he was sliding all over the track.
That was really the best‑case scenario, was him blowing that corner so I could get under him and get on by him. If I would have had to follow him through the carrousel, I would have lost more time. At that point in the race, that's when Kyle was really catching me. So I needed to make quick work of those guys and lap 'em as quick as possible.
I was able to catch a couple of them in the right spot. The 27, I had to pass him on the outside of the carrousel once, which was not good, it cost me a lot. Other than that, all the rest of them I just happened to catch them right and they were very courteous. Just sometimes it works out that way and sometimes it don't.
Q. You alluded earlier to the fact this could have been three in a row.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Should have been (smiling).
Q. What happened in 2017?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: We blew up at the end, yeah. David Wilson, he already let me know today, Yeah, we should be three in a row. We let you down. That's part of being a great partner. We go to battle together each and every week through the good and the bad.
Q. When you were talking about the carrousel, a lot has been made about the fact it's back. What is your view? Do you want to keep it? What was it like going through that first time?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't really have an opinion either way on whether they keep it or they don't. I think it definitely added another element to the racetrack just because of the fact that when we come here before, you basically set your car up to make right‑hand turns, and you kind of like didn't really worry much about the left‑handers just because there were only two, they were really not that important to lap time. Now the carrousel is such a long left‑hand corner that it's important to lap time. You kind of change your setup a little bit to do that.
I will say that it was, the first time, kind of scary. It just has that you can't see, it's blind. You get light. There's bumps. The back tires try to bounce off the ground. It feels like you're completely not in control. It's a crazy, treacherous corner from that regard. It took a little while to get used to it, there's no question.
Obviously we figured it out, which is good. But it was a unique challenge for us. We don't really race on any tracks that are like this that have the blind corners where you get to the apex, you can't see the exit, the ups and downs. It adds something unique for the Cup Series.
Q. I don't know if you realize the 18 team had a strategy. They thought where Kyle pitted later, four laps later than you, he would be able to catch you with 10 laps to go, then game on. He was never able to reach you. Was it just a matter of you hitting the points, or was it something else?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I mean, I kind of knew with 10 to go we kind of equaled out. I felt like if we could keep a little bit of distance between us until we got the tires really, really old that I would have a chance of holding him off.
That was a strong point of our car. Even the run prior he was catching us for a while, we'd even out. When the tires started getting really, really bad, we'd actually start to pull away a little bit.
With 20 to go, when he was catching me a lot, again, it was just trying to manage, trying to get all I could out of the car without abusing the tires too much. I knew he was catching me. I couldn't do anything about that. I just had to pace myself.
Then with 10 to go, we equaled lap times. It was like, Okay, we're equal now. If I can just hit 10 perfect laps, I should be able to hold him off. We were able to do that.
Q. This was all long run racing, no cautions except the stage breaks. Does that make it easier? Last year had you a strategy where you faked doing a pit stop.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It was basically the same strategy as we did today, but yeah.
Q. Is it easier, harder to have the long cruising run?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It's easier. It's definitely easier when the field gets spread out. You kind of get in the rhythm, you're worried about yourself, hitting your marks. Restarts are probably the craziest thing you have to deal with here. It's a slippery track, really narrow. It's hard enough to hit your marks by yourself, let alone two‑wide.
Not having to deal with so many restarts makes it a much smoother day. I'm sure that somebody probably doesn't like the fact that we didn't have any cautions out there in NASCAR Land.
For us, I like it that way, yeah.
Q. Did lap traffic ever give you any concern?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, at the end I had to pass a few guys with 10 to go or I don't even know when it was. Again, I caught them in the right spots. A couple guys were very courteous, so... It all worked out.
I only caught one in a bad spot. That was the 27. I had to pass him on the outside of the carrousel. It cost me a lot of time one lap. Luckily it wasn't the difference in the race.
THE MODERATOR: Martin, thanks for joining us. Congratulations on the win.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Thanks.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports