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June 7, 2020

Martin Truex, Jr.

Hampton, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: We've now been joined by Martin Truex Jr., finishing third today at Atlanta Motor Speedway. We'll take questions for Martin.

Q. Martin, it was really a two‑horse race it felt like for most of the day, and you were so good the first half to two‑thirds of that race. Was it necessarily a case of you guys losing something there in that last stage or maybe just a case where the 4 got a little bit better when he needed to at the end?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, no, we definitely lost something. We were really strong the first two stages, and I was really happy with the car, and we just got too tight there the start of stage 3 and made some adjustments on the pit stop. It just wasn't enough. I don't know if the track changed or something changed in our car or what, but we'll go back and figure it out, but way too tight the last two runs to be able to challenge, and ultimately it cost us third I guess the last 25, 30 laps of the race. I just tried to drive through the push and ended up just pretty much smoking the front tires off it, and I ended up losing second, so that was unfortunate. I figured with 20 or so to go I had to lay it all out on the line and see if I could do anything, and unfortunately come up short.

Q. Knowing that you had the pace, does anything from here translate into another tire eater at Homestead?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, for sure I think it does. I think these slick, hot racetracks, the characteristics are somewhat similar, the things you need your car to do well to be faster are similar. Yeah, I've been happy with our cars. I felt like we had a shot at winning the Southern 500, the Coke 600, a chance to win here. We've been knocking on the door, we've just been‑‑ it just feels like it hasn't been our season yet, but we're right there. The guys are doing a great job, and our cars are fast, and we just‑‑ we've got to put it all together one of these days coming soon.

Q. I just wanted to touch on what you were saying about this and Homestead being a little bit different. Kyle said he doesn't feel like the Toyota program is totally necessarily back yet just because you guys ran well today, because this is such a different track. Do you feel the same way? Do you feel like you guys are making improvements right now?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You know, I think that we're trying to make improvements for sure. I think it's been a little bit tough not having practice and things like that to hit it right. I think our cars are close. I don't think we're dominant. I think there's some really fast cars out there that we're trying to catch up to. We really have to do all the little things right to be able to put ourselves in position to win races, and we've done that. We've been in position a few times this season, and things didn't go the way we needed them to, and when you're not a dominant car, you're not just going to blow by through the field when you have issues. We definitely know we need to get better.
The guys are all working hard at the shop, and it's difficult in this time with no practice and things like that, and having to work at the shop in certain ways, in groups and things. It's just been difficult. Everybody is trying hard, doing a great job, and we're going to just keep chipping away at them here and hopefully continue to get better.

Q. With the video that was released before the race today, there's been a lot of talk about it being divisive and a little controversial. Why do you think racism in 2020 is so controversial right now, and do you agree with this being the right time to put that message out there?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You know, I really don't know why it is. It's just the way things have worked out. Obviously with the events over the past couple of weeks, that kind of brought it to everybody's attention, obviously. Yeah, I mean, I just hate the things that I've been seeing and felt like when they were organizing to put that video together, it felt like it was something I needed to do, just because of feeling so awful about how these things have gone. So yeah, that's all, and I'm not sure why it's all happened here. I don't know if everybody went crazy from being cooped up from the coronavirus or what, but it's kind of crazy times. Hopefully these crazy times are getting ready to be over with.

Q. The longer that we have gone on with the shorter schedules with no practice and no qualifying, the more you seem to hear from people that are saying, oh, we don't need to do that, let's just keep it this way. But you and Kyle both referenced the fact of what practice at the track, what some of the benefits are. Do you still believe that there's a place for at‑track practice, and what does that do for your team?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I mean, I think that for sure at some point we're going to get back to practicing and qualifying, there's no question about that, so I don't really understand the first part of your question there. You know, I think for us, especially experienced drivers I feel like can get in there and practice, and there's certain things in your car that if you want to go out and win Cup races, these things have to drive the way you want them to, and everybody doesn't like the same thing.
Simulation is great, but there's so many assumptions in there that‑‑ we went from having a shot‑‑ we dominated the Coke 600, went back three days later and we could barely run 25th at the start of the race.
That's just where the practice thing comes in. You go back to the racetrack with your best guess of what you think is going to work, and it's not always what you think it's going to be. You give a great driver and crew chief and engineer and team an hour to work on a race car, they're going to get it better, and I think that's what Kyle was mentioning and saying with me was we haven't had a chance to do that, and I feel like our teams are really good at making good adjustments throughout practice, and we probably haven't done the greatest job of starting the races as good as we needed to, as well.

Q. Going into Wednesday at Martinsville, of course you won the last race down there, how encouraging is it to go down there or a weeknight race with your first top 5 of the season?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, it's definitely encouraging. As I mentioned earlier, we've had a really strong season as far as being competitive and getting tons of stage points, and we've been kind of lacking on our finishes a little bit. So it felt good to get that top 5 out of the way. I wish we could have won. I felt like through the first two stages we had a dominant car, and then the track changed and we didn't keep up with it. That's just part of this racing, so we need to do a better job of that.
But James' first year as crew chief, I feel like he's doing a great job, and I feel like the whole team is really doing a nice job, especially as things have changed with the smaller amount of guys at the track and no practice and all those things. The guys are doing a great job, so we'll keep working hard on it. Martinsville has been a good track to us the past few seasons, and being the defending winner there last time feels great, but it doesn't guarantee anything.
Different rules package, lower downforce this time around, and we'll have to hopefully go there and have something that will work good off the trailer because again, no practice. We'll see how it goes, but excited about it and looking forward to a night race at Martinsville.

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