April 11, 2021
Martinsville, Virginia, USA
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winner for today's race, Martin Truex Jr.
Martin, congratulations on the win. It seemed like the race came to you and you really took advantage of it when the time was right. Walk us through your final run there.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, it was interesting how it all played out there. I thought throughout the day we were a third- to a fifth-place car in there. At one point in the middle of the race we got off a little bit, probably a sixth- or seventh-place car. It was kind of a weird day.
Proud of the guys for working hard on it. They did a great job. That last pit stop we were able to get us the lead. Couldn't quite hold off the 11 on that restart. He was really fast firing off. Just tried to stay with him and take care of my car. Knew there was enough laps left that tire wear in the long run was going to come into play.
He started getting tight, our car was getting better and better. We were able to take advantage of it. Really happy. For whatever reason our car really turned on when the lights went down. Always good when a plan comes together and it works out the way you hoped it would.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. What is your line on racing a teammate and deciding when or when not to use the bumper?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It depends on the track I guess. Here it was obvious that we were quite a bit faster at that point when I caught the 11. He was racing as hard as he could to keep us back. I knew if I was patient, I was going to be able to complete the pass.
I don't know. I've never really knocked a teammate out of the way. I don't know there is a right time to do it. I guess it just depends on how you race each other normally, what your relationship is.
Q. Last year you won one race, you were very good at times. Get back to Victory Lane twice this year already. Does it start to feel like this is 2019, 2018, those championship years?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I feel really good about our team, overall what we can do this year. Our cars are strong. Our team is strong. We've been together a long time. Obviously last year James was the new piece moving to crew chief, but, man, he's done a great job. Last year, for whatever reason, seemed like we were missing the tiniest little things. Sometimes it wasn't even things we were doing wrong. Sometimes you feel like things aren't meant to be, honestly.
Feeling good about it. Got a great team. Pit crew really stepped up today. Got a great stop on the last one that got us the lead. We got all the tools necessary. Great sponsors, Bass Pro, Auto-Owners, Reser's, TRD and Toyota, all they did for us. We have a great opportunity to win a lot of races. Hopefully we can take advantage of it this year more than we did last year.
Q. You mentioned the final pit stop there. Did you do anything different or did it all come down to the pit crew? Seemed like you got a much better launch to beat Denny out there.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I got the launch because I seen him coming. I knew it was going to be close. Really just tried to push it there. Honestly, that was really not a lot different than the time before on pit road. I'd have to really look back and see if it was that much better.
You see an opportunity there, it makes you kind of try to give a little extra. Overall it was the same as the rest of the stops. I think the pit crew just stepped it up, did a good job on that last one.
Q. On the restart where Denny got a better jump and took off, did that surprise you at all, that he was able to do that on the outside?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It didn't really surprise me. I was pretty loose. Not surprised. He was really fast on restarts all day from what I could tell. I was only around him on one of them. He beat my back bumper off in the middle of the corner just being so much faster than me.
I wasn't really surprised. I was a little too loose there to take off. He was holding me down tight, which he's supposed to. I just couldn't get the gas down. Not surprised at all, to be honest.
Q. Were you pretty confident that you'd be able to pass Denny without having to do much drama, considering it looked like you had a stronger car than him?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You know, it was weird. His car, he was really good all night. The last run it really looked like he flipped the switch and got tight, which probably the sun going down, I don't know if they made adjustments to be able to run faster for shorter runs at the end. I don't know, whatever happened. His car really flipped a switch.
At that point I was like, I knew I could get by him, I just needed to be patient. No sense in pushing it with plenty of laps left and the 9 was pretty far back.
Q. Is it hard to be patient?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Not really, no. I'm 40. I've learned over the years that you're better off being patient than not. It pays off in the long run usually (smiling).
Q. You said in your post-race that you never anticipated winning one Martinsville clock, now you have three. Why did you just not think it was ever going to happen for you here at Martinsville?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You know what, it was never clicking. I mean, even at times where we could have decent runs, it was like fifth, sixth, seventh. I felt that was the best I could ever run here up until, like, 2015 or so. For whatever reason, I just could never get the car to do the things I wanted it to do.
It came a point where people told me, They can't do those things you want it to do. You're like, Okay, maybe it can't do those things and I just need to figure out how to drive it the way it is.
After not having success at a track, it comes to a point where you really don't know what you need to do, if it's even possible to do the things that you want to do. It's a real challenge.
I've just been lucky to be with really good people, have really good cars, have that communication, that belief in one another that you can make the thing do the things you want it to do. They know you're driving it right, you know they know how to set it up. You work together.
That's where we've been the past, really, six, seven years here. It's a place where it doesn't change all that much other than depending on the tires that Goodyear brings. You can really just continue to work on similar things and refine those. That's what we've been able to do here.
It's been awesome. Hopefully we can keep it going.
Q. Do you have a place for the new clock?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Absolutely. I absolutely do (smiling). I'll make places. If I keep winning 'em, I will make places for 'em, I promise you. It's not a problem.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by today's winning crew chief, James Small. Walk us through your win from your perspective.
JAMES SMALL: It was a little bit of a shit show really. We worked all week on racing.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: That's awesome.
JAMES SMALL: Well, it was. Don't deny it (laughter).
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It was.
JAMES SMALL: It was very different to how we won here before. Usually we have a pretty dominant car and led a lot of laps. This week we had to battle.
I think the track starting off this afternoon was quite a lot different to what we've experienced here in the last few races where we've been really strong. We struggled, chipped away at it.
It wasn't till the final stage, I think the cautions were kind of helping us. Taking the rubber off the track, not allowing it to rubber in. We kept adjusting a little bit. It finished so late, the conditions actually got back, and the track got back to similar how the last few races were.
At the end there Denny had been exceptional on the short run all day. No matter what lane we picked, it was going to be hard to hold him off. I knew we could come back at him. Us and the 12 were pretty good on the long run. Thankfully he went to the back. It kind of all just worked out for us.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.
Q. Martin, in regards to you're tracking down Denny, you know how good he's been on the short run, but how good you were on the long run, is there something a little extra special passing somebody late for a win after they've been as dominant as they were?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It's always a good feeling. You never want to be on the other end of it. I've certainly been on plenty, losing plenty races where we dominated. I know how it feels. It sucks. At the end of the day these races are really, really long. A lot can change. You really just have to hope that things play out the way you need them to.
For whatever reason his car just got really tight there with I want to say 20, 30 to go, whatever it was, whenever we made the pass. Our car was really strong at that point.
We took our lumps and battled really hard all day for that end result to pay off. It feels good. It's nice when things work out the way you need them to in your favor at the end of a race.
Q. Is there a little bit of relief to get that second win, going into the middle portion of the year?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't know about relief. It's exciting to be here with two wins at this point in the season, compared to last year. It's always good. You always want to do better than past previous years. Having two wins this early is great. It's good for points. It's good for Playoff points. We need to keep racking 'em up.
Q. For a long time one of the story lines was you weren't able to win at a short track. You've now won I think this is your fifth win in the last 11 short track races, nearly half, for a guy who seemingly couldn't win. What do you feel like has changed? Some of it's equipment, what that's allowed you to do. James, what have you seen and what have you been able to do in the role of crew chief?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: For me, it's what I mentioned a little while ago, it's confidence in each other, believing in each other. There was a time in my career when I go back to the Busch Series days, all the races I won there were short tracks. We never won any mile-and-a-half's. Damn, I need to get better at mile-and-a-half's. You work on that. In the Cup Series, every track is tough. Everybody is working constantly at being better every type of track.
For whatever reason for me, the short tracks never really panned out. Even though we had a lot of great runs over the years, for instance, I think we led the most laps at Richmond three or four races in a row before we finally won there. Sometimes you need things to go your way.
Honestly, from a consistency standpoint, being consistent at these short tracks, it comes down to people and equipment, that belief in each other. As I mentioned, especially at Martinsville, being able to just work on similar things year after year with the same group of guys for the most part, continuing to improve on small things. Really just believing what they're telling you. If they tell me I need to drive a certain way, I start driving a certain way. If I tell them that it needs to do something different, they know it needs to do something different.
It's just that team chemistry that we've had over the years has been really good and we've been able to fine-tune on these places.
JAMES SMALL: Exactly what he said (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Martin, congratulations on the win and good luck next week at Richmond.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Thanks, buddy. See you guys.
We'll continue with questions for James.
Q. Can you further elaborate on your view of this being a shit show?
JAMES SMALL: It was a struggle. We didn't start off well. We ran in the top five the most part of the day. When I got a little crazy with all the different people coming and going and staying out, I think there were starting back at 12th a couple times, battled back through, cautions. We couldn't get into a flow.
I felt like we had a somewhat decent car on a long run, but it wasn't great. We weren't great on short runs. We still needed to be better. We didn't have the pace of the 11 and the 12. We tried a couple things, went the wrong way, then came back on them and did a few other things.
Finally that third stage, we hit on something. Martin gave really good feedback, exactly what he needed. It kind of all started making sense. I think the track came to us a little bit there.
Yeah, it was just all over. It was a bit of a blur, to be honest. Pit crew did a great job at the end on the final stop, so...
Q. You're naturally very animated on the radio, excited, never give up. How much of that, if anything, is also a bit of relief to get a second win in a season?
JAMES SMALL: Yeah, it's definitely a relief. There was quite a number of races last year where we had the best car, things didn't go right at the end. That's a real punch in the gut every time that happens.
It's even sweeter when you're coming from behind, you battled all day. I feel that's what's really good. No matter what happens with our team, whether it's Martin, we just keep trying and trying and never give up. Finally we got there.
We've lost some races like that. Last year we lost one where we led and got passed at the end. It's gut-wrenching. Finally good it happened to somebody else. We got really excited at the end.
Q. You have won at arguably the two most important tracks of the year with Martinsville and Phoenix, the last two races of the year. Did you put an extra point of emphasis or did this just happen by chance that you got really good when it counted?
JAMES SMALL: Yeah, not really. Probably put a little bit less emphasis on this track, to be honest. Small refining of the package every time we come back, pinpoint things we need to do a bit better than last time. Just small tweaks.
It's so hard. Especially a track like this, not very aero sensitive, it's all mechanical related. You can't afford to go out on some tangent, on some philosophy or theory or whatever. You just got to stick with what's worked and refine that.
I feel like that's a lot of it. It's the same guys that are running with you all the time, the 9, the 12, the 11, all those guys. We all have something that our drivers like and responds well. We just keep bringing similar stuff back.
No, we put far more effort into the tracks we sucked at. Hopefully we get better at them.
Q. Martin has three clocks now, two with you. Any chance he would give you one or you have to earn it yourself?
JAMES SMALL: Yeah, that's a good question. I don't want one. They don't really fit in my small apartment. Just have to go back to Australia one day, that's going to be a nightmare. I'll just keep the memories (smiling).
Q. You had been under Cole and working with Martin a couple years, but last year was the first time getting thrown into the fire and leading this team. The success you've had to start this year, is this a case of everything coming together, you and Martin finding the rapport with one another? Was last year more circumstances necessarily than trying to get comfortable?
JAMES SMALL: I feel like last year we were pretty comfortable, as well, especially after we came back from the COVID break and started getting rolling there. I think it's more just us getting better at this no-practice racing, and us understanding how the track is to start these races, when it starts with not too much rubber, things like that.
Obviously I'm a lot more comfortable now just dealing with the whole situation, we know what to expect on a weekly basis. (Indiscernible) with the guys more, communication, all those things. I've known everybody forever, but it just feels more comfortable now. That's a big part.
I think I've known what Martin needs. He knows what he needs. It's always been about us just trying to put it together. I think it's just things are clicking again, they're going right, they're not going wrong. That's what happened a lot last year. It's nice. Hopefully it continues.
Q. How rewarding are the days like today when you don't have the fastest car, a dominant car like what your teammate had, yet you find a way to come out on top and make the right changes?
JAMES SMALL: To be honest, this feels even sweeter than any other one we had. It was just a weird day, it was difficult. It's definitely really a nice feeling, I won't deny it. It's nice.
The 11 did that to us at Dover last year. We led a lot of the race. He passed us late and won because he had a better car. Ours kind of went away a little bit. A similar thing happened.
It comes and goes. I'm sure it will happen to us at some point later in the year. It's definitely sweet, that's for sure.
Q. Talk about being able to find what the car wanted at the end of the race and be strong when it mattered. How much did the track change from daytime to nighttime?
JAMES SMALL: Yeah, I definitely think it was slick, it was getting a lot tighter. Was taking a little more rubber. As it cooled off, I think those series of cautions, on short runs, never allowed it to rubber back up.
We were pretty bad, like tight for a while there. We started going the wrong way. Kind of played into our hands a little bit. The 11 I think still got tight at the end there. We were maybe just a little bit ahead on our adjustments compared to them. It definitely helped.
Also with it cooling down, I think it just got back more into our wheelhouse, where our setup was a little more happy based on the last three races.
Q. You're now the first team to win two races this season, at two of the most important tracks on the schedule. How does it feel to have everybody looking towards the 19 team as the early championship favorite perhaps?
JAMES SMALL: No, it's definitely nice. It's definitely better than looking like a pack of losers. It's good. Hopefully we can just continue this trend now.
As we all know, it's all about bonus points and getting through those rounds. It's definitely nice to have won at two of the most important tracks. There's plenty more we need to knock off and get better at to make sure we make a really good run at it later in the year.
THE MODERATOR: James, congratulations on the victory and making the most of this show tonight. Good luck next week in Richmond.
JAMES SMALL: Thank you very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports