Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to media at Auto Club Speedway:
Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Are you concerned with any performance from Joe Gibbs Racing this season?
“I was pretty happy with my car again today. The guys are doing a good job there. These things, they’re very picky and very tricky and things change really quick. Guys are obviously doing a good job. Had a really strong car in Vegas last week, I was really happy with that. Felt like we were going to be in position to have a shot at winning there. Of course we had our issues. That’s part of the deal. So far here at Fontana, feel pretty good and hopefully that will translate into a good day on Sunday.”
Do you see the Chevrolet teams running better?
“They definitely look fast. We typically, even if you go back to last year, we don’t have a lot of speed. The speed charts and the faster lap times, we seem to struggle. That’s something we’ve been working on, but we haven’t really made any progress on. It’s a little bit frustrating. It makes it difficult to really know where you are with your car and things like that until you get into the race. Last week I had a really good feeling about our car, we got in the race and it raced well. That’s not always the case. Feeling pretty good here today again once we got some things dialed in throughout practice and our last run was our best, which is always a good sign. Hopefully we can get it dialed in for Sunday.”
Will racing at Phoenix make the championship race more abnormal?
“I think it will be more important for sure. Obviously, there’s no guarantees if you run good in the first race that you’ll run good in the second one, you know what I mean. I think a lot of guys are definitely going to be focused on next week and what they can do there. It’s definitely unique going to that track twice. I don’t necessarily like that. I like that Homestead was a one-off deal. A lot of guys will be putting a lot of effort in next week to see where they stand.”
Do you not like it because it gives people an advantage?
“It gives you a sample and then you have six months to work it out. I don’t necessarily like it, but it is what it is.”
Do you have a good car this weekend thus far, which will make up for last week?
“You do this long enough, you understand that it’s an up and down sport. Some days are going to be good and some days aren’t going to be good. We seem to have a lot of good days and it makes the bad days a little easier to take. You go onto next week and you have a shot at redemption. Certainly last week was disappointing, but the speed in our car and the opportunity I felt like we were going to have if things didn’t go the wrong way, that’s what we’re looking for and hoping for. See if we can do better on Sunday.”
Do you expect the short track package to improve the racing at Phoenix?
“I think if you go back to 2018, it will be similar to that. The cars are going to be basically exactly the same as they were then aside from what guys have learned since. Should be good, looking forward to it.”
Are you concerned that you haven’t won at Phoenix?
“Not really. It’s been kind of a decent track for us over the years I would say. I felt like since the repave, it’s taken a little bit for us to get our arms around it. I feel like we’re getting better there and that’s a good thing. Some good runs there the last couple years. Last fall felt like we were about the closest we’ve been in a few years at least to having a shot. New rules going back a few years. 2018 we ran well there so hopefully we can expand on that and find some more speed there.”
How is Ryan Newman doing?
“He’s doing good. He’s chomping at the bit to get to the race track, I can tell. He’s in good shape, doing good.”
What do you think this race is going to look like Sunday?
“I don’t remember a whole lot about the race last year, but I know restarts will be crazy, they always are. You look at last week and I feel like the tighter the field gets speed-wise, the more important restarts become. Everyone knows that and you get on a track with five lanes on it like California, there’s going to be a guy in every one of them. Certainly, hopefully you can stay out of trouble. Last year we got wrecked here on the very first restart, which was end of stage one I guess. Pretty much ruined our day. Same thing happened last week. You have to try to watch out for the dumbasses out there. It’s pretty difficult to do sometimes.”
How do you work around them?
“Pick a hole and go with it, hope they hold their line. That’s all you can do. Not a whole lot you can do about others driving their cars.”
How do you get over being frustrated about the others?
“You just finish the race the best you can and move onto next week.”
Do you expect the package from last week to behave similarly in Atlanta?
“For sure. Anywhere where we have multiple grooves, restarts are going to be as many cars as we can fit between each other on the race track. That’s just the way that goes. The cool part about a place like Atlanta is tires fall off and you slide around and you have to start lifting. The good cars go to the front and that’s what’s fun. We’ll have some of that here as well. There will be some guys that are really fast for a few laps, probably qualify good and then after 10 or 15 laps on tires, they’re going to go backwards. That’s just the nature of this package and these types of tracks. I’d expect we’ll qualify in the 20s somewhere like we always did last year and hopefully be able to drive forward from there.”
What did you think of the new tire this weekend?
“To be honest, I only ask sometimes. I just drive and try to talk to the guys about what I need. I feel good about the tire, it’s got good fall off. It’s got pretty decent grip taking off and no tire wear issues, that’s all you can ask for.”
What is qualifying like here?
“It’s going to be wide open for sure. Difficult wide open. Maybe some of the fast cars might have to lift. I did a mock run in first practice and I was able to hold it flat, barely. It wasn’t easy, but we weren’t that fast either. We’ll see what happens.”
How are things going with James Small?
“I’m feeling really great about things. Honesty, last week at Vegas we unloaded, and our car was so close I was like, ‘Damn, that’s pretty good James, you’re first real race as a crew chief and the balance is pretty close unloading.’ Last year that was probably what we did the worst. We were always way off to start and had to figure it out. I think he’s doing a great job, and everything is going smooth. He’s really prepared, he’s calms, he’s straightforward with everything and he has game plan. Things are all really going well so he’s doing a perfect job.”
Do you remember what it was like to have the race at the back of the field regularly?
“It’s nothing now like it was then. It’s not at all like that. This package and this racing are so different than it was back then. Everybody, these cars are bad in dirty air, they’re not good in traffic and you get back in the 20s and the 30s there, a lot of things can surprise you. Some guys just don’t understand that yet, that’s part of the learning process. We were going to be fine last week and just got blocked on the straightaway and got run into the fence and got a tire rub. It was probably my fault, I should have lifted, and I didn’t expect what happened to happen. I was a little caught off guard, but I should have lifted. Most other drivers I would have lifted anyway, and I probably should have done that. That was on me. Fast car and that’s part of racing getting back there like that.”
Is there less experience in the back these days?
“There’s definitely less experience for sure. I think a lot of it has to do with these cars and you have to run them so hard and you have to try not to lift and you just find yourself in bad positions a lot more often because of that. One slip trying to run wide open, you can be moving up a whole lane if there’s a guy there, it’s over. Back in the day, you were lifting, and guys weren’t three and four wides on restarts for the most part. It’s more difficult because there’s more traffic and smaller mistakes are magnified, especially when you’re back there around a lot of cars.”
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