Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to media prior to the Charlotte race weekend earlier today:
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Red, White, Blue Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What has it been like having new tracks on the schedule and how focused are you on success at those tracks?
“If you look at it, none of these tracks are in the Playoffs so I’m not sure that it really matters a whole lot. I think it’s going to be all about trying to gain bonus points and get wins. It’s certainly going to be a new challenge any time you go to a new race track, limited practice, you name it the way we’ve been doing things and it’s a big challenge. Then throwing new road courses into the mix that the field has never been to and it’s a big learning curve. It’s always a challenge through the summer when things heat up and the tracks are slick and we typically do well that time of the year so I’m looking forward to it, but we’ll see, should be fun.”
What makes you so good at Charlotte?
“This place here, we’ve found some things that work for us and we’ve been able to ride that horse for five, six years now. It’s getting more challenging, the track is getting rougher and the teams are all getting closer together setup-wise and what everybody knows about these cars these days. Things have really come together in a smaller box. It’s going to be tough. Had a strong run here last year and hopefully we can improve on that. The car was pretty decent in practice. I feel like we can make it better and if we can make it better, I think we’ll be really good. Just a matter of making the right adjustments from here.”
How nice was it to have a practice session?
“Yes and no. It was nice, but we’re not going to do a whole lot different. I’d say we didn’t really come here with an experiment in the car. I think the guys that really needed to find something are probably happier that we did have practice because maybe they tried some things they really wanted to. We really didn’t go down that path. We weren’t too far out on a limb. From that standpoint, I would have been fine without practice.”
What did you think of Kevin Harvick’s comments after CoTA?
“I would say that I totally agree with his statement when he said that was the most unsafe he’s ever felt. Right decision, wrong decision, I don’t know. I don’t make those. I think at some point it was too hard, the rain was too much. Visibility was too low. When we crashed, I couldn’t see the side of the race track. I couldn’t see the curbs on the edges of the race track to even know if I was on the track. I could have been in the grass for all I knew. It was pretty extreme and definitely, obviously something we need to look at.”
What needs to change if we get rain at another road course?
“I think if you look at it, they’re called wet weather tires, they’re not called racing in a torrential downpour tires. If there’s standing water on the track, that’s a problem. I will say that we had restarts, we had a lot more cars on the race track than other series that run in the rain. I’m sure everybody knows what I’m talking about here. More cars, more cautions, more restarts, more side-by-side, stage breaks, we’re always just in a clump. We never get spread out unless 10 laps into the run or 15 laps into the run. We can’t race in standing water because we cannot see. It’s a different circumstance for us. You have to look at the drainage of the race track, that’s going to play a big role. I think everybody thought that CoTA, with it being a F1 track before that it was going to have some great drainage, well that turned out to be wrong. There were puddles everywhere. It’s going to depend on the race track and how much water is on it. And just how much room there is for us to get out of line so we can see where we’re at.”
What is the most challenging aspect of this 600-mile race?
“Definitely used to be that it changed so much with the old cars and old setups. These days, these cars are so scienced out with what you have, it doesn’t change as much as it used to. I think the hardest part now is that you’re literally running 100 percent every single lap, 400 laps, 600 miles. That’s the hardest part. There is no, let’s get through the first half of the race and see where we’re at. Take it easy, stay on the lead lap. You talk to guys that raced here 15 years ago and they were like, ‘we stay on the lead lap for the first 300 laps, we’re happy and we have a chance.’ Now, you don’t. You have to stay up front, you have to keep your track position. You have to have that thing on 100 percent all day long and it’s tough.”
How hard is it now to lead and win this race like you did when you led all but eight laps?
“It’s very difficult. I would say it’s harder now than it was then. With those cars with low downforce, there was more opportunity to really nail the setup and hit it right. Now, with this 550 package, everybody is so limited on horsepower and lap times are so close together throughout the field, there’s less opportunity to really get your car dialed in and drive away from the field. Big difference today from that aspect of it.”