Toyota Racing – Martin Truex Jr.
NASCAR Cup Series Quotes
CHARLOTTE (August 31, 2023) – Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. was made available to media as part of the NASCAR Playoff Media Day.
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Where do you think you and James are for this and does it help that you’ve been there before?
“Yeah, I feel really good about where we are at as a team. We have had a lot of experience in the Playoffs, and kind of understand that things turn up a few notches here in Darlington. The first round has some good tracks in it, and we are ready to roll.”
Do you feel as strong as ever?
“I don’t know. It’s really hard to think about it and compare, but I feel really good about our team, where we are at and what we’ve been able to do the past few months. We are ready to go and see what we can do. Darlington is a great place for us to kick it off.”
Is your toughest competition within Joe Gibbs Racing?
“I think it is too early to tell. A lot can happen in the Playoffs, which we have seen in the past, we just have to worry about ourselves and be consistent and try to execute and we will be fine. The other guys – the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and 20 (Christopher Bell) are fast. It is always tough to race with your teammates, because you all have the same thing and you share everything during the week, so how to you find that extra little bit. I think James (Small) has done a really good job of that this year, and we will look to keep it going.”
How do you handle that?
“You just go race hard, and obviously fair. We don’t hold anything back as far as meetings and sharing things, but just once you get to the track on Saturday’s it is every team for itself. I feel like we do a good job working together and keeping it professional and racing well with each other on the race track as well, so it is nice to have great teammates.”
How miraculous was it what Christopher Bell did last year?
“It was very impressive, clutch moments for him and his career and their season, and I think in a time where I think we were not where we wanted to be as an organization. They really figured it out at the ROVAL and then again at Martinsville. We struggled at both of those tracks last year, so to see how they were able to do that was really impressive.”
How does starting at the top change how you prepare for the first round?
“None, none at all. You just have a little bit more of a safety net with those bonus points. So just thinking back to the last time that we had that amount, things were just more relaxed. You weren’t so nervous about every single point. You had a little bit of a cushion, and you could be smart about things.”
Why do you think that has happened?
“I think it is just parity. The field is the closest it has ever been. It’s difficult to do that with all four. I think we were really close obviously, with Ty (Gibbs) not getting but being the first guy out. Certainly, I think for a rookie season, I think he did a great job. It’s just parity. Everything is so close now, there is just no room for error. If you have bad races, you are out. That is what we’ve seen.”
How do you feel about your chances?
“I feel good. I feel as good as I ever have going into the Playoffs. It’s been a really strong year for us, consistently up at the front, and doing what we need to do. Certainly, let a few wins slip away, which is always disappointing but to have three and the Clash win is a pretty good regular season, so you just have to keep putting yourself in the right position.”
What do you think about starting in Darlington?
“I love Darlington, so I’m always excited to go there. I look forward to that track and that race. It is a long race – the Southern 500 – but I’m excited. Last year, I felt like we had that race won and then had some issues late, so I’m looking for a little redemption.”
Does this feel similar to your championship year?
“I think just the feeling every week when we go to the track, we are going to have a shot to win, and just confidence in my team and what they are doing. I ask for things in practice, and they always find a way to make the car better when I need it. Whether we have a good or bad practice, I always feel like we race well. They are just doing a good job of pushing the right buttons and giving me what I need, which is really what this is all about.”
Has the makeup of your team changed over the years, and do they know what the Playoffs are like?
“I feel like our team is very experienced Playoff wise. The core group has been together and has the same mindset that we had in 2017. It feels the same. That is always good, and it gives me a lot of confidence. They are doing a great job and pushing all of the right buttons, so we just have to keep doing that.”
What do you think the difference is from last year and this year?
“If you look across JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Toyota as a whole, I feel like we are stronger this year. Everybody did a really good job in the off season of making the right changes and working on the right things, and I think for us – just understanding the car. We took a lot of gambles last year and tested a lot of things, and we found a lot of things that didn’t work and that is part of the process of figuring these things out. I think we were really aggressive last year and that was maybe not great at times but this year, I think is just helped speed up that learning process. Better cars, better understanding of those cars and just being able to put it all together is the difference.”
Did last year missing the Playoffs stick with you guys?
“100%. The day after Phoenix last year it was like alright, we are getting to work. It really lit a fire under everybody to just show how bad they wanted it and go to work on it. I think our whole group across the board really, right after Phoenix, got to work on things and it definitely was a big inspiration for us this year.”
Is there anything that you are worried about?
“Not really worried. Ever since we went to the Next Gen car, everything has been closer and that is just another example of that. It is harder to find an advantage, it’s harder to run at the front every week consistently. Everything is tighter, closer together, less room for error – and you really have to be on top of things. The points situation is the same as every other race. It’s really, really hard to be at the front all of the time.”
Do you have any race tracks that you are worried about?
“I think the only one that really ever makes me nervous is Talladega because that type of racing, it is just hard to control your own destiny sometimes. Otherwise, I think all of the tracks are a lot of different types of tracks, but good variety. Good tracks that we are looking forward to the challenge with.” z
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