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Martin Truex, Jr. Championship 4 Media Day breakout

The four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship contenders met with the media individually on Thursday afternoon.

(Question about Drew Herring.)

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  I like Drew.  He’s a good kid.  Work a lot with him in the simulator.  He does a lot of simulator driving for us at TRD.  Got to spend some time with him.  Really nice guy.  Good to see him get an opportunity.  Hopefully it goes well with him.

Do you plan on talking with him?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  Absolutely.  We already actually talked some.  He was doing some simulator stuff.  Try to give him a few pointers.  Hope it helps him.

How do you explain to the average race fan, two teammates with one trophy, how you work towards that, separate at some point teammate to competitor?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  I think we do it every weekend.  Nothing different.

This is not an ordinary weekend.

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  I know, but it’s still a race.  Just like last week was a race.  You want to be the best.  Everybody wants to win.

It’s not like we show up at the track and we all have the same car, the same setup, the same thought process, the same driving style.  Yeah, we build cars together, we go through the week and crew chief and engineer say, I want to go down this road.  The other one says, I want to go here.  You end up at different places.  Your decisions throughout the weekend take you different places.

That’s all open information.  It’s going to continue to be that way.  That doesn’t mean we’re all going to be the same.  It’s not like there’s 20 guys in the company pulling for one car, 20 guys pulling for the other car.

Just like last week, a lot more on the line.

Will you drive Kevin Harvick one way as opposed to Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch another way?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  We’ve seen teammates before get into tussles, right?  I think you just take into account who the guy is and try to think about what he would do, and do the same.  See what I’m saying?

I know in ’17 Kyle was behind me, was a little bit faster.  Probably could have run into me if he wanted to at some point.  He didn’t.  He was just trying to put the pressure on for me to mess up, but he didn’t run into me.  He probably could have.

If it was Joey Logano, would have run into him.  If Kyle Busch is leading, I’m second, I’m going to do everything I can do to pass him, but I’m not going to run into him.

I think you race guys the way you want them to race you.  We got lot of experience racing with each other, we understand each other, where each guy would go, I think.  We’ll see how that plays out.

What has it been dealing with Joe on a day?to?day basis?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  It’s been amazing.  Honestly the biggest thing that surprised me was how damn hard that guy works.  I mean, he just does not stop.  He doesn’t have a dealership, he doesn’t golf, hunt or fish.  He races.  If he’s not in that shop, he’s on a plane going somewhere to meet with a sponsor, doing something for the race team.  That’s all he does.

The guy is relentless.  Leading by that example, that’s what the team is built around.  You can win, they’re still working to get better.  You’re never good enough, always working to get better.  Honestly, that’s why we’re so successful this year.  It’s that mentality.

Of course, our guys from Denver fit right into that, that’s Cole to the T, right?  He’s relentless, he’s not going to stop, work until he can’t work any more, think some more and try to do something else.  It’s never good enough.  You can always be better.  How do we do it?

It’s been a good fit for our guys.  Just been amazing to work with all those people this year.  Top to bottom, just first class.

Have you seen any moments, I can see why this guy was a football coach, mad at you or something?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  He stays pretty calm, but I haven’t made him angry yet (laughter).  I’ve heard a few stories about when he got angry.  I’d rather not see it.  I wasn’t around for it, just heard about it.  It was hearsay.  I’ve heard he has gotten mad at Kyle a few times.  Not surprising.  But cool to see, man.  Such a cool guy.

If you look at the three of you, this isn’t an age thing, it’s just being an adult, you’re the mature one out of the bunch, go under the radar.  Kyle is Kyle.  Denny can be 12 or 38 depending on what day it is.  You’re like the even?keeled guy.  Is that an advantage going into a weekend like this?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  I think it’s always an advantage to be able to remain calm and not get too worked up about things, understand how to put things in perspective, focus on only what you can control.

I will say I had to learn the hard way.  If you look at our careers, I went to the school of hard knocks, so to speak, compared to my competition, I would say.  They’ve all had great careers, won a lot of races their whole career.  They didn’t have years where they thought they were done, losing their job, didn’t win races.

I’ve been through a lot of stuff and learned how to deal with those things I guess a little bit maybe better.

You appreciate it more?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  I don’t know if I appreciate it more.  You know what I mean?  I don’t know how they look at things, what goes on in their mind.  I know how I feel about things.  Every single win for me is still huge because you never know when the next one is going to be.  I’ve been on the other side of it.  You never know what’s going to happen.

I definitely don’t take this for granted.  I love this opportunity.  Having the time of my life with this team.  Love working with these guys, driving their cars.  It’s just been amazing this whole season.  I just want to try to keep it going, not get ahead of myself, race one week at a time.

It’s amazing to be here having another opportunity at a championship.  I still have a hard time believing I’ve already got one, let alone here we are with a really, really good chance I feel like at a second.  I can’t imagine the names of the list I would be on with those others.  Still blows my mind.  I’m pretty jacked up about it.  Hopefully we can get it done.

Seems like you and Cole no matter where you start you find the front.  Are you worried about where you start Sunday?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  I would say I’m definitely not worried.  I don’t expect to qualify great.  I feel like top 10 guys probably won’t finish in the top 10.  Like the top 10 qualifiers probably will not be anywhere around halfway through the race.  I feel that way.  It’s just that type of track, this year with this package.

But that being said, I think a lot of guys understand that and might come here with a different approach.  So we might qualify a little better than expected.  It’s so hard to say.  It depends on what guys are working on, where they’re at.

I’m not worried at all with where we qualify.  I think it will have no bearing at all on how we race.

Seems like you and Cole know how to figure out the transition from day to night.  How confident are you in that?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  It’s always been a strength for us.  I think it’s because we plan ahead, go off past history, have a good understanding of that, and confidence in our decisions.  We can live with ourselves if we’re off a little bit maybe in the daytime, kind of understanding what it’s going to do.  It’s hard to do that, say we’re going to be off a little bit, but how much.

Cole does a good job of being confident in himself.  I follow suit.

Last championship race at Homestead.  Next year we’re going to Phoenix.  Should we move the race around?  Something you’d be in favor of?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  I think it’s important to do that.  I think it’s a great thing for the sport.  Certainly Phoenix has earned that opportunity with what they’ve done there and the fan support out there has been incredible.

There’s pluses and minuses to everything, right?  I think the plus about here at Homestead, we only come here once a year.  Completely different racetrack than anywhere we go.  No other track like it.  No other mile?and?a?half true oval.  Long straightaways.  A lot of things are different about Homestead.  We don’t race here in the spring.  I like that fact.

I don’t know that we should race for a championship somewhere where we raced already in the season, you know?  You’re going to have an idea who is going to be good.  This weekend is a total crapshoot because we haven’t been here in a year, it’s a new car, new tire, everything is different.  You have no idea what to expect.  That’s a good thing for the championship.

The other thing is, every year a different guy wins it.  Not like there’s a favorite every year.  That’s a good thing.  I don’t know how you make every racetrack that way.

At the same time I definitely think we should move it around.  Pluses and minuses I guess for both.

You’re part of a generation of drivers in the Jimmie Johnson era.  No other multi?time champions at this time.  How should your generation be judged or viewed?  A championship is fantastic, but it pales in comparison.

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  That’s a great question.  I think things have changed so much.  Certainly a different day and time than it was in the old points system.  If you look at a 10?race playoff the way it used to be, things would be different.

Is it harder or easier?  I don’t know.  I would say the odds are a lot worse in this system to win.  I don’t know how to view that, to be honest.  I don’t know if it’s final four appearances, straight?up race wins.  Championships are huge.  I think it’s harder to win now than ever.  Maybe one means more than one used to.  I don’t know.

I can’t really answer that.  It would be amazing to win two.  To have the opportunity again is huge.  You just want to put your best foot forward and leave here knowing you gave it all you had, you didn’t screw up, step on your foot, put your foot in your mouth or anything stupid.  You just want to leave here knowing you gave it all you had, gave it the best you have, all you had, you can live with that.

What it means, I don’t know.  I think a second championship would be undescribable right now for me.

Final four appearances, because you work so hard to get here, even if you don’t win the championship, is that more of a valid indicator of the season as a whole?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  I think it just depends on who’s looking at it and how they look at it.  I don’t really know how to answer that, to be honest.  I think it’s a huge accomplishment to make the final four.  I think if you look at the elimination races and the stress, the amount of decisions that are made, the amount of laps that are raced, how many things in racing can happen to you.

If you get to this level and have this much success, you don’t really believe in luck any more, you know?  You can’t because if you do, then you’re relying on luck to get you where you want to go.  It’s probably not going to work out consistently.

So I think it’s very, very difficult to get here.  I think the argument could be that final four appearances are very important.  They’re looked at in some way that is more than, Well, the guy didn’t win the championship.

I don’t know.

You talked before about how your career has been different than the other three.  You look at them, they’re steadily winning race, built a Hall of Fame career.  Five years you went from a good driver to you have Hall of Fame numbers now.  How do you look at that?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  Lucky.  A lot of the sport is about timing.  Certainly always been about people, having the right group surrounding you.  I’ve been very lucky to have that.  Since I got together with Cole, we hit it off, you know.  We complement each other well.  We work hard.  We hold each other accountable.  We have fun.

I just feel lucky, honestly.  I had some years where I felt like I was a winning driver.  We were in position to win multiple races, some of those even terrible years.  We just didn’t have the whole package.  We’d have a bad pit stop, something would happen all the time it seemed like where we’d make a bad adjustment or have a restart that didn’t go the way we needed it to.  Seemed like it was always something.

But through that I always knew I could do it.  I could put cars out front, qualify on the pole, I could lead laps.  Just we couldn’t do everything all at the same time.  Now just the team is amazing.  We can do all that stuff consistently like clockwork.

Yeah, never know when it’s going to end.  Keep it going.

When did the transition happen?  You almost expected something to happen in the past.  Now you almost expect you’re coming out on the winning end.  Where did that change or when?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  Whew, that’s a good question.

I would say 2015 we still had those moments of we only won one race, probably should have won four, five, six.  We still had those things.  Had to work through them as a team.

I guess the confidence came with just consistently beating the odds, able to come out on top more times than not.  We kept getting better at it, more confident in our decisions.  Being able to stay together as a group, our core group throughout those years, was a huge part of that.  Just building confidence in one another, building up that résumé as you go.

Did you ever hate Joe Gibbs?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  No, sir.  I don’t really hate anyone, to be honest.

Three JGR drivers in the final four, is that a case of strength in numbers?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  Strength in numbers.  75% chance Cup comes back to JGR, which all the employees there deserve, which is huge.  Selfishly I want it to be my team.  I think that’s where all three of us are.

How do you view Denny and Kyle as competitors?  Does that change with a winner take all?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  I think throughout the weekend, throughout the race, you’ll start to look at those things more.  I feel like this race, my personal thought is I feel like we’re going to have to beat the whole field to win this championship.  Every year we see it, you got to win the race.

It wouldn’t be smart, I don’t think, to overthink one guy, what is this guy going to do, what is that guy going to do.  You need to focus on what are you going to do.  That’s what I’m focused on.

I think you’re going to have to win this race just like every other year, so I’m focused on that.

(Question about Barney Visser.)

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  Bittersweet.  I wish he was coming here this weekend, but he can’t.  Just good to see him, him and his wife.  Good to see him at the racetrack, smiling like always.  He watches every week, pulls for us, texts me and calls all the time.  He gets really excited when we do good still, which is so great.

Was he the game changer in your career?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  No question.  No question.  Who would have thought, I went there in 2014, my only option basically.  Well, I had two options, but I felt like that was the better one.  It started bad.  We worked through it.  Yeah, pretty crazy.

Dominating short tracks, a big part of what got you here this year?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  I think being able to go everywhere and feel like you can win, to a driver, it’s very gratifying.  For me personally, to win Richmond finally after so many close calls, should have won a bunch of them, felt good to get that monkey off our back.

To win Martinsville was huge for me personally.  Early in my career, it was a tough track.  I dreaded going there the first couple times.  It went pretty bad the first few times.  To be able to finally crack that one, check that box, was really sweet.

What is your relationship with Denny and Kyle?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  Away from the track, I think we get along well.  I would say we’re not really good friends.  We don’t hang out, do stuff away from the track with each other.  I think the mutual respect is something that stands out to me.

We’ve raced against each other for a long, long time.  You learn to respect guys like that.  I respect certainly what they’ve done, what they’re capable of today.  I know how tough they are to beat week in, week out.  I know what they have, how they do things.  We share, talk a lot.  There’s still always things you can do.  Everybody has their own style, what they like, what they like the car to feel like, how they drive, things like that.

We’re all quite different in those ways.

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