Martin, we have a big two weeks ahead here in Charlotte. You have your Martin Truex Jr. Foundation event tomorrow night, followed by NASCAR Day on Friday, then you’ll compete in the Sprint Showdown on Saturday and hopefully advance into the All-Star Race later that evening.
On top of that Charlotte Motor Speedway is offering an extra $1 million if a driver can win all five segments. With the big prize on the line, no points at stake, is there a different strategy going into this race than any other?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, obviously a huge week for all of us. Very excited about tomorrow night with our foundation event, the fourth annual Catwalk For Cause. Definitely excited to get over to the speedway and get on the racetrack and trying to get into the Sprint All-Star Race.
It’s a big week, excited about the race this weekend, and looking forward to going there and hopefully winning the Showdown again, which we’ve done before. The All-Star Race is one of the funnest events of the year. To not be a part of it is pretty miserable. Hopefully we’ll be able to make it in that thing, have some fun, chase a couple million bucks.
Q. As we head into the next couple weeks, Charlotte, a mile-and-a-half track, you have 11 top 10s in the last 13 races on mile-and-a-half’s going back to early last season. What have you been able to do or how challenging has it been to have that type of success over a year’s time with two different cars?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: You know, that’s interesting. I’m not sure exactly what the reason is. I really enjoy those racetracks. I feel like a lot of those tracks that we talk about, mile-and-a-half’s, with Texas a few weeks ago, we came so close to winning, led a bunch of the race, and Kansas ran in the top five all day and led some laps.
I don’t know what it is about the mile-and-a-half’s. I think Chad and I have maybe a better understanding of what we need at those racetracks and are able to get the car good enough in practice and get the feel that I need in practice to where it’s good in the race.
Certainly our racecars, obviously when you go into those big tracks, everything comes into play, downforce, aerodynamics, horsepower. TRD has given us some great horsepower this year.
I think maybe they’re some of our better racetracks. We’ve been able to run well at ‘em. I definitely enjoy the big, fast racetracks. It seems it fits our team, as well.
Q. Obviously I know you’re trying to win every week. When you see a guy like David Ragan, and I know restrictor plate racing is a little different, when you see a team that doesn’t have as much success in general win, does it pain you any more that it’s been awhile since you have won?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Honestly, no, I don’t think you look at that. All you can do is concentrate on your own efforts, what you’re doing.
I was really happy to see him win, not only for him but for his team. A small team, it’s nice to see guys like that that work hard that don’t have the powerhouse teams and all the money go out there and be competitive and be successful and get to Victory Lane.
That was my first thought. Wow, that was pretty cool to see somebody like that win with a team like that. Other than that, honestly you don’t really think about it.
Q. Martin, the All-Star Race has changed over the years as far as the format is concerned. What are your overall thoughts about the current format? Over the years as a fan or a driver, what has been your favorite format for the All-Star Race?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I think the format this year is really good. I think obviously last year I didn’t think it was a good idea to do it the way they did because of the way it all worked out. The guy winning the first segment being able to start first, I don’t think they were prepared for that to happen exactly the way it did. Had a chance to be probably a better show.
This year I think the format is good. Obviously with the incentive to win all the segments, guys are not going to say, Okay, we’re in good shape for the last one, we’re going to take it easy and take care of our stuff, make sure we’re in that last one.
I think you’re going to see all-out racing all night long, which is a great thing. Obviously we hope to be a part of that.
I think honestly the new way they’re doing it this year is probably one of the best they’ve had as far as, again, having that incentive to win all of ‘em. Guys are going to be after it. I think we’re going to see some exciting racing.
Q. What are your thoughts about the old invert format they used to run?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I never really liked that because you weren’t really sure what to do. I think some guys took chances on sandbagging a little bit, hoping they’d invert, let’s say, eight, they’d try to finish eighth if they could. I think all-out racing, no invert, the guys that win start up front, that’s the way to do it.
Q. Martin, I wanted to ask you what it means to a driver to get the fan vote and go in that way? Secondly, how do you feel like the fan vote has changed with the social media that’s here and is much more prevalent now than when you received a fan vote? Is there more lobbying, more of an organized effort?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think there’s been all types of strategies on trying to get the fan vote. Obviously when I won it in 2005, I was completely and absolutely shocked and humbled to be voted in by the fans.
Obviously our sport revolves around the fans. We talk about it all the time. Without them, there would be no NASCAR, we would not be doing what we’re doing. I get to drive racecars for a living. Growing up as a kid, I never thought that was even a possibility.
To get voted in by the fans was one of the coolest things I’ve ever had happen to me in my whole career. Maybe this year we’ll have a chance at it.
I would say my odds are not very good with Danica being in there. But my fans have been voting, they’ve been on Twitter talking about it. I want to thank them. It’s cool to have that support from all them guys. It’s really neat.
We’ve seen all different types of strategies trying to get people the fan vote, with all kinds of different things they’ve done over the years. I think for us this year it’s just about going out on the racetrack and doing the best we can, getting our fans involved, hope they vote.
I’m not real sure what everybody else is doing. Our plan right now is to go to the Showdown, win the thing, get in that way.
Q. Why do you think there haven’t been a lot of the fan vote drivers ending up winning the race? Is that just a matter of how it goes?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, it’s just kind of how it goes. I think in general, we have seen the fan vote winner win the race before, but I don’t think it’s something you see a lot just because the guys that win most of the races, the guys that win a lot, are the guys that are probably already in the thing. It’s definitely a longshot to get voted in and win the thing. But anything can happen, that’s for sure.
Certainly our team is capable of going there and winning if we can get in the race.
Q. Martin, wins are so difficult at this level. You’ve been close a lot of times. Is there a best way to handle any frustration that comes out of not being able to win very often? Do you learn from other drivers on how to handle that?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, that’s a good question. I think for me personally it’s just a matter of, okay, take the good things, take the bad things, analyze them all, try to figure out how you can do better next time. There’s no sense in getting mad, upset or down about it. We have a job to do the next week. Turn your focus on, How can I do better next time? Is there something I did wrong, something I need to look at?
Like you said, it’s difficult to win at this level. Every week there’s 42 guys that are mad, there’s only one guy that’s happy. Your odds of winning races are pretty tough. It’s not like normal sports where it’s one-on-one, you got a 50% chance of winning. It’s a lot more difficult than that.
There’s so many things that go into winning. I’ve said before you have to do a million things right to win a race, and if one little thing goes wrong somewhere along the way, you’re not going to win. There’s a lot going on, a lot of things to think about.
I don’t really get mad. Obviously it’s frustrating at times, but you got to take the positives out of it and try to learn from the things that maybe didn’t go your way, you didn’t do right, move on to the next one.
Q. Do you learn from other drivers how to handle that?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don’t think so. I mean, I think everybody is their own person, probably handles it a little bit differently. I think certainly over the past five or six years I’ve had a lot of disappointments, a lot of heartbreaks. So I think I’ve definitely gotten better in the way I handle them and try to move on from them.
Q. How big a deal would it be to win the Showdown race for you? I assume you’ve been pretty frustrated because you obviously came so close to winning several races in the last year and a half.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think it would be a good thing for us. It would be a great thing for our team. We won it in 2007. After that it seemed to kickstart our team. Went to Dover, ran second or third, ended up making the Chase for the first time that year. I definitely think there’s some incentive there. It builds confidence. It gets the guys pumped up.
For sure, I mean, without a doubt, I feel like we should win that race. Anything less would be a disappointment. We’re going there guns loaded trying to do all we can do, and hopefully we’ll come out on the right side of it this time.
Q. If you don’t finish first or second in that race, do you feel you’ll be behind for the 600?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, it definitely doesn’t help. Track time is very, very important. With it being the new car, the Gen-6 car, going there for the first time, we’ve tested there, but testing is testing, that was three or four months ago and a lot has changed since then. So, yeah, there’s definitely a lot to learn. If you don’t make that race, I think you’ll be behind the eight ball come 600 weekend.
Q. I know you’re focused on Charlotte for the next two weeks, but I was wondering if you could look to the two races after that, Dover and Pocono. For years they’ve been on the schedule back-to-back. What is it like running at two different places like that back-to-back? Is there anything that carries over from one to the other? How tough is that maybe running two such different places?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, actually it’s part of the schedule I really look forward to, Dover being what I call my home track, my favorites, and then Pocono, which is a place a spent a lot of time as a kid going up to the Poconos snowboarding, going back to the modified Race of Champions, watching my dad and uncle race when I was a little kid. I enjoy going to those two races first and foremost.
As far as being different, you could not pick two more different racetracks. So, yeah, it’s a challenge for the teams. You definitely have to really have two different mindsets as far as how you approach those racetracks with the racecars and the setups and all those things.
Definitely two weekends at the racetrack that really couldn’t be any more different.
Q. You said you look forward to those on the schedule. I know what your favorite Dover memory is with your win. Do you have a favorite Pocono memory?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Not one that stands out. We’ve had some really good runs there over the years. Had really good cars there last year. I think I ran second or third there a few times.
Last year in the second race I felt like we had a car that was capable of winning. I think that was when we got some rain or one of those races was shortened or something like that, I think I remember.
But, yeah, I definitely look forward to it. The track is fun. It’s big, fast, open. You can make a lot of things happen. Always look forward to it.
Favorite moment would probably be when I finished third there back in ’07. I was catching the leaders, and it started raining. I wish it would have held off for about 10 more minutes.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the 2010 All-Star event. You won the Showdown, finished second in the All-Star Race. What do you remember from that night?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I remember finishing second (laughter).
You know, I remember we went over there and we had the test and we learned a lot. Charlotte has not been one of my favorite racetracks as far as being successful, being able to get my car to do what I want it to do. We’ve really struggled with getting the car turning well.
That year what stuck out to me was over there in the test we learned some things that worked. We took them over there and applied them in the race. Things went smooth. Obviously, like you said, we won the Showdown. Had a really good racecar all night long in the big race.
You know, again, I don’t know. I guess second sticks out to me because it seems like I’ve done it a few times. Just having the opportunity to be in that race, I remember how excited the team was. I was so excited to be able to win that, not because it was a win but because it put us in the All-Star Race.
It’s not about winning the Showdown. Nobody really cares who wins it. It’s just a matter of getting in the All-Star Race. That’s what we’re focused on again this week.
Q. Martin, you were talking about the mile-and-a-half tracks and you were talking about Pocono. Dover you say is your home track. What makes Dover so unique, especially with the concrete surface?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I think the biggest thing about Dover is the banking and the speed, the way the corners drop off. It feels like when you go off of a corner, feels like you’re falling off a building. You almost fall a whole story down into the corner. And the load that the car sees when it falls into the banking there is unlike anywhere we go.
It’s very similar to Bristol but it’s a whole different feeling with the extra half mile added on and all the speed you get there. It’s just really, really fast. Tons and tons of grip. It’s a place that, with the concrete, you really have to attack it, but at the same time the edge is very, very fine and can bite you in a second.
A very difficult racetrack but one that I know is definitely one of my favorites, one that I really enjoy the challenge of, and definitely one of the most difficult tracks on the circuit.
Q. Besides racing, what is your favorite prerace activity you always looked forward to during the All-Star or 600 weekend?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: The best thing about racing at Charlotte is being able to sleep in your own bed at night. We spend a lot of time on the road obviously with our schedule. It’s nice to drive to the racetrack, run all day, then drive home and hang out at the house.
Going along with that, we always have a lot of friends and family in town for that race. That definitely makes it even more special.
Always fun to race at home and looking forward to the next two weeks, for sure.