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MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, it’s obviously been a great season for everybody at Michael Waltrip Racing, and being part of the team, this being my third year, it’s obviously a huge step up in the performance of what we’ve been — of what everyone has been used to seeing with Michael Waltrip Racing. So certainly been a pleasure to drive their cars this season. Everybody has done an awesome job.
Q. You’ve come close this year with the win, but just can’t seem to seal the deal. What are some things as a driver you do to adjust to have a better chance at winning races?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, that’s a good question. To be honest with you, we look at everything, everything that I could do different as a driver, everything we could do different as a team, and just try to be better prepared for the next time we’re in a situation, you know, to try to hopefully make better decisions.
Now, obviously some of it comes down to just pure rotten luck, cautions, the way they fall and things like that can kind of dictate how those things go, and I feel like for us this year we’ve probably gave away a race or two by not making the right decision. But there is times also when you make a decision and the circumstances just don’t play out the way they need to for you.
I think that we’ll just keep trying hard, and our cars have been fast enough all year to win races, and we just need to get a little bit of luck on our side and keep doing what we’ve been doing and hopefully close the deal soon.
Q. As far as your team goes, you mentioned your team, obviously Clint Bowyer is a little bit closer to getting the big prize, being 26 points behind, but neither one of you guys are rookies to the Chase. Could you kind of talk about what it’s like to have some experience, and then you’ve got a different partner going into the Chase this time than perhaps you’ve ever had?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I think that definitely with this being my second one, I feel like I’ve got a little bit — I have a little bit better idea of what to expect going in. But it’s been quite a few years since the first time I was in the Chase, and things have changed a lot, certainly the competition level now is even higher than it was then. As we see, the guys that are leading the championship right now, you really have to be almost perfect, and you can’t afford to have a bad race.
We’ve had two bad races, probably two of our worst races of the whole year have come in the Chase. So that’s been kind of disappointing with the season we’ve had.
But it’s one of those things where momentum is a big thing, and you need to be able to be good on all different types of racetracks. Obviously two of our worst tracks this year have been two that are in the Chase, so that’s certainly not what we wanted. But I think we’ve learned a lot as a team this year about how to be better prepared for next year going in, if we can be fortunate enough to get in the Chase, and have a little bit better idea of what we need to do to make sure we don’t have those bad races again.
Q. Talking about Texas Motor Speedway, when you look at your history at this track, you’ve got the two poles, you’ve had a lot of top 10 finishes, in fact, except for a couple of wrecks every finish you’ve had at Texas with MWR has been in the top 10. What do you like or dislike and where does this rank for you on the schedule?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, it definitely ranks right up near the top. Texas is a great racetrack. It’s a place I really enjoy going to. A lot of things about the racetrack that I like. First I think it’s just the all-out speed. I love tracks where you can really get in the gas and stay in it through the corner. But the place has got some character. It’s not only just a fast mile-and-a-half with a lot of banking, it’s got a lot of character. The asphalt is wore out, it’s got a lot of bumps in it, so a lot of really cool things about that racetrack. The way the track flattens out off of Turn 2 and you lose the banking, comes out on the straightaway, very difficult to get your car handling good there.
So the speed and the track surface and all the bumps, there’s so many things that are challenging to the racetrack there, and along with the speed, it’s a place that’s very enjoyable to drive on for me.
Q. I see you’ve been tweeting about your foundation helping with relief efforts for the hurricane. How much has your hometown been on your mind this week and how is your family doing back home?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, well, absolutely thanks for the question. It’s definitely been a tough few days for all the folks in that area. Fortunately my family, everybody is safe, everybody is doing well, still without power, and obviously I think they’re all huddled up over at my sister’s house right now playing some word games by candlelight. But everybody is doing good, and we’re thankful for that.
There’s been a lot of devastation in the area, a lot of trees down, no power. Obviously we don’t know how bad everything is yet until the rest of the storm passes and they can go see how it’s all going, but we know there’s a lot of houses that have been flooded and a lot of bad things have happened.
It’s one of those things where we’re glad to be able to help. We’re putting together efforts today to try to help with some relief, and folks can go to our website at Martintruexjrfoundation.org, and there’s a “donate now” button on there where they can donate to help some relief efforts. We’re very proud to be able to do that, and hopefully the NASCAR fans always step up and help when there’s people in need, and I’m sure this time it will be no different. I want to thank all the folks for that and hopefully we can do our part just to try to get things back to normal.
Q. Is it still mindboggling to you that you have two cars in the Chase and teams such as RCR and Joe Gibbs and Stewart-Haas only have one?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I don’t think it’s mindboggling at all. I think that this is something that we had planned all season. Obviously every team goes into the season planning on doing this. But I felt very strongly after last year how we ended the season with the cars that we were building, with the job that my team was doing and the other teams in our organization, and with bringing in all the guys we did this off-season, I really felt good about the opportunity to be able to do that.
You know, I think it’s a great accomplishment for us when you do say there’s one Gibbs car, there’s one Childress car and there’s two MWR cars, that means a lot. All the people at the shop, they see that and it makes them proud. Just a lot of hard work, and we couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve been able to do.
Now we’ve got Clint still in the hunt to — he’s still got a chance to win this thing. Definitely been a good season for us and something we’re very, very proud of.
Q. Did you discover anything specific about yourself or the team that gives you more confidence going forward?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I think, yeah, absolutely. And I think that that all stems back to last year and the things that we were able to do to turn our season around last year and get prepared for a season like we’ve had this year. I think it was the Texas race in the spring of last year when Michael Waltrip came to me and said, Martin, I know you’re trying, I know you’re doing the best you can, and I know our cars aren’t where they need to be right now, but I promise you I am going to fix it. And that was really kind of a turning point for the whole company was Michael doing that.
Then he started making some changes in the team and the way we were doing things and building race cars, and we leaned a lot more heavily on Toyota Racing Development to kind of help lead us in the right direction, and for me that’s what gave me confidence, to know that Michael and the team believed in me 100 percent and they were going to make things work. Ever since we started bringing out the new cars and all the new things that we were doing, things just started to click, started clicking with my crew chief Chad Johnston and I, started clicking with everybody in the organization, and since then we’ve just been full steam ahead. It definitely goes back to last year.
Q. To sort of follow up on that, you guys started the season with a handful of new drivers, new crew chiefs, a new competition director. There was a lot of things that changed at MWR in the last 12 months. What is it about all of those things? How did all of those things come together, at least the way you see it, to make the team successful?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yeah, I think that obviously you could never bring in that many new different people and expect the results we got. But I think that the guys did a great job, obviously, of choosing the right people, putting them in the right places, and I think, again, it goes back to starting with a solid foundation. What Rob and Michael have built at MWR and lured those guys to come over there and see the potential in the race team, that’s what got it all started.
They did all the tough work and made all this possible for all of us, and so it’s just been fun to be a part of it. But who would have ever thought 11, 12 months ago we’d be sitting here today talking about what a great season we’ve had.
Definitely kudos to all the team and all the hard work that’s gone into it, and it definitely starts at the top, and those guys have done a phenomenal job.