– Martin Truex, Jr. has said that one of his team’s biggest motivators all season has been the way that things went down last year at Talladega. The blown engine blew a shot at transferring to the round of eight. So what better way to eliminate the Dega pressure than to win at Charlotte?
But it didn’t come easy. He qualified 17th, fought the handling of the 78 most of the race, and then all of the late race restarts. But guess what? He was there when it counted and in front when it mattered. And of course, that was at the end of the race. And now Martin Truex, Jr. heads to Talladega as the only driver with no pressure. A pretty good place to be. Here’s what he had to say about it.
– It’s going to be pretty awesome going to Talladega and saying, oh, what the hell, let’s go race. It doesn’t matter if we crash. You can run up front all day long and finish 25th. You can run up front for 20 laps and get destroyed. I mean, last year, we probably had the best car we’ve ever went there with and we ran 20 laps and blew up.
To go there and not have to worry about all those things is definitely a good feeling but, you know, we’ll go there and try to do everything just the way we did this weekend. We want to be the best we can be and we want to get those bonus points.
COLE PEARN: I think Martin’s like O for 100 in Speedway races. So I know we’ve had a couple ones we’ve got close but, man, we’re — average finish-wise, we’re pretty terrible. So, you know, for us not to have to worry about that– and it’s just the randomness of what can happen but, you know, we always feel like we’re in the randomness, so.
The media makes a big deal about the bonus points but all of a sudden, you know, we look at what happened at the 18 today. We have a day like that and then, boom, we go to Talladega and, you know, all of a sudden we’re going to Kansas sweating it.
So to come out of here and know we’re in the spot we’re in is massive. Absolutely massive.
– Yeah, I love the shot of Cole Pearn running through the garage. I mean, that’s a dedicated crew chief right there running to the garage.
OK. So obviously the 78 going to Dega with no pressure. But he has certainly put pressure on everyone in the playoffs. For you, ring in and for you, as well, what’s more concerning to the other guys– the fact that the 78 won again or the way that they won this race?
– I mean for me, Drew, I think it was the way that they won the race. We look at what they did. They weren’t the quickest car firing off out there and they took off and ran with that thing at the end of it. They tuned on it, worked on it, and seemingly got it better as the day went on there.
– You know, I think you look in qualifying– I looked up and I thought, where is the 78 at? And you keep scrolling down and another said, in practice, they were down two and we didn’t have practice on Saturday. So you wondered about them.
And the thing that I questioned on the 78 is handling pressure when they weren’t the fastest car. Oh, man. They shut me up real quick. They weren’t the fastest car all weekend and they made it faster throughout the race. Martin and the pit crew did a great job. Cole called a good race and made the car better. So the 78, when their back was against the wall, they came out.
– Yeah, and I scanned them a bunch during the race. I mean, you texted some during the race and it almost seemed like they were finally human. Like they were not this superhuman team that was so much quicker than the field. And they were struggling on the radio just a little bit to figure out which way they wanted it go. And Martin kept saying, my car’s not doing what I want it to do. He sounded like a normal driver out there, not the driver I’ve listened to all year long. By the end of it, it was back to normal again. They were just stopping everybody again.
– Now they’ve won. They’ve advanced. They know they’re in the round of eight. They got all those playoff points. How aggressive will they be at Talladega and Kansas next week, Greg?
– Well, I think they have to be aggressive. They have to be aggressive because that’s what they need to keep going. You can’t take a day off, you know. You can’t play prevent defense in this sport. And in any sport, you want to be in the mode that they need to hit Talladega and Kansas right so that they can go into the next three on all eight cylinders.
– And they want to keep up the momentum.
– But they’ve also got the opportunity to get more playoff points and possibly lock out the 18 and the 42 when it comes to advancing to the round of 8.
– I think that’s the key. You can lock some cars out now when you look at the points. You can lock some guys out now that could potentially be your biggest threat for that championship in Homestead. If you can pull that off, that’s mission accomplished if you do that.
– You and I both thought 78 looked human for a while on Sunday and then they did what they always do and they won.