|Martin Truex Jr. is 12/1 to win Sunday at Las Vegas.|
How has the 2016 season started for your race team?
“The season has gone well so far. Certainly this offseason was a busy one for everybody at Furniture Row Racing. The switch to Toyota involved a lot of work, it involved a lot of overtime and a lot of effort by everybody involved from our side, also from Toyota’s side and the folks at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) that we have an alliance with. It’s been a very busy offseason. We’ve been really pleased with how things have started off. Obviously Daytona was a really good race for us and Atlanta, the first downforce race with the low downforce package went really well – we had a really fast race car all weekend and we challenged for the win all the way up to the end. It’s gone well so far, probably even better than expected out of the gate. I’m just proud of everyone for all the efforts and all the work that has went in. We had a good test yesterday and looking forward to seeing what we can do here this weekend.”
How has your team been able to be so good early this season, despite the manufacturer change?
“We’ve got an awesome team. I can’t say enough about them and what they do and what they’ve done this offseason to prepare. We just click. We have a really good chemistry. Yesterday was an example with the test. We unloaded with stuff we’ve never run before, weren’t that good off the trailer and just continued to work on it all day long. By the end of the day, I felt like we were the best car. Just a lot of smart people making good decisions. We really have a good chemistry. We have that trust and belief in each other. When I ask my guys about something, I know they’re going to figure out how to get it to me. It’s just really fun to go to the race track and work together like that as a team and have that confidence in each other. Honestly I’ve never had a team where I felt more confident in them. I think most importantly, I’ve never had a team where I felt that in return, where they felt like I was the best guy for them and they wouldn’t want anyone else in their car. Just that relationship makes it so much easier to go to work and work on cars and figure out how to make them go fast.”
Does your team understand how penalties will be officiated?
“I don’t really know, you’d have to ask the team guys that to know exactly how that factors into things. I think in our case, this situation is kind of an odd one. It’s not like we were trying to pull something over on somebody. This was a case where something happened and they don’t really understand. I’ll let the team go through the appeal process and do what they have to do. At the end of the day, we raced Atlanta without any issues. We obviously had a fast car and very competitive day on the race track. I’m just really looking forward to continuing that today. I’ll let the team figure out that side of things and do my job this weekend.”
What has been the team’s reaction to the penalties, and are they more motivated now?
“I think that goes unsaid with our team, the extra motivation. We come to the race track every weekend with that kind of mentality. From that side of it, it’s not a big deal. From Cole’s (Pearn, crew chief) side, I think he’s a bit frustrated from how it went down, which is understandable. I think people in the garage area talk and he feels like, ‘Do people really think I’m stupid enough after what happened at Daytona to try to pull something on NASCAR in the same area?’ He’s a little frustrated by that side of it, but at the same time, being it’s a safety issue, it’s really a big deal to figure out exactly how it all happened. Figure out how to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. We’ll go through the appeals process.”
What changes have you experienced with the team switching over to Toyota this year?
“There’s a lot of differences from little things – like the feel of the car, the approach that the guys at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) have on their front ends and steering ratios and those different things. You’re learning all that. The fuel mapping, the digital dash is new and the low downforce – so there’s a lot of new things that I’ve kind of had to adapt to quickly. I still don’t know exactly where the switches are on the dash and I have to look at it. It’s little things like that that take some getting used to. Then we’re working with a lot of different people when we have our team meetings with the Gibbs guys, listening to Denny (Hamlin) and Kyle (Busch) and Matt (Kenseth) and Carl (Edwards) and trying to understand exactly what they are saying about their race cars. What is a car that is loose to them, what does it feel like to me if it’s the same. Trying to decipher a lot of things with new people and get to know them and understand them and at the same time keep that focus on the race car and what it takes to make it go faster.”
Are you running the same setups as the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers or is it Furniture Row Racing setups?
“I would say it’s a mix of both. A lot of the stuff that we have done so far is stuff we did last year, but the car itself and all the parts and pieces are so much different than what we had last year that it takes adapting to on the setup side as well.”
Do you worry the penalty could affect the momentum your race team has going on right now?
“If it were six races, I would say yes. Being that it’s one, I don’t think we’ll miss a step. We have a lot of good people we can plug in to call the race and obviously Cole (Pearn, crew chief) will be a huge part of getting our car to the race track the way he wants it and helping us get through the weekend setup-wise and making decisions. I don’t really see it being a big issue. I wish it didn’t have to happen, but it’s part of it.”
What is your expectation for Sunday’s race after yesterday’s test session?
“It’s hard to say. I thought the track went through a really big transition yesterday getting rubber laid down. It got pretty hot in the afternoon and got pretty slick, which is good to see. I thought the groove got pretty wide for the first day and I think it will continue to widen out as the weekend goes on, especially after the XFINITY race tomorrow. I think it’s going to be a really good race and the groove is going to get wide and the track is going to be slick depending on the conditions on Sunday if we get some rain, it’s supposed to cool off and get some rain I believe, so that will change it up a little bit. I think if it stays pretty warm, it’s going to be a really good race.”
- GOLIN PR for Toyota Racing