Former Stafford Township resident Martin Truex Jr. begins his quest to win a second consecutive NASCAR Monster Cup Series championship Sunday with pole qualifying for the Daytona 500.
It’s an understatement that the last two months have been busy for Truex since he won the Cup championship in November in Homestead, Florida.
Shortly before his favorite NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles, won the Super Bowl, Press staff writer Guy Gargan spoke to Truex about winning the championship, his offseason and his preparations for 2018.
Q: How have things changed you since you won the series championship? Are you ready to do more publicity and promotion work?
Truex: It’s been a fun and interesting offseason. I’ve done a lot of good stuff and had a lot of fun. You’re always looking for a few more days off here and there, but I do a lot of fun stuff. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of talking. The highlight of the offseason came when I was introducing a Hall of Fame inductee, a NASCAR champion, Red Byron (on Jan. 20). It was definitely an honor that they asked me to do it.
Q: How has Dale Earnhardt Jr. helped you with being one of NASCAR’s top personalities?
Truex: I don’t think being friends with him has anything to do with being famous. We have similar personalities and really get along well. Now that he’s retired, he’s excited about the segment we’re going to do (a TV promotion before the Super Bowl telecast), and it’s really cool for me to feel that energy and to know how good of friends we really are. It’ll be good to get to do that with him and have a little fun together.
Q: What do you like to do on your down time?
Truex: A lot of nothing, or I go hunting and fishing. I try to get in as much of that during the driving season to relax and keep a good mindset.
Q: Have you been back home (to Mayetta, Stafford Township) at all lately?
Truex: I was home for Christmas and saw my family and got to see everyone. It was cool and a lot of fun.
Q: Have you heard about (fellow Southern Regional graduate) Clark Harris making the Pro Bowl?
Truex: Yep. I actually don’t know him or his family, but it’s definitely a cool thing for the area. I think it was a really good year for people from New Jersey in sports in general from what I’ve read.
Q: Since the Daytona 500 is the first race of the season, how do you get focused after the offseason for something so important?
Truex: I’ve been doing it quite a while now, and I kind of understand how it works. The offseason is only two months, so you think about it (the race). We got the car tested, and we feel like we can get back to where we left off. It’s more of a continuation of what we tried to do last year. We have all of our team together, and it’s still the same group of guys with the same mindset.
It’s fun starting off the season with the biggest race. It gets everybody excited. I’m hoping we’ll have a shot at winning this thing. We’ve been close a few times the last few years. It would definitely be a big one to add to the resume.
Q: What will you do to continue the success of last year? Will you keep the same mindset?
Truex: Yeah, for sure. I think the last three seasons have gone very well, and we’ve done better every year. We’ll try to keep that momentum going in the right direction. We’ll try to do better in all the areas where there’s room for improvement. It’s a moving target. Our team is really good when changes come about. They figure it out quickly and make the changes. I feel really good about where we’re at and what we’re doing.
Q: On a personal level, how is (longtime partner) Sherry (Pollex) doing?
Truex: She’s doing great. Everything is going well with her tests. She’s home.
Q: How do feel about (younger brother) Ryan’s progress (in racing)?
Truex: I feel good about where he’s at right now. He’s had a couple pretty good seasons. He has a good opportunity to get back to Xfinity racing after racing trucks the last few years. Hopefully, it will go well for him. Nine years ago, he burst onto the scene, and it looked like he might go right through the ranks. But he really hit some roadblocks and bumps in the road. It’s been tough for him, but he’s got a lot of drive and a lot of talent behind the wheel. He just needs the right opportunity, and I hope this is the right one for him.
Q: Have you ever been to the Super Bowl?
Truex: No, this is the first time. I’m definitely excited. It’s crazy. I was scheduled to come here before in the (NFL) regular season, so when the Eagles made it, it’s crazy that it turned out that way. I had to come, and they’re here, so it turned out pretty well for me.
Q: How big a football fan are you?
Truex: I’m a pretty big fan. I wouldn’t say I’m a crazy fan, but I like it a lot and watch the games. Watching games is the tough part for us (because so much racing is on Sunday). I get to watch the highlights, and I record it. But I definitely watched the playoffs (after the racing season ended), and I try to keep up with all of it.
Q: How is football like auto racing?
Truex: I think there are some similarities especially with teamwork and people working together. It’s the same group of people working together for a common goal. The buzz with the fans and the excitement level around it, and the pre-game festivities. You try to get in a great mental state of mind and get the job done. The teams are a lot different, but there’s a lot of similarities in preparation and mindset.