The drivers who will compete for the Cup title this weekend convened in Miami Beach today for the Championship 4 Media Day.
Here are highlights from each driver’s availability.
Martin Truex Jr.
On being less successful on 1.5-mile tracks than last year: “If I compare this year to last year, I would say this year ‑‑ you know, like last year, we were lights out. The 4 car (Kevin Harvick), if they could hit it, they could beat us. This year the 4 car has been lights out, and if we hit it, we can beat them. I know, if we hit it, we can beat any of them, and we showed that.
“It’s been harder to consistently hit that target this year. It’s been more difficult. With that said, though, I felt like both Kansas and Texas, we weren’t bad. Man, we had everything go against us. Like everything that could possibly happen wrong went wrong, so we really had to battle and fight. You know, pit stop issues and cautions falling at the wrong time and all that stuff, and we didn’t have any of that last year.
“All that being said, I feel good about this weekend. But it’s going to be tough. It’s not going to be easy. There’s no question.”
On what he’ll miss about working with Furniture Row Racing: “I’ve never been on a team that I feel like makes me a better driver every single weekend. Always finds a way to make me better. I don’t know if we’ll be able to continue that. I don’t know if we’ll be able to put together a group that can keep that going. I know (crew chief) Cole (Pearn) is a really, really big part of that, so obviously, staying together with him is important.
“But there’s so many things that go into building a championship caliber team and so many decisions throughout the week. You know, I don’t know how the dynamic will change, but just feeling the way I feel every weekend that I go to the racetrack, and I feel like we can win.”
On being with his Championship 4 rivals during a long week of promotion: “You don’t know what you’re getting into until you get there sometimes, how everyone is going to handle the situation. There’s been times I’ve been part of this, the head games start when we go to New York. Everyone starts throwing little jabs here and there. You’re like, ‘Wow, okay.’
“Then the last couple times really for me … we’ve all tried to find ways to enjoy it. The situation is we’re all going to be stuck on an airplane together, we’re going to be stuck in a car together, we’re going to do all these things in New York together. There’s no one else with us. We didn’t bring our assistants with us or anything like that. We were on our own.
“Actually we talked a lot, talked a lot about racing, talked a lot about not racing. We have so much in common, race car drivers do, right? No one else knows our lifestyle but other race car drivers. I think you have a lot in common to talk about things like that.
“I think everyone understands that when we get to the racetrack, you put the helmet on, you’re there to win. You’re still a competitor, there to beat them. You got to be able to find the light switch in there at some point. I feel like I found that quite a few years ago to where you can flip a light switch, be competitive, be a hard racer, but flip it off and be human.”
On making Championship 4 after missing playoffs in 2017: “I think you finish second in the points (in 2016), you think making the playoffs is a given. That’s going to be easy. We quickly found out that is not a given. It’s a little harder than you think. We learned a lot last year as a race team. We dug hard. We’ve slowly scratched and clawed our way back to where we are. Didn’t come till about 10 weeks ago.
“We scratched and clawed throughout a lot of this season to find a little bit more speed, a little bit more, a little bit more. We kept ourselves up there in points all season, but we weren’t in contention to win, like I said, last 15 weeks or so.”
On how having children keeps him from losing his temper: “Look, if I was jumping over the hood of a car right now, went into my house, had a 6‑year‑old (who) saw me trampling, do you know how embarrassed I would be to walk in the front door and answer that question? ‘Hey, dad, why did you jump over that guy’s car, grab him by the throat?’ Well, probably wasn’t the right thing to do. Then it would get more embarrassing as you take him to school, drive through the carpool lines to see his teachers that are all watching as well. Don’t say all the right things, do the right things. As you go through life, I would hope we all mature from a life standpoint to be able to be a better person. I still screw up a lot.”
On his strengths and weaknesses at Miami: “A lot of that depends on what your car is doing on a particular weekend. I don’t think any year is going to be the same as to what you fight. They changed the tire this year. That’s obviously a little bit different than what we’ve had in the past. It’s definitely a situation to where tomorrow is really not going to tell us anything as far as that goes, as well, because you’re going to run three laps in practice, hopefully run three laps in qualifying, then you’re going to put it into what matters, and that’s race trim. You want to qualify on the pole if you can because the pit box is an advantage, so close to the timing line. It’s a unique racetrack. You know running right against the fence is probably the fastest way around after lap 25. What happens if there’s only 20 laps left? Where do you run then? Do you run the bottom, the middle? You just have to have options here from what your car will do, what you do as a driver because it’s such a unique track.”
On the finale being disappointing if Joey Logano wins the title: “I would agree with that statement. He’s been there. He’s been consistent. He’s been good. He hasn’t necessarily performed to the level of the Big 3 and that’s no shake on them at all. It’s just the fact of the matter. So if he wins the title over the rest of us, then that would certainly be a little bit more disappointing.”
On if he gets nervous in championship scenarios: “I think so. I think last year in the situation between myself and Truex, like, yeah, I wouldn’t say you’re nervous, but you’re just feeling everything and pushing everything. So you’re tensed up a lot more than what you would probably normally be just trying to not mess up and hit every single mark exactly perfect.
“Sometimes that’s ‑‑ I go faster in those situations, and sometimes I go slower in those situations. So you’ve always just got to try to keep a level head and a frame of mind of being able to go out there and just focus on the job and the task at hand.”