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NASCAR Illustrated: Up Front with Martin Truex Jr.

June 03, 2014, Kris Johnson, NASCAR Illustrated,

NASCAR Illustrated: Up Front with Martin Truex Jr.
Furniture Row Racing driver talks about his new team, new season

After a tumultuous end to the 2013 season, one that saw him lose both sponsor NAPA and his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing, Martin Truex Jr. finds himself reinvigorated in his first year with Denver-based Furniture Row Racing.

The unwitting victim of MWR's attempt to alter the finish of the Richmond race and 2013 Chase refuses to look back in anger. Instead, Truex is focused on finding victory lane again for the third time in his 11-year Sprint Cup career after his victory at Sonoma last year.

Truex and the No. 78 team struggled to find their collective footing early in 2014, going without a top-10 finish in the season’s first eight races. But given this year's revamped point system, the 33-year-old driver knows if he can land Furniture Row its second ever victory, a postseason berth is all but assured.

NASCAR ILLUSTRATED: You've had a lot of time to reflect on how things played out last year. Have you made peace with it or are there any lingering resentments?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I really haven't changed my thoughts about it at all. I got over it pretty quick. Within a week or so, I said, "OK, this is what it is and it happened." And I moved on. That's all you can do is put stuff like that behind you because you can't change it and let it ruin your life.

NI: I recall you saying it was like getting punched in the face.

TRUEX: That's how it felt but then again bruises heal too.

NI: Did it create any added sense of motivation for you this year?

TRUEX: Not really. In this sport, you're trying to prove yourself every day. Whether it's to the fans, the other drivers, to the team you're working with or to the guys working on your cars. That's something as a race car driver you live every day, trying to show people what you’re made of; you're only as good as your last race, as they say. Doesn't matter if you won the last 20, it just matters what you do this weekend. We’re always trying to prove ourselves.

NI: Do you expect to be in Colorado a lot this year?

TRUEX: I would say not much just because it's too far. I've been out there twice already, which feels like a lot. It's one of those things where there's really not much I can do there anyway. There's nothing I can't do on the phone with team meetings and such. With technology, hell, if you can Skype in for media day you can call in for team meetings, right (laughs)? Honestly, aside from sitting in new cars and getting fitted for stuff, there's not a whole lot I can do there.

NI: Kurt Busch put this team in the Chase last year and set a pretty lofty standard of success. How much pressure does that create and do you expect people to make comparisons?

TRUEX: People are gonna say what they wanna say. Again, it's all about you've got to prove yourself every day. This is a new season, there's a lot of different rules. You know I won a race last year and Kurt didn’t. So if you wanna go there, we can talk about that (laughs). It's not about comparing yourself to anybody else. It's more about comparing yourself to yourself. I want to do better than I did last year. I had a great season last year until all the stuff went down and I want to be in a position this year to do better than that. 

NI: At the end of the year, what will make this a successful first season for you at Furniture Row? 

TRUEX: I think making the Chase is obviously everybody's goal each season because it's such a big deal. You know if you can get in there and peak at the right time, you have a shot of winning the championship. That’s what we're all here for but for some reason, after going to victory lane last year, that's probably something that's even higher on my list. I think it's more important to win races and this year, of course, if you do win you’re gonna be basically guaranteed a spot in the Chase.  

NI: What are the major lessons you learned from last year to carry forward now in your career?

TRUEX: The biggest thing is you can’t sweat and lose sleep over things you can't control. I didn't do anything wrong with all that stuff. I was a victim of circumstances more or less. Yeah, it sucks. It's horrible when you sit back and think about it. But I'm still pretty lucky to be here and have a great job. I'm very lucky to be hired by a great race team. Had I not been able to find a great opportunity, I think I would have a lot more hostility towards the things that went down and how they went down, and probably mad at more people. Life goes on. I can't change it. I've gotta forget about it. I've had a rough career, a lot of ups and downs. Those helped me get through last year. I'm hoping last year helps me get through the next set of ups and downs because there’s gonna be more coming. That's just the way the sport is.