Our weekly series of interviews continues: 12 questions with NASCAR drivers who aren't currently in the top 12 of the Sprint Cup Series. This week: Michael Waltrip Racing's Martin Truex Jr.
What is the best race you've ever driven?
MTJ: Dover, 2007 (when he won). I mean, we dominated – we didn't just win. We started 26th and we were second by the first pit stop. Every time we'd pit, we'd come out second or third and get beat out of the pits, and I'd take the lead back. It was just one of those days where it all worked out. I felt like I drove every lap as hard as I could, never made a mistake and at the end of the day we ended up where we wanted to be. It was a dominating performance. Pretty awesome.
Who is the most talented driver in NASCAR?
MTJ: Ooh. There's so many good drivers. You see different guys on different days put together a perfect performance. To say that one guy is head and shoulders above the rest is difficult. Obviously by looking at the stats, you'd have to say, 'Well, Jimmie Johnson's the man. He's won the most races, the most championships in the last five or six years.' So on the one hand, you want to say him, but on the other hand, you know there are so many talented guys out here that can do it on any given day. It's hard to pick just one.
What's the best time for a fan to approach you for an autograph during a race weekend?
MTJ: During a race weekend, the best time I would say is definitely in the afternoon. Cause I'm not a morning person! OK? (laughs) We're just talking about me here. And it's definitely not before qualifying. Because that's when you're like in the zone, you know? That's like one of the times of the weekend when you're the most focused. A lot hinges around just that one lap, where in the race, you've got 500 miles to figure it out.
I guess the best time would be after Happy Hour on a Saturday, you don't have much to do, everybody seems to stand around a little bit, hang out and sign autographs a little bit more. Before the race, a lot of guys don't like to sign them, but I don't mind.
What's something fans may not know or understand about you?
MTJ: I think people think I'm really, really serious. Because I hear that a lot, like, 'You're so serious.' And I'm like, 'Well, you know, I'm doing my job.' But I really have a lot of fun. I really enjoy what I'm doing. The last few years have been kind of up and down for me, but I've really still enjoyed doing what I do and I still really love it. And I think people don't really get that sometimes.
What's the worst track on the NASCAR circuit for you to go?
MTJ: I don't really have places I don't like to go. Obviously I have some I like more. One of the places that was always challenging for me was Martinsville, but I feel like the last few years, I've really gotten better there, so that's not one of the places I dread going anymore. Charlotte used to be a place – as much as I love to go there – that I really struggled with. But again, the last few years I've had some great runs there, too. There's not really anywhere I hate going.
Probably one of the most boring places for things to do outside the track, I would say, is Pocono. That tops the list for me. Fun place in the wintertime – I love snowboarding and skiing and the hanging-out-in-the-lodge atmosphere. But in the summertime, it just gets kind of boring up there. There's not much around there.
Other than that, most places we go are kind of fun, and I enjoy them.
Who is the one driver outside of NASCAR that you most admire?
MTJ: There's a lot of interesting people out there in motorsports, but I don't really watch a whole lot of other racing. I mean, I do, but I don't get too into anything else. It's one of those deals where you're just focused on this (NASCAR). (Public relations rep Traci Hultzapple suggests Travis Pastrana) MTJ: Yeah, but he's just nuts. I mean, he's awesome, but he's crazy as hell.
I think this is the toughest motorsport to be competitive in. I probably respect these guys the most because I know what they go through more than I would know for a guy that drives in F1 or IndyCar. I don't really understand what it's like to be one of those guys.
How long do you see your career lasting?
MTJ: As long as they'll keep me around. How old's Mark (Martin)? 51? That'd be 21 more years for me. I don't know about that. It just depends on how it's going. If I'm still having fun and I'm competitive and I know I have what it takes to run up front, I'll probably stay around. If I feel like I lose that someday, then maybe I won't. If I stopped enjoying it, obviously I'd look at doing something else. But for now, I can't really see the end of my road.
When you get home from a long race weekend, what's the first thing you do when you walk through the door?
MTJ: The first thing I do is go down to my garage, turn on my computer and catch up on whatever's going on on the 'net. SBN: You mean like check racing web sites? MTJ: Noooo, hell no. Hell no. When I get home on Sundays, it's like I don't want to think about racing until Thursday. I have certain web sites that I'm kind of like a regular on, that I always constantly check out and get the updates from and all that. I mean my hobbies, like boating and hunting and stuff. All that kind of crap. Fishing reports, things like that.
If it's been a bad day, I have a really hard time sleeping and I stay up really, really late. Sometimes I don't even go to bed on Sunday night. (laughs) People think it's kind of strange, but it's just the way it works for me. I have a hard time going to sleep after the race, even if it's like a really hard, hot, long day. When I get home, I just cannot go to sleep for the life of me and I don't know why. It's like I'm all jacked up and I can't get calmed down.
So a lot of times, I'll just stay up and I don't end up in bed 'til 3, 4, 5 o'clock in the morning. It's kind of crazy! You think you'd get home and be tired and just whooped from the weekend. But it's kind of the opposite for me. It's rather strange.
Who wins the Sprint Cup in 2015?
MTJ: 2015? Alright, let's think about this. Who will really be coming into their own? (Truex scans the garage) I'm going to say Clint Bowyer. Just cause I looked over there and saw his car and kind of like the colors. (laughs) Just kidding. Honestly, I'll pick him though. It's just a guess, you know what I mean?
If you were in charge of NASCAR, what is one thing you'd change about the sport?
MTJ: If you could change anything at all? I think the schedule would be something I would look at. A lot of the places we go – especially with the crowds we've been getting and people talking about the sport not getting the attention it used to get – you go to all these places twice. And you gotta figure that most of the guys who come to the first race aren't going to come to the second race, and vice versa.
Obviously you'd get better crowds (with one race), obviously it would get more attention. People would say, 'Well, we only have this one race per year to go to,' so everyone's going to go to it. Maybe look at going to a couple different places and some places not twice. It would make the one event in each town that much more special by not going there twice. I think that's something to look at.
That's just my opinion, though. They do a pretty damn good job.
Do you have any superstitions or routines?
MTJ: Not per se. I don't wear the same pair of underwear every week or anything crazy like that. I've had a lot of tough luck the last few years and I always feel like I've got bad luck and something is following me around. There's been times where I've said, 'Well, if I got a new helmet and I had a bad weekend, then I won't wear it again – that helmet is bad luck.' But it just never works out.
There's some things I've tried to turn the luck around and it just hasn't. I think it's one of those things where you just have to wait for it all to come around full circle.
Would you rather be known as a great driver or a great person?
MTJ: Great person, good driver. That would work for me. Of course, it wouldn't be bad to be a great person and a great driver. But I'm probably going to be alive a lot longer than I race, so being a great person is pretty important.