The 12 Questions interview continues this week with Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing. It is available in podcast form and is also transcribed below.
1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?
I guess you kind of get to this level off natural ability. For me, building cars, growing up around racing and learning about it early before I even started driving is what helped get me to this level.
But once you get here, you realize, “OK, everybody is pretty good.” You’ve got to try to find those little things that stick out of how to get better. Obviously, a big part of it is the team you’re with and the ideas they have and how you kind of work together.
It’s definitely a combination of both. You’re always looking for something — that next little thing you can do better. After every weekend, we’re always looking at each other on our team and saying, “OK, what have we got to do to be better?” Whether it’s me or the crew chief or engineer or something.
2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards have all retired in the last couple years. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?
Well, first off, I’m glad they’re fans of racing in general. I’m a nice guy. I’m just a regular guy just like most normal people and I drive a race car for a living. I don’t have any crazy sales pitch other than I’m pretty normal. (Laughs)
So if you’re normal and you want to relate to somebody else who is normal…
I’m your guy if you’re just a normal person. (Laughs)
3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?
Meetings. I hate meetings. I sit there for five minutes and I start getting antsy. My foot starts tapping and I start looking at my phone (like), “How long is this going to last? I’ve got stuff to do.”
4. A fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?
YES! Heck yes! Come on over. Say hello.
Even if you have food in your mouth?
Yeah, it’s fine. I’ll swallow it. (Laughs)
5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?
Probably all the good things drivers and teams do — charity efforts, things like that. A lot of good comes out of this garage and the people who work in it, and we don’t hear a whole lot about all that.
6. Who is the last driver you texted?
Our group text has the Gibbs drivers on it, so I was on there. No, I’m lying to you — it was (Ryan) Newman! I was texting with him before practice.
7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?
Yes. If you’re not entertained by racing, I don’t know what to tell you.
8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?
Somebody pisses you off, you show ‘em the middle finger. (Laughs) Pretty simple. I mean, these days, it’s so common, you don’t even feel bad about doing it anymore. You throw somebody the bird and after the race, you put your arm around them and it’s like, “Hey man, what’s happening? How you doing? You have a good race?”
It’s just a way of showing you’re mad at that guy. It’s not personal. It’s on the racetrack, and what happens on the track, stays on the track.
9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?
Absolutely. You remember everything that happens on the racetrack, good or bad. How guys are racing you — you don’t forget things that happened years ago. You definitely have your list of guys you like to be around and you know you can work with and trust on the racetrack, and then you always have a handful of guys that you know you can’t.
10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?
Gotta be Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Laughs) I mean, come on. He’s pretty famous. He’s like 10-, 15-time most popular driver? He’s kind of a big deal.
11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?
I’ve kind of improved one thing this winter: I like to sleep in; I don’t like to get up early, and I feel like I waste the whole day. So I’ve been getting up earlier. I’m getting a little better at that. Aside from that, I’m pretty happy with who I am.
What do you define as “early?”
Before 10. (Laughs) Nine to 10 is pretty early for me.
12. The last interview was with Kyle Busch. His question for you is, “What does it feel like to get all the best stuff from Joe Gibbs Racing?”
(Laughs) It feels great. We led 1,800-something laps last year, so it feels better than getting the fourth- or fifth-best stuff, that’s for sure.
And do you have a question for the next interview?
You should ask who they think is the team to beat this year.