Southern 500 Post-Race Press Conference

Martin Truex, Jr.
Pete McCole/AR1

THE MODERATOR: We will continue on with our media availability for tonight's Bojangles' Southern 500. We are joined by crew chief Cole Pearn and Furniture Row Racing GM Joe Garone with the No. 78 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota for Furniture Row Racing. Cole, talk to me about this win. You were here with this race team when it got its first win here at the Southern 500. How sweet is this victory tonight?

COLE PEARN: Yeah, honestly, it's somewhat of a similar feel. I thought no way we'd win. The one we won five years ago, I thought midway through the race there was no way we were going to win tonight. We just kept plugging away on it, and we had one run in the race where we kind of made some more aggressive adjustments and took off and we weren't very good. I was kind of like, oh, no, the wheels are going to fall off, but it started to come around on that run, and we got really good and kind of gained a direction to work. Just as the race went, just got better and better. We got better track position. The pit crew just did an unbelievable job.

We just had the night we needed. We've had a lot of fast cars here lately but just haven't really had the night go all our way. It was nice to have it go our way, and then the best car was, the last run of the race, and luckily we were able to drive and get it done.

THE MODERATOR: Joe, that No. 78 Toyota has been a dominant car this season. What's it like now to see that dominance pay off with getting multiple wins?

JOE GARONE: It's great. It's been a rough season, but it's hard to have speed, and Cole and the guys, they've been bringing speed in the cars just every weekend. We've had a flurry of either mistakes that we've made or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and for it to all come together finally, especially where we're at going into the Chase here shortly, it's just perfect timing.

Q. Cole, a lot of people would say that winning the Coke 600 and winning here in Darlington would make a great season. Does it make a great season, or is your season defined but what happens starting at Chicago in a couple weeks?

COLE PEARN: Yeah, for sure. I mean, we've still got 11 races left, and we've got Richmond next week and then into Chicago. It's a lot of work and a long way to go. We've prepped all this year to try and make it to Homestead again and win the championship, so that's definitely the goal. But to win two crown jewel races like this in one season is something you'll never forget for sure, regardless of what's happened. You've got to take the highs when they're here and then get back to work and be ready to give it hard the rest of the season.

Q. Cole, the 78 seems to have a lot of speed on intermediate tracks for sure, and with the predominance of intermediate tracks in the Chase, does that give you an even greater feeling of confidence going into that final 10-race stretch, or is it all a matter of the fluidity of this sport can change at any minute?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"] COLE PEARN: Yeah, it for sure can change any minute, but they are, we have a lot of great tracks that we ran really good on earlier in the year that are in the Chase. We kind of had the same thing happen to us last year. We ran really good at those tracks early in the season, so we feel like we've got a real good understanding of what we need to do there.

But at the end of the day, you still have to run the race, and you never know what's going to happen. But definitely gives you confidence that you know what you need to do and you know the direction you need to work. I'm really hopeful that plays to our strength.

Q. Cole, do you feel at all for the 4 team? You guys have had pit crew stuff and things happen to you this year. Can you tell us what they're going through right now?

COLE PEARN: Yeah, I feel like they're my only sanity check, because I'm like, well, at least it happens to them, too. I feel bad for them for sure. I mean, it's not easy. They had a great car again tonight. To have the issues they had, I don't know, it's a team sport. Like it or not, you can have one side of the team doing great and the other side struggling. That's where I was so happy for our pit crew tonight. You've got to make so many pit stops here, and it was just the perfect night for them to get in a rhythm, and I really credit a lot of the win to them.

Q. Cole, at one point Martin was screaming over the radio about he's loose, he's tight, he's horrible, everything is going to hell. How do you kind of regroup in the middle of that and come back and get everybody calmed down and win?

COLE PEARN: I don't know, you just shake your head. That was the oddest thing ever because the run he was screaming like that, it was five laps later we were the fastest car on the track, so I don't really know. We had planned overhaul changes, and then we threw them out the window and didn't really touch it after that. Yeah, I think it's just a product of these rules. The cars are on edge, and this track is just really difficult to get a hold of. It's low grip. So all of a sudden you find a groove that suits your car better and then you get to running good again.

It's really fun. I mean, all weekend you're having to think outside the box, maybe more so than the typical intermediates because you've got asymmetric corners and low grip and bumps. It's got really all the elements that really make you work on the race car.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on grabbing another Southern 500 win, and good luck next week in Richmond.

We will continue on with tonight's post-race media availability for the 67th annual Bojangles' Southern 500, and we are joined now by today's race winner, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota for Furniture Row Racing. This is Martin's fifth victory in 394 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. It's his second win and 11th top-10 finish in 2016, and one of the coolest stats I can read off, this is his first all-tie win season of your career. Congratulations on making it to victory lane again here in the Southern 500.

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Thank you. Yeah, it's been quite a weekend, quite a night. You know, it's just amazing to win a race like this. I mean, the Southern 500 is just — you know, it's one of the ones everybody wants to win. Coming in here this week, I knew we'd have a shot at it just based off the way we've been running this season, but to finally get it done and bring home the victory and go to victory lane here, it was a pretty amazing feeling. Really proud of my team, obviously, for all they do for me, and just can't believe we won here at Darlington. It's awesome.

Q. Martin, when it looked like you guys were biding your time for quite a while there, did you think you'd have enough for Kevin, or did you think that —

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I was ahead of Kevin.

Q. I mean, Kevin was out in front for such a —

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"] MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't know. At that point in time, honestly, we weren't all that great. Our car was — we were probably — I don't know, we ran third or fourth to maybe seventh or eighth all night long, in there. We never could get it quite right, and it was always too tight or too loose or too tight or too loose. I think it was about 80 or 90 to go, we made an adjustment that just whooped the thing up. After that it was pretty good, and then we made it even better on the last stop.

Just worked hard on it all night, honestly. I can't believe — with 100 to go, I thought, there's no way we can win this race. We might run top 5, but we just kept digging, we never gave up on it, and the guys made good adjustments. The pit crew stepped up and got us the lead there at the end and we were able to hold onto it. Just proud of that effort.

It's funny, we've had the best car in a lot of races and not won, and tonight for the most part of the race, we didn't have the best car, so it's definitely a sweet feeling to come to victory lane and be able to overcome that and make our car the best that we could at the end of the race and ultimately get the job done.

Q. A lot of people would say win at Charlotte, big Memorial Day race, win here, and that's a great season. Would you consider this a great season no matter what happens the next 11 weeks?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It's been a good season. It's got potential to be a really great season. I think that based on the team we have and the way we've been running, I mean, we could honestly be sitting here with seven, eight, nine wins if things had gone a little different here and there. But with that being said, we've got two, and I really feel like we've got a legitimate shot at this championship.

It's been a good season, but it definitely could be a great season, and until Homestead is done and gone, we won't know. Just looking forward to that opportunity to work with this team and trying to go after our first championship.

We had a shot at it last year and didn't really have the performance at the end of the season that we needed in our race cars, and I feel like this year with the speed we've had in our Toyotas that we can go to Homestead and really have a shot at this thing. So definitely focused on the Chase starting, and hopefully be able to put those results together and make it to that Final Four again.

Q. The switch over to Joe Gibbs affiliation this year, can you just speak to how you feel that has changed or improved the performance of Furniture Row?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, I mean, we have four guys that we can lean on, four teams that consistently win races. You know, they have two champions over there driving those cars, and a couple other guys that could easily win one or probably will at some point in their career.

Just to work with everybody they have there in general, I mean, you look at the performance of that camp for the past 10 years, they're always up front.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]It's just been really, really neat for them to welcome us to their organization, to trust us, and be willing to share their secrets and have that trust in us that we can bring enough to the table to on certain things help them, as well. So it's been a great partnership so far. It got up to speed, and all the parts and pieces and traveling back and forth to Denver, North Carolina and all that, the trust in one another, the relationships between the crew chiefs, the engineers, all that stuff really progressed so quickly, and I didn't anticipate it going as well as it did. So I've got a lot of — got to give a lot of credit to Coach Gibbs, to Barney Visser, to Dave Wilson, Andy Graves, everybody at TRD for just putting all those guys together and saying, hey, here's two great teams, let's put them together and make one really great team, and I've been the benefactor of that. So I couldn't be more thankful, obviously.

It's been fun to work with all those guys this year, and we share setups and we share everything, so that works well. When one of us is having a bad weekend, they will put in somebody else's setup and go to the races. It's been a good relationship. It's worked well for us, and it's one I think that — it's one of the big reasons why all five of our cars have been so competitive and have won races.

Q. Indy has this tradition with kissing the bricks. You started a tradition here going of back to the finish line there?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I don't know, I had to. I loved it, man, I loved it. I mean, honestly this has always been one of my favorite tracks. I've wanted to win here so bad, and I've led a bunch of races here in Cup car and felt like I was in position or had chances to win this race before, or just to win at this track in general, and I've had a few heartbreakers here. To finally get it done was sweet. I can't tell you how it felt. I honestly took the checkered flag, and I was like, I cannot believe I just won the Southern 500. The history, the tradition here, to see the Hall of Famers before the race, and talked to Cale Yarborough and all those guys, it's just amazing. I'm thankful just to race here, and to get a chance to win here is just icing on the cake. It was just a special night for me, and it's definitely one I'll never forget. The Coke 600 and the Southern 500 in the same year is pretty awesome.

Q. Kind of continuing in that vein, this sport's original triple crown was the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500, and if you had finished those inches at Daytona, you would have been only the third driver ever to win the triple crown; Leroy Yarbrough in '69 with Junior Johnson, and David Pearson in '76 with the Wood Brothers. Do you want to comment on that?

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I mean, just to be mentioned with those two names is unbelievable enough. Yeah, I mean, I can't believe that about a foot from doing it is incredible. I mean, just — there's so many things about this year that have been special, and that's one of them. Thank you for bringing that up and letting me know about it. To lead the most miles of any NASCAR race ever, I mean, you just think about the names, the names that have been come and gone and paved the way for us drivers that none of those guys have done it before is unbelievable, and then to mention what you mentioned there. I'm just humbled. I'm just proud to be in this position to drive for such a great team, and hopefully it's something we can continue to do here the next 11 races.

THE MODERATOR: Martin, congratulations again on the win, and good luck next week in Richmond.

MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Thank you.

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