Martin Truex Jr.’s first 2018 media session as the reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion offered a good insight into how the feat has affected Truex.
Spoiler alert: not much.
The Furniture Row Racing driver was still the same down-to-earth guy who hoisted his championship last November. And he still downplays much of his success. No, he doesn’t consider himself a fan favorite now that he’s more well-known.
“I do my best and what happens, happens,” said Truex.
Does Truex feel any more responsibility as a champion? Not really, but he’ll take having a little more leverage to make some changes or gets things done. Truex himself doesn’t feel different, though.
“I haven’t done anything different; I haven’t changed at all,” Truex said. “I still like the same things and dislike the same things and do the same things. I haven’t bought anything extravagant. Still friends with all the same people. But I have got to do a lot of fun, different stuff and some doors have opened that probably wouldn’t have before.”
Coming off a dominant ’17 season – his numbers have been well covered – Truex has a tall task ahead of him. With the first championship locked down, repeating has been difficult for drivers not named Jimmie Johnson. From 2006-2010 Johnson won an unprecedented five straight championships, becoming the first driver since 1996-1997 [Jeff Gordon] to go back-to-back.
Truex concedes that repeating is hard. Not only is it hard, but Truex believes it’s harder now than it has ever been because of the current format. Prior to 2004 when the NASCAR champion was crowned based on the strength of their full season’s work, it was “way, way easier” to repeat.
“It’s just going to get harder, and that stat is going to probably live on for – it has potential to live on for a long, long time, and it’s going to get harder to repeat,” Truex said.
Naturally, Truex would love nothing more than for his No. 78 team become the new model of consistency; a Johnson of the current playoffs era. But desire is one thing, pressure is another.
“I feel zero pressure at all. I feel nothing,” Truex said. “I’m so… confident. Honestly, I really feel like we can go and start the season right where we left off, just pick up where we left off and continue as a team as we’ve done the last couple years. We know what to work on, and we’re just going to keep going down that road and hopefully have more success, but you never know.
“We’ll just have to see how it all goes, but I’m not feeling any pressure. I’m not anxious at all, and I’ll be ready when we get to Daytona.”