Running the All-Star Showdown at Irwindale and being out there with the best short-track racers in the country was definitely good experience. I mean, you’re out there with guys like Joey Logano and Matt Kobyluck that have won it before. It’s a tough race to win. It’s a good track to learn at, you can run three- and four-wide there for 150 laps non-stop. It’s definitely a unique place, I’ve never been anywhere like that.
I think we could have won the race. I don’t think we had the best car, but I definitely think we could have challenged them for it. But, sometimes stuff happens. It was a cool place to go, experience, and learn as much as I can. And it went pretty good, apart from getting wrecked.
I got to meet Logano at an autograph signing at the Toyota dealership there the night before the race. It’s actually the biggest dealership in the world, which was pretty cool. We got to know each other a little bit. I kind of joked with him that “I’m not going to go do what you did last year” and was kind of getting on him about that, but he’s a cool guy. He did kind of the same thing I did, winning the [East Series] championship in his rookie year, trying to move up. Hopefully I get to do what he did.
I’ve been up in New Jersey a lot during the offseason, hanging out with family and friends because when racing starts, I’ve got to be down at the shop in North Carolina. I’ve been doing a lot of sim racing on the computer on IRacing. I actually just built a simulator out of an old legends car chassis, that’s been pretty cool. I’ve done a lot of motocross riding. I’ve got a dirt bike and go out riding with my friends all the time. It’s been mainly kid stuff, just hanging out with my friends and doing whatever we can think of until racing comes around.
Coming into 2010 as the defending East Series champion is definitely a big deal. Last year coming in as a rookie, I didn’t know anything about the cars or the tracks. That’s going to be a big help. That and my confidence is going to be way up. Last season, I was just hoping we could score top 10s, because I had no idea what I could do in these racecars; I’d never been in anything really like them. So I’ve got confidence coming in, and that’s at least 50% of it. That’ll be a big help, and knowing all the racetracks. Being with the same crew, the same crew chief, it’s the same team. We’ve gelled up right, and everyone can work well together, so we can go straight out and focus on winning races.
Defending the title is going to be tough, there’s going to be a lot of good cars. You’ve definitely got to say Kobyluck will be up there, he’s won before and he knows how to get it done. One person I think is going to be really good is Brett Moffitt. He ran with Andy Santerre last year, now he’s with Gibbs, so he’ll have really good equipment. He can get the job done.
Looking at the 2010 season, if there’s one trophy I want to take home it’s New Hampshire. My dad and my brother have both won there, and that’s one trophy I definitely want to get, so I join them. I really don’t know if there’s any lobster for winning the East Series race there, but it’d be cool if there was.
My dad and brother have been the biggest help to me. My dad at’s every one of my races; he’s always on the radio about what I need to be doing, helping me out. Sometimes we kind of fight and bicker a little bit, but he’s been in the Series. He knows what it takes to win and what you’ve got to do. And my brother, every weekend I’ll call him or text him about the track coming up, ask him about what I needed in the race car, how to drive the track, and he’s been a big help.
Honestly, I don’t think he [Martin Truex Jr.] gets the credit he deserves for how good he is. In 2004 and 2005 when he won the Busch championships, he dominated. And he moved up to Cup, then DEI started struggling and merging with teams. I don’t think he ever got the equipment that other people were getting. Now that he’s at MWR, he’s got good stuff and I know they’re going to give him everything he needs. I’ve talked to him, they’ve done some testing, and he thinks they can go out and contend for their championship.
I think we can too.