New Jersey Monthly: Congratulations on becoming the first New Jerseyan to win the NASCAR championship. Your roots here are deep. You, your father and your uncles all raced at Wall Speedway. What did that mean to you?
Martin Truex Jr.: It was the first real exposure I had to racing. [It’s] where I fell in love with racing. It’s always going to be a special place to me…all those Truexes winning races.
NJM: As a youth, you worked for the family company, Sea Watch International, the world’s largest harvester and processor of clam products. Was getting off your family’s clam boat a motivator for you?
MT: To come out of high school and have a good job and make enough money to go racing was a blessing. I wouldn’t have been able to have that if it weren’t for the family company.
NJM: Your father, also Jersey-born, is a longtime NASCAR racer. How did he influence your career?
MT: He’s been there for all of it. Everything. In the lessons he taught me as a young kid: to work hard, to appreciate things, to be kind to people. There’s nothing you can’t get if you work hard enough. When I was very young, we didn’t have a whole lot. He was never home because he was working so hard. Just the value of hard work has kind of stayed with me over the years. When I was 11 or 12 years old, I had to work in the [family’s race] shop. Then I had to go work down at the docks, doing whatever I could just to buy stuff for the car, like tires…I had to work for this. He made me who I am. I owe everything to him.
NJM: After a promising start as a professional driver, you scuffled for a few years and landed with what was then an average team in 2014. Does that make the championship even sweeter?
MT: Going from a 20th-place team to the championship is something I’m super proud of. The format being as difficult as it is, and the stuff we’ve been through are all reasons to feel thankful and fortunate to have gotten the job done.
NJM: You’re coming off a huge year in which you won NASCAR’s biggest title. How will that change you?
MT: I think we’re going to be as motivated as we’ve always been. The interesting thing to see is if we can continue to progress. The last three seasons, we’ve just climbed in every area—races won, laps led, all the things we’ve done. It will be interesting to see where we can go. Even if we hadn’t have won, I’d still feel confident about the future. It’s a team I want to be with as long as I can.
NJM: Where is your favorite place to take a Sunday drive in New Jersey?
MT: Wow, there are a lot of good ones. If you go on a lot of the back roads from, let’s say, Tuckerton down through Chatsworth—out through the Pine Barrens—there are a lot of places that are little old roads where you feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere. No traffic.
NJM: Do New Jersey drivers get a bum rap?
MT: People always talk about New Jersey drivers and how bad they are. Well, let me tell you, I’ve lived in North Carolina for 14 years, and there is no way New Jersey drivers are worse than North Carolina drivers. Actually, I think, in general, people are bad at driving.