Martin Truex Jr. officially starts his title defense with the Daytona 500

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Martin Truex Jr. talks with Adam Alexander and Larry McReynolds about starting his 2017 title defense with the Daytona 500.

- Welcome to the Hollywood Hotel. And how anxious are you to get going once again?

- Well, thank you. I'm glad to be here. And I don't know that I'm too anxious. I mean, you know, we're going to raise soon enough. It's been a really busy offseason, and I'll be ready when we hit the racetrack on Sunday.

- Martin, to me, one of the storylines coming into 2018, how do you guys remotely even duplicate what you accomplished last year? Eight wins. You lead every category known to man-- with the exception of DNFs, you don't wanna lead that one-- and then torched the championship. How do you even remotely come close to duplicating that?

- We'll just have to see, I think. I mean, it's definitely going to be a challenge. I think if you look at our past together, as our team, since, you know, 2015, each year we've gotten better in every category. We found ways to improve. I still think, you know, there's ways for us to improve on what we did last year. Obviously, it's going to be a challenge to get those numbers, especially in the win category and, you know, the average finish. I mean, that was just ridiculous. But, you know, I think we look at it as, hey, we could have won more races last year. There were some that got away. And I think we'll just focus on trying to clean those areas up where we feel like we could be better.

There's still certain tracks we're working on that we're, I feel, like chipping away at, that we haven't quite got there yet. So, you know, it definitely won't be easy, but I think we've got the right mindset. We're not feeling any pressure. We're in a good spot. We've got an awesome team, so just hopefully try to keep that momentum going and keep building on the things we've learned over the years.

- How would you describe your program at this place? I mean, we all know what happened here a couple of years ago. You got the speed to get it done, but how would you evaluate restrictor plate racing for Furniture Row?

- I mean, I feel like this is probably our weakest part of our program. You know, me personally, our cars, I mean, look at-- we qualified 26 the other day. I mean, that wasn't very good. We haven't had a lot of speed by ourselves, but I was really happy with the way our car drafted in a class the other day. We didn't have a lot of speed, so I didn't know what to expect going into it. But I was really, really quite pleased with how our car drove compared to some other guys. And we were able to have the speed to work our way up to the front. Just tried to make a move for the lead at the wrong time, and then it went single file after I got shuffled out, so I was done there.

But it's going to be interesting to see how much we learn tomorrow night in the Duels for this weekend. I think the cars are a lot different than most guys expected them to be. And even though we were slow by ourselves, it seems like we've got good speed in the draft. So, I'm not real sure right now.

- A lot of busy things over the offseason, a lot of honors bestowed upon you-- and understandably and rightly so. So, Peyton Manning, John Elway, and now Martin Truex Jr. You're keeping some pretty good company. Colorado Sports Person of the Year, congratulations. Pretty good company, too.

- Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Thank you. It's an honor. It's crazy to see just how much attention and things that we've gotten in Denver and in Colorado. And we had an autograph session out there a few weeks ago-- 1,300, 1,400 people. I mean, it was set to go for two hours, and I was there for three and barely got through everybody. So, the following that we've got in Denver-- in Colorado, in general-- not only from the media, but from the fans, the eyes that are being put on NASCAR out there, it's been really, really cool to be a part of that.

- Are you surprised at the reaction you've received winning a championship and all that comes with being a champion in the Monster Energy Series?

- Yes and no. I mean, I think that a lot of the things I've gotten to do this winter were-- you know, I knew it was an honor, I knew it was going to be a big deal, but I just had so much more fun with it than I expected. And it really just hit home of how big a deal this is. I mean, to get to go to the Hall of Fame and introduce Red Byron for his Hall of Fame spot, I mean, just to understand how special that is, they don't just ask anybody to do that. And the first champion of NASCAR ever, that was such a huge highlight for me and such an honor to be able to do that. And, of course, getting to go to the Super Bowl and see my favorite team win their first one.

- You called that shot, didn't you?

- Called that, too. Yeah. I mean, it's like when it's your time, I guess it's just your time.

- Soak it all in, right?

- Absolutely.

- Hey, you have crossed some big ones off the list the last few years-- winning Coke 600, Southern 500, a championship. Maybe just go out and complete the deal here and get this one.

- It was 1/100 of a second.

- Wait, you started out like this. It was more like this. Hey, man, have lots of fun this weekend and throughout the year as you continue to celebrate being the champion, OK?

- Yeah. I plan on having fun. Hopefully, it'll continue to go well.