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Thursday, November 29, 2012
Martin Truex Jr. on NASCAR 'After the Lap'

By Bill Speros

Martin Truex Jr.
If you see this NASCAR driver at a restaurant, he just might autograph your dinner roll.
The racing has ended but NASCAR fans are revved up for "After the Lap," which begins at 8 p.m. ET Thursday at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

The sold-out event features a wide-open Q&A session with the 12 Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers from 2012 scheduled to appear. ESPN pit reporter Jamie Little will moderate.

The reach of "After the Lap" extends beyond Las Vegas. Fans will be able to submit questions to drivers via Twitter using the hashtags #NATL, #FordRacing, #Coca-ColaRacing and post questions via the NASCAR Facebook page.

Sprint also will offer a number to fans watching online at NASCAR.com and listening via SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90) so they can text questions to the participants.

Last year, 2011 Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart drove his car into the venue during the driver introductions.

That set the tone for the event’s highlight: Jeff Gordon’s rousing and unscripted break-dancing performance.

Thursday, Clint Bowyer and Gordon will be sharing the same stage for the first time since their crew-wide melee following the NASCAR race at Phoenix on Nov. 11.

No word if boxing gloves or "Rock'Em Sock'Em" robots will be available, although the drivers are expected to ask each other questions without coming to blows.

ESPN Playbook caught up with Martin Truex Jr. (@MartinTruexJr56), driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, and asked him a few questions to get him warmed up for Thursday's event:

What's your most memorable fan interaction?

I appreciate meeting any NASCAR fan who comes up to me and asks for an autograph or wants to share a story with me about something they experienced. It happens a lot when I go up to Dover or a place like New Hampshire. I have fans that come up to me and tell me about meeting or racing against my dad or my uncle Barney at a local track.

What's the strangest thing you've ever autographed?

We were all eating dinner [at a NAPA appearance in Atlanta] and the person at my table asked me to autograph their dinner roll. It was a first, and I have to say, no one has asked me to do that again. It was a once-in-a-lifetime request.

What's one thing you'd like to see added to the cars in 2013?

I love the addition of our names on the windshield. As a kid growing up, I loved watching IROC races. It was the best of the best in all of auto racing competing against each other. That was cool and it is going to be cool to see now.

Besides yourself, who is the toughest driver to beat in NASCAR?

This season, the toughest driver changed week to week. I am glad that I can say that I was at least one of those drivers that regularly appeared in the top 10 [Truex finished 11th in the Sprint Cup Chase], so I hope I am in the mix. [At] Homestead for example, I would say Kyle Busch was my toughest driver to compete against. We went door to door for the lead for most of the race. He was the toughest driver for me at Homestead-Miami Speedway. We did some bumping and banging.

If you could listen to any song while racing, what would it be and why?

No music for me while racing. I have to concentrate.

What are your offseason plans?

To do as little as possible when I have the free time, which really isn’t a lot when you look at all the things we need to do to get ready for the 2013 season. We have to complete photo shoots, commercials and testing. However, I have found some time to book a hunting trip to Maryland. I am going bow hunting for deer and ducks. I also plan on whisking [girlfriend] Sherry [Pollex] away for a nice vacation. We’ll hang out on the beach and do some fishing.

During last year's "After the Lap," Jeff Gordon tried his hand at break-dancing. Do you have any hidden talents?

I have a lot of hidden talents, but none that I can share with you like break-dancing. I guess fans will have to wait and see ... you never know.

What's the most memorable Christmas gift you ever got as kid?

A motorcycle from my mom and dad. It was the coolest thing. It was awesome. I don’t remember what year it was because I was little.

What's your prerace ritual?

Sleeping in as long as I can. Then I do my appearances and eat lunch. That is my prerace routine and it never changes. When it comes to lunch, I keep it simple and stay away from crazy foods like spaghetti because we have to race our car for at least three to four hours with no bathroom breaks.

If you weren't racing in Sprint Cup, what do you think you'd be doing for a living?

Working on one of my dad’s clam boats trying to figure out what I needed to do in order to race in the Sprint Cup Series. Like most drivers, I have a one-track mind.