ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING ON THE TRACK HERE IN PHOENIX?
“We’re just looking forward to getting out on the track and seeing the difference in the tire and how that might be something I like better. Hopefully, the car comes off the trailer pretty fast. Just a lot of anticipation and nerves right now. Just ready to see what kind of work we need to do and how close we are to being competitive. We’re going to run a couple race runs and then we’ll go right into qualifying and get ready for qualifying later this afternoon.”
HOW MUCH OF TODAY’S PRACTICE IS MORE OF A TEST SESSION?
“It’s pretty time limited as far as practice goes, but the car shouldn’t be too different. The chassis is really the same chassis and the splitter and everything is still there so the same fundamentals should work as far as nuts and bolts, springs and shocks and bump stops and stuff like that. The body on the car is quite different so just how that aero is going to affect the setup and what adjustments you might need to make due to that The tire is going to probably the biggest or I’m hoping the tires a big change because I haven’t ran good here since they repaved the place. I’m hoping a change to the tire might be a move in a good direction for just me personally. We’ll just have to see.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT WITH THE NEW CARS AT THIS RACE?
“I really don’t know what to expect. I don’t think I would expect anything really different from what we saw last year. This surface is very new. For us to be able to put on the best race we can put on, the older surfaces, the surfaces that have a few more years on them tend to do better. Tend to widen out and give us more grooves to run in the corners. The tire change might help us in that direction in that regard. The track being out here in the desert helps us. This place should age pretty quickly, much like the beach — Daytona Beach. It’s just a matter of time. This thing will better and this track will get better and better. I like the car. Some places it’s going to look similar to what we had in the past and other places it might put on a pretty exciting show or a better show. I think it will keep getting better. I say it may put on a similar show at some places and that’s due to the surface really. A lot of tracks have been repaved and they are just not widening out right off the bat. When you put down a new surface its pretty single file for a couple years at least three or four races before we really start moving up the race track and changing lanes and running different grooves.”
HOW DID YOU FEEL AFTER TAKING A HARD HIT ON SATURDAY?
“I didn’t know how hard it was. I was pretty good until we got into the fence. I knew I was going to hit the fence because when I hit whoever, the 7 (Regan Smith) or whoever tore the right-front off, I couldn’t steer the car anymore so I knew I was going to hit the wall, but I wanted to stay in the gas long enough to cross the start-finish line and get whatever position I could. The 99 (Alex Bowman) come from the infield up in front of us and we both hit the wall a good bit. I was concerned just how my body was going to react to that and I was glad to be able — I felt pretty good after the wreck and that evening and the next day felt awesome and was able to get in the car and everything came naturally and was able to put together a good race. I was real happy that I was able to pass a personal test I guess. When you have concussions sometimes they’re easier to get the second, third, fourth time around so we survived that one. We’ll move on and try not to get in anymore wrecks.”
WHY DID YOU START DRINKING CARROT JUICE?
“A buddy of mine was talking about this detox diet, it’s like a 15 day deal and for the first eight days you drink prune juice and then the last half of it you drink carrot juice so they were just picking on me, somebody that was talking in that podcast, I guess it was Mike Davis. Just misinformed, I’m not drinking it all the time, but just during that little detox thing. It was pretty tough too. I was surprised I was able to make it. It was like just fish, chicken and raw, steamed vegetables and then there was like two days where you just ate vegetables and fruit. That was pretty tough for me to not have any meat. I think the older you get the more you have to do to kind of maintain a healthy weight. That’s really what it’s about for me is just trying to maintain my weight so I don’t have to keep getting my driver suits altered throughout the season. Last year I was like, ‘Man, they’re shrinking, something is wrong with the washer.’ This off-season I lost a lot of weight, lost about 15 or 20 pounds and just trying to do a better job of managing my calories and stuff like that. I never really worried about it before. Just eat all kinds of stuff like pizza and wings and stuff every day and not really watching portion controls and stuff like that. Just getting out of control so reining all that back in, not getting too crazy about it though. I’m no health freak by no means.”
DOES THAT MEAN NO MORE HELLMAN’S FOR YOU?
“Well, you have to mix it in there every once in a while. It’s part of the recipes. Like I said, I’m not really a health freak or anything, but I am counting calories, I will say that.”
DO YOU APPROACH THIS RACE LIKE A MILE-AND-A-HALF TRACK OR A SHORT TRACK AND HOW MUCH TIME AND EFFORT HAS GONE INTO THE CAR FOR PHOENIX?
“We just can only test at certain tracks, we can’t test at tracks that are perfectly relative to Phoenix, but we can go to Nashville, which is as unnatural compared to Phoenix as you can get I guess. We go out there and run around in circles and try to learn something. It’s a tight box that we’re in as far as the testing goes and that’s got its pluses and minuses. When we go test we’ll go to Gresham and Nashville and places like that and learn the limited amount of information you can learn.”
HOW MUCH VALUE IS THERE TO RUNNING THE NATIONWIDE CAR TO GET YOURSELF READY FOR SUNDAY?
“When the track is so unique such as Phoenix, I think it’s very valuable. When it’s Daytona or Talladega where the drafting is completely different between the two cars and there’s not really anything to learn about the tire or about a setup or anything like that, there’s no real benefit other than just doing it for fun. When you come to a technical race track that’s still relatively, the surface is new, the tire is new, everybody is still trying to find out a few secrets and gain some information on the competition then it’s a great opportunity.”
WHAT DID YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THE DAYTONA 500?
“We got off to a good start just like we did last year. I really think that if you put yourself in a hole early, no matter how good of a team you are, you’re going to be one of those guys that are sitting there at Richmond or the last couple races before the Chase really digging and worried about your opportunities and position and worried about the guys that you have to beat. You’ll be sitting in that 10th to 14th place position sweating it out. It’s a distraction that I’d rather not have to put the team through or have to go through myself. If we can put together a solid 10 races and get a good foundation of points together then we should be able to steadily maintain that throughout the rest of the regular season and go into the Chase comfortable and not have to really sweat it out and start thinking that you can mentally prepare yourself for the Chase better I believe when you don’t have to worry about those last few races. Mentally, it’s just easier and emotionally it’s easier. That’s what I took away from that. We certainly had a unique race. Learned a lot about the drafting and how it’s different and hope to be able to take some of that stuff to Talladega and run well or do well. Really it was about, I told one of my guys on my team that I’ll think about what I should have done different for the next 11 months until we get to go back to Daytona and try it again. I should have went earlier to try to get to second sooner to have that lap or two that I needed to make a run on Jimmie (Johnson), but I was worried about getting freight-trained and going to the back like we had seen so many guys do throughout the race. I was a little apprehensive and that’s why that move didn’t come sooner. You learn a lot and learned a few lessons there that I can take and try to utilize at Talladega. Other than that, it’s more about trying to get those points. They are so important.”
DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT FOR NASCAR TO COME AWAY FROM THE NATIONWIDE WRECK STRONGER FOR FANS WHERE THAT WAS THEIR ONLY EXPOSURE TO THE SPORT? “Absolutely and I think NASCAR is actively seeking solutions and alternatives to always make the sport safer, especially, we’ve done so much with the physical car itself. There’s always opportunities and other areas where we can become a safer sport. I’m sure that unfortunately incidents like that will draw attention, but in the long term a lot of positive things will come out of it. That’s what I’m hoping anyways that we’re better off down the road because of what we experienced and it was a terrible experience for everyone that went through it. It was difficult to watch and difficult to be a witness to, but I’m glad that no one was killed or anything like that. That was my biggest fear was that we had lost a life or maybe multiple lives and that was going to be really difficult and it would have been really difficult to race the next day.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT NASCAR MEXICO RACING AT PHOENIX?
“I know that we’ve got more and more people from that country and from that region showing more interest in the sport. There’s obviously a lot of involvement from NASCAR in Mexico and it’s growing with the series and everything. Just a lot of interest as far as the drivers coming up here and trying to compete. I think it’s exciting and just looking forward to seeing some of that result in good runs on the race track. Some of them guys to come up here and run well and see what kind of talent they have to bring to the table and compete with. I think the opportunities NASCAR can provide them down in Mexico will give them that avenue to be able to do that and to be able to come up here in some decent equipment and show what they can do.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHAT HAPPENED WITH JEREMY CLEMENTS?
“It’s really unfortunate. It’s just really unfortunate that he chose to make that decision at that time to use that language. I don’t like it and there’s no room for that in my life. It’s just unfortunate that had to happen to him. I hope he can get that sorted out and it just looks bad on the sport. One person’s mistake looks bad on a lot of people and looks bad on the sport. It’s just unfortunate.”
HOW DID THE DAYTONA 500 CHANGE WITH THE COMMUNICATION RESTRICTIONS?
“That’s kind of been the case for a little while now. It seems like it was several years ago when we were able to do that when it’s really only been a few. I really never liked that. I never liked to have that much access to all the other drivers. I didn’t like having to switch the panel on the dashboard with different guys I could go talk to and I rarely used it. I didn’t run well in those races either. It just wasn’t natural. It didn’t feel natural. I didn’t want to be in the middle of their conversations and I didn’t want to have that access. I’m a bit old school in that regard where it just didn’t seem like something that we should be doing. It didn’t seem like it was a comfortable practice for me. I never was really fond of it and was glad when it was taken away.”