TALK ABOUT COMING TO LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY AND YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE WEEKEND:
“This is a fun track. I feel like it is definitely the kind of track where I feel the most comfortable at. High bank; high grip. Fourth in the Nationwide car a couple of years ago was fun, and I feel like every time I’ve been here, we run pretty decent. It was nice to have a test day yesterday in the Cup car, just to get up to speed there; also for me to work on some qualifying the last half of the day. I’m not sure any of that is going to happen today (referencing the rain currently falling at the track). But, it was good for us to have some extra running, and get to grips a little bit more with this new Gen 6 Chevy and see what it needs to handle well.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO SEE THE LITTLE KIDS WHO WANT TO GET AUTOGRAPHS, HUGS OR SMILES?
“It is very cool. Nothing can brighten up your day like seeing a three year-old who knows your names and wants to meet you, or be too shy to meet you. That is also equally adorable. That is sometimes amazing. I don’t know how they know my name, or how they know what is going on. Sometimes the parents don’t know. Kids are just very impressionable. The fact that they have a good impression of me, and like me is really neat. I also love hearing stories about coming out to the track because now everyone has someone to cheer for. The wife comes; or the daughter comes; or the son; or whatever the reason may be to get a whole family out to the track, it is nice that they do. It is nice that they can do that together as a family, and kind of create that tradition, or that culture within to all come out. Very cool. I always try to make time for them. If I don’t have time for anything else, I try to sign autographs for little kids, or just say hi to them. It makes me feel good. I feel like it makes me feel better than it makes them probably.”
ARE YOU WORRIED OR NERVOUS AT ALL ABOUT QUALIFYING WITH 44 CARS ENTERED HERE? “I’m pretty sure we’re in because we bought points right?”
YOU ARE IN BECAUSE AFTER TOP-36 FROM LAST YEAR, IT GOES TO THIS YEAR’S POINTS, AND THAT’S HOW YOU GET IN:
“I don’t know how in the hell it works. I am so confused. I don’t know about you guys. I’m sure this is not the best talking point for anybody who is trying to inform me, or who has. But look, you have to go like hell and you just have to qualify as well as you can. That’s all you can do. Of course I don’t want to have to worry about that so I’m not going to. We’re just going to plan on being better than that. The reason for doing qualifying for the last half of yesterday was to not only try to do a good job for here, but everywhere else we go because there’s a certain sort of offset that the car needs going from race to qualifying runs. I really hope that we don’t ever feel like we need to worry about that and weekends like last weekend in Phoenix we were definitely not good, but we feel like we will quickly get to grips with what we need to do. Tony Gibson is talented, the team is talented and has good equipment so that is really not a concern moving forward and that we are really only going to get better at that and I’m only going to get more comfortable. If it rains I feel like I’m still in the race, but I start in the back or something like that. Again, another situation and either way it’s part of the learning process.”
WOULD TRACK POSITION CONCERN YOU IF YOU HAD TO START IN THE BACK?
“It’s always important. Everybody is so good in Cup that it takes a lot to pass cars. You kind of settle into a pace and you kind of lose momentum at times and it’s just challenging. Our equipment stays so consistent out there and that’s what makes it difficult. You just have to get creative sometimes with your pit stops. I know pit stops played a big role last weekend. Whether it’s strategy or not, but I mean I feel like if you have a good car you will be able to pass and that makes restarts even more important too.”
HOW ARE YOU FEELING AFTER YOUR WRECK LAST WEEK?
“I feel like I have a concussion from last night. I got hit by a rock at the dirt track and I took it to the ground. I feel like this is really sore. It hit me straight in the head. Good thing I had a hat on or I’m feeling like there would have been blood. The safety crew does a great job. The cars are safer than they’ve ever been and the tracks are. I said after last weekend that I’m glad that I didn’t race in the era of the lack of SAFER barriers out there because I don’t know what it’s like without them. I know that the hits feel hard and my neck was sore after last weekend for sure, which it never has been before after a wreck. Either my training program is off or it was just that big of a hit or maybe the fact that it was both sides. That’s something that you as a driver make those decisions and the safety crew helps you make them.”
DID YOU HAVE TO GO GET A SCAN AFTER THE INCIDENT?
“No, I was able to say my name and where I was born. They take your blood pressure, they do like vitals and they ask how you’re feeling and I really felt fine. It’s understandable that my neck would be sore. The medical staff always does a checkup the next day, they either call or send you a text to ask how you’re doing. They’re thorough, but it’s based on your information too. If I was to say, ‘I don’t feel so great or I’m feeling sick or I don’t think I can remember anything.’ It’s up to you to be honest about it and it’s your decision. You can say, ‘I’m fine,’ and go along with your day. If you’re not, it’s your risk. They can’t read your mind, they can’t tell if you’re not well if you don’t tell them. Other than my neck being sore, which I told them, I felt fine. I said I had a headache on Sunday night and on Monday my neck was sore. They said it sounded like it could have been worse so we’re glad you’re okay. That’s what my situation was last week. As far as the source of it being the beads melting, not really sure if it was a melting. Goodyear came to the hauler yesterday and chatted with Greg Zipadelli in the hauler with me and Tony Gibson, they basically are looking at how they can fix the problem and there were obviously seven situations where they were exactly the same problem. I think they’re looking at things moving forward and they try to make the tire better coming back around this time at Phoenix with a softer tire. Obviously that didn’t work. I hope we have a different tire and I told them I would do the testing for you. Maybe that’s what we’ll do moving forward, but I know they are evaluating their options because they feel bad about the situation.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE STYLE OF RACING AT BRISTOL?
“I’ve liked Bristol since the first time. For me, I respond to the banking which translates to grip and it’s definitely there. We were having a decent run in the Cup car, we were lead lap and top-20 after 440 laps and unfortunately were taken out, but I think that all those events lead us to more potential the next time around with a better baseline setup. I feel like for us and for me, my strong suit is the race or at least at this point. We just need to work on qualifying and get a decent qualifying spot so we can work from there. I feel like it’s not very common to drop back for me so if we can just start further up then we can continue to make progress and be smart and take care of our equipment. Whether you pass people at the beginning or pass them on the run, they are both passes. I look forward to going back there, I like the banked tracks. It was fun.”
WOULD YOU BET ON YOURSELF THIS WEEKEND?
“Yeah, I would bet on myself. I was running up there last year when I had less of an idea what was going on and didn’t have a full time effort, it was only a partial schedule obviously. I would, but I think that even the best of us can have bad weekends and that they happen. Whether it’s from bad luck or whether it’s just from missing it, it can happen. I think we’ll be better than that and I would think that the test day would help that just to get us up to speed better and make us feel more comfortable and have a better baseline setup for the race.”