HAVE YOU TALKED WITH TONY STEWART?
“Not since Ricky (Stenhouse) and I went and saw him in the hospital. I haven’t talked to him, but have texted with him a little bit. I’ve heard he’s kind of getting back in the game you know. He wants to know everything that’s going on. He wants to be able to hear what we’re doing. He’s off the meds and back to life again.”
ARE YOU HAPPY TO HAVE AUSTIN DILLON IN THE NO. 14 CAR THIS WEEKEND?
“Yeah, it’s nice to have a teammate that you know. Obviously, running with Austin (Dillon) in the Nationwide Series, I know him. I love getting other drivers perspectives on the cars and just kind of hearing the way they describe things. I think it will be good for the team. He’s young, he’s got fire and he wants to do it. I think he will be a good addition for however long it works out for.”
HOW DOES THE TRACK FEEL TODAY?
“It feels like a smooth track. We came here earlier in the year and I struggled and didn’t feel very comfortable, but we worked really, really hard on trying to get a car that was more consistent and predictable and felt better. Actually, we kind of started working towards it here in the race and by the end of the race I felt really good. We had double-stinted the left sides and it was the best the car had felt. We made a lot of improvements and have continued to make improvements since we were here last. When I first went out on the track, I thought, ‘Man, this feels like a whole different car.’ White literally it probably is, it just feels so much better than the last time.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SPEEDS?
“I was thinking about that because we were talking about the normal pick up from practice to qualifying and that qualifying pole was slower than what quite a few people have run. That just means in my head that all the teams have had time to work with this new car, make it better, make improvements and I think that by seeing the speeds come up from the last time, it’s a result of how hard the teams have been working to make the cars better. We work our butts off and we do a lot of testing and it’s nice when it shows.”
DO THESE CARS FEEL FAST TO YOU?
“I think any car that feels comfortable and is good feels like a moderate speed and any car that is not working right and doesn’t feel good, those are the cars that feel like you’re going at warp speed. I’ve had both in both conditions. Gosh, I can remember back in the IndyCar days here being so loose one time and feeling like I was doing 160 miles per hour instead of 220 or whatever we were doing. It all depends on the balance of the car. It’s all relative. Let’s face it, a smaller percentage when you’re working up in the 200s.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU PICKED UP WHERE YOU LEFT OFF HERE IN JUNE?
“That’s what I was just saying is it feels so much better than when we were here last and that’s just a result of (Tony) Gibson (crew chief) and myself and the engineers working together and finding a setup that’s more comfortable for me right off the bat and then also working on the car itself and making improvements there. It feels better than when we were here last.”
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES THAT YOUNG DRIVERS MIGHT FACE COMING FROM NATIONWIDE OR OTHER SERIES INTO SPRINT CUP REGARDING EXPECTATIONS?
“I think that it’s always difficult as a driver to say the words like my goal is top-20. It’s not what it needs to be at some point. While you’re ultimate goal is to win and if the opportunity presents itself, you’ll be ready, you still have to set realistic goals along the way to keep yourself upbeat and to keep everybody else upbeat. That’s been something I’ve dealt with this year. I think coming off of last year I expected to do a little bit better and I let things get me frustrated and I let my spot on the track kind of take me out of my game a little bit I think. I pushed the limits a little bit too much and we took that week off and I just kind of looked at the season so far and said, ‘Man, every time I try so hard something bad happens and every time I just take whatever the car will give me and whatever the race will give me they are much better days.’ It’s just figuring out you yourself what makes you work and what makes you get the best results possible. For some it might be to get fired up and for others it might be just relax and let the race come to you. It’s just figuring that out. Everybody’s different.”
HOW MUCH DOES THAT FRUSTRATION CARRYOVER TO THE REST OF THE TEAM?
“When you’re in the middle of being frustrated and wanting more and having some tough days, you don’t think that you’re making anyone mad, but we were testing at Nashville this weekend and we were just sitting there having lunch and one of my guys said, ‘I don’t know what you’ve been doing the last few weeks, but it’s been a noticeable difference in you and everything seems to be going so much better and everybody notices and appreciates it.’ Let it be a lesson that if you think something is going on, it is.”
DID IT SURPRISE YOU THAT THEY SAID THAT?
“No, no. I think the best relationship you can have is being honest with your guys and with people that you work with. I don’t think so because being the one in the middle of it, to actually come to the realization that you’re trying too hard probably means you’re trying too hard in a pretty obvious way. Like I said, you have to figure that out yourself, you can’t tell somebody to relax. You want someone to push hard so you can’t just tell them to back off. They have to figure it out themselves.”
HOW IMPORTANT ARE TIRES TO RACING?
“It’s the chicken and the egg. If we didn’t have tires, you can’t go. They’re very important of course. Tires are very important and most importantly here at Michigan there’s a lot of strategies to tires here because it’s repave and very smooth and the tires have a lot of longevity. You can play a lot of different strategies with them, which I think makes the racing more interesting.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT BRISTOL?
“I’ve liked Bristol since I went there the first time. I remember when I stepped foot onto that track, it was the day before, it was load in day and I looked out there and you’re standing on the straightaway, but it sure seems like a corner. It’s a very cool track and a spectacle for the fans. I feel like that is always the one that everyone says, ‘I want to come see the Bristol night race.’ I feel like the attendance lately has been great, the coverage has been great of NASCAR and I think we’ll get a lot of people out there.”