TALK ABOUT RACING IN THE SPRINT CUP SERIES AT INDIANAPOLIS AND ALSO HOW YOUR CAR IS HANDLING AND WHAT YOU EXPECT DURING SUNDAY’S RACE
“I always like coming here. As I’ve said before, many times, it’s a special place. It makes me happy to be here. I feel very comfortable, but at the same time I’m working on a new car and working on making it handle well and like I want it to and also building up the confidence to do what you can do in a Cup car here. So, it’s just a process. We changed the set-up a fair amount from yesterday and it was better. So we used the first couple of runs there in race trim and then went to qualifying (trim). I feel like we’re on to things, but we haven’t quite put it all together. But it’s challenging in a Cup car. It’s definitely now working towards flat. It’s braking, lifting, not lifting all the way; there’s a lot more going on. But I like being here in general. It’s fun for me as the city goes because my family all lives here. So, I’ve been here sinceWednesday doing stuff. It feels like a lot less work when you’re doing fun things with your family.”
TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU NEED TO DO IN A STOCK CAR HERE VERSUS AN INDYCAR
“I think they are equally challenging. When you get flat in an IndyCar, it’s generally fairly comfortable. But I think building up to that, is grab your gonads and go for it. And I think it’s similar in a stock car. I think (Ryan) Newman said, ‘Go flat ‘til you see God and then lift.’ That’s in a Cup car. So, I think both of them are challenging. The moments aren’t as easy to catch in an Open Wheel car but yet you’re pushing that limit. And especially with how we trim out for Qualifying, you’re really pushing the limits. I think that once you get to the limit of any car, I think it’s challenging, for sure. But there’s just something about an Open Wheel car going that much faster that it sometimes gets a little more hairy.”
WHEN YOU SAY YOU’RE COMFORTABLE HERE, YOU SAY THAT AT DAYTONA TOO. HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THE TWO?
“I feel comfortable with speed, for sure. That’s not even something I like about racing. Like it’s not like I say I like to go fast. That’s not something I’m concerned about or that feels uncomfortable for me. So, I don’t know if that’s any different between the drivers. But definitely, as far as feeling comfortable at Daytona, has to do with how straightforward the track is. It’s pretty straightforward and pretty simple to drive. But, I guess I feel comfortable here just because I’ve been here so many times and have familiarity with the track and just the visual of it is so familiar to me. So, I feel comfortable here. It’s just a matter of then making the car better, which allows me to go faster, too. The changes that we made all day today, and from yesterday, have allowed me to go in deeper and go in deeper and go in deeper, but it’s still a process. The only common theme there is a little bit of speed, I guess.”
IN YOUR CAREER, SOME OF THE BEST PERFORMANCES HAVE COME IN THE INDY 500, AND EARLIER THIS YEAR AT THE DAYTONA 500. WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THAT TO?
“I was going to make some joke that was not appropriate, probably. But you know it’s just been some theme with my career that it seems like when the pressure is on, things tend to go better. I can’t explain it. I guess it’s just something inside. It’s some sort of Adrenalin or hormonal change that happens when you have the blood pumping and there is pressure on and you’re nervous, obviously it does all the right things chemistry-wise to make things go a little bit better. I don’t have a full explanation for it. But, I’m grateful for it.”
DID RUNNING HERE FOR 38 LAPS IN THE NATIONWIDE RACE LAST YEAR GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF WHAT TO EXPECTTOMORROW?
“I’m not going to lie. I barely remember those 38 laps. I really don’t remember much about it. I just remember getting frustrated and it ending my day. So, I would say not to specifically answer your question, but I think that’s been a theme this year too is when things aren’t going quite as well as you want them to, my nature or one’s nature is to try harder and try to get more out of it and push the limit that much further and there’s very little return on that. So, in fact, it causes more problems than anything by a lot. So I think that’s something that I feel like I’m really getting the message is that you have what you have and some of the best races I’ve had this year have been the ones where I just take what the car will give me and you’re patient and you work hard and if it comes to you, then it does. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I think that’s just something I feel like I need to do moving forward. If there is one thing I remember about the Nationwide race here is it’s just to not let frustration get to you and you hope for the best in the day and you work hard but, taking yourself out of the game by being frustrated is a complete end.”
WERE YOU HERE AT THE BRICKYARD 400 LAST YEAR, AND DID YOU FEEL ANY JEALOUSY THAT YOU WEREN’T IN IT COMPARED TO SOME OF THE OTHER CUP RACES YOU HAD WATCHED? WILL TOMORROW BE ANY MORE SPECIAL THAN OTHER CUP RACES? ”Yes I was. No, I didn’t actually. I felt very satisfied with the progression that I have had through stock cars to get to this points, full-time Sprint Cup. So, no I didn’t actually. I felt…I know of felt bored sitting there actually on pit lane, because you can’t see anything. I am sure there was a better perspective to have than sitting on the pit box. That is why I always encourage everyone to get a headset; listen to drivers; get to a place where you can see things and…it helps a lot. That is kind of what I remember. I’m sure it will be far more exciting being in the car. But, too exciting is not good, so…just hopefully more exciting.”
YOU CAME SO CLOSE TO WINNING THE (INDIANAPOLIS) 500; DO YOU HAVE ANY REGRETS ABOUT ANYTHING FROM YOUR PERIOD AS AN INDYCAR DRIVER?
“I’m a firm believer that what I did them is what has led me to where I am now, and they all needed to happen. I think that first Indy 500 probably ended with a little more fuel than we thought we had, so I feel like maybe there was something there that could have been had. But we didn’t really know the exact numbers. Later on I found out that we used different additional systems to know you were getting to the bottom of the fuel tank – fuel collectors that I don’t we had if we had my first year. Maybe we did; I don’t know. That’s just because it’s the Indy 500, they are so hard to get. But it could have turned my career in a whole different direction, and I might not be where I am now, and I’m really happy where I am. Everything happens for a reason; whew…but those Indy 500 wins are hard to come by.
“That yellow flag, you know it. That was probably the thing that made me the most mad about the first Indy 500 was that there was a wreck off of (turn) four, I think. I can’t remember exactly who it was; one of the Japanese drivers – that’s about all I can remember. The pace car was going like 45 miles per hour. I mean, it was going so slow, excessively slower than any other yellow flag we had. I couldn’t even…like you couldn’t even go slow enough. It hurried up, and made it go green again, and if they had just run the normal speed, and done the normal thing, then there would have been probably at least another less lap of green-flag running. So that’s the only thing that makes me mad about that race, is it seemed out of the norm of what we were doing to hurry up to go back green, and that just didn’t seem right to me.”
DID YOU HAVE TO UNLEARN HABITS OR KNOWLEDGE OF DRIVING HERE (INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY) THAT YOU HAD TO UNLEARN FROM INDYCAR TO DRIVE A NATIONWIDE CAR, THEN FROM A NATIONWIDE CAR TO A CUP CAR? “Well they sure don’t come off the car quite as far as we did in IndyCar. I think my nature is to come off the wall a lot further. But that’s pretty simple. I can fix that. I think it is more about the visual of the line being different in stock car versus IndyCar. I’ve seen a lot of variation out there between a traditional or more early entry; really arcing it out entries, but definitely getting well below the line in every single corner is very important. That is something that can only happen in an Indy car when you are really hooked up and very comfortable. You see a lot of people hooking and spinning in an IndyCar that way too.
“I suppose there is that tiny little bit of concern that you are getting too low, and it might step out on you. Or you might catch a little bit of curb on the inside. But these are completely different cars, so I think that I have to get over. You have got to get below that white line every corner and arc it out a little bit more because the cars don’t want to turn. The more you can get done as early as possible, the straighter you can be off, and you carry speed. That is especially probably important off of turns two and four.”
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR CONCENTRATION TO DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO FOR YOUR JOB WITH ALL THE INTEREST AND INQUIRIES ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL LIFE? “It doesn’t really make any difference because I am just continuing to live my life. It is not like I live it more or less because it is known about or talked about. It is just a little bit more talked about because there is a little bit more interest in who the other person is. There is a little more relevance to my situation, and to all of our situation here in NASCAR and reporting on it. I acknowledge and have before that it is unique and different.
As I have experience with being a girl in racing, unique and different tend to draw attention.”
HOW ARE YOUR GAUGING YOUR SUCCESS AS A ROOKIE IN NASCAR SPRINT CUP WITH THE SERIES LOADED WITH FAMOUS NAMES AND FACES? “I think it is important to look at how it is going overall with the team. I think that we’ve had some struggles this year, and we are trying to get to grips with the new car. There are times that I feel like here where my inexperience with the car is definitely hurting me more. I wish that I was better off than I am right now, but we are getting better. It’s just that everyone gets better throughout the weekend. I asked Tony after Loudon how I was doing, and what does he really expect out of me. To some degree that’s the real question is what are the expectations of me. Do you think I am supposed to be top-20 and top-15 all the time? Or am I not? He said ‘If I saw there being an issue, or something that stood out as a problem, or an area you needed to work on, I would have come to you already, but I don’t see it. And every time I am behind you, you are doing the right thing’. He said we have to work on the cars and make them better, and he thinks I am doing a good job. That’s the boss…so.”
IS IT HARD KNOWING THAT GETTING A WIN OR EVEN TOP-10 THOSE THINGS ARE JUST VERY DIFFICULT AS A ROOKIE IN THIS KIND OF A SERIES?
“You are competing against a lot of experience and good relationships team wise, driver/crew chief wise and familiarity. It’s just tough. I think that hoping for top 10’s and wins all the time is fairly unrealistic. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Daytona was a top 10 to start the year off, but I think it’s far more realistic to hope for top 15’s and top 20’s right now. If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s about baby steps and it’s about making realistic goals that you can achieve. Otherwise it’s just constantly frustrating because if you had set a goal of top 20 and you finish there then you have something to be happy about where if you don’t set that goal at all and your 20th then you are like ‘I suck I’m 20th’. You have to set goals along the way and it’s a process. That is why experience pays off. For the most part in your whole career you don’t stop learning and you continue to get better it’s just a little bit more so at the beginning.”
YOU CAME IN CONTACT WITH A LOT OF LEGENDS HERE WHETHER IT BE BOBBY (UNSER), MICHAEL (ANDRETTI), NOW TONY (STEWART). WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE THEY HAVE GIVEN TO YOU ABOUT RACING HERE AT INDY?
“Probably the very first year I don’t know if it came from (Johnny) Rutherford or (Rick) Mears but it was just that it is a long race and never give up and you are never out of it. Which was the case; I started up front and stalled it. Went to the back came back through, got into the top 10 again, spun and tore the front wing off. I pitted, started from the back and had a chance to win. You are never out of it, it is a long race so a lot can happen here and especially being as big of a track as it is, as long as the races are here, strategy comes into it which always throws a huge question mark as to what the outcome will really be and what plays out.”
DO YOU STILL HAVE THE SAME BUTTERFLIES THAT YOU DO GOING INTO A 500 THAT YOU DO GOING INTO THE 400?
“I don’t know I haven’t done it yet. You only really get to that point once you get to race day. I think that whenever there is a lot of buildup and I always call it pomp and circumstance there are parades and bands and balloons and all kinds of stuff going on. Special different introductions things like that it has a different feel. It feels different because it’s different. I don’t think it will probably be quite as much here for the 400 because I’m not sure there is quite as much that goes on. Although then again I’ve never done it so we will see.”
AT ONE POINT YOU WERE A ROOKIE IN THE INDYCAR SERIES AND YOU HAD TO LEARN AND FIGURE OUT AND SET EXPECTATIONS HAVE YOU HAD TO GO ABOUT IT DIFFERENTLY IN NASCAR THAN YOU HAD TO IN OPEN WHEEL?
“Yes, probably to start with there are so many more cars that if I finished top 20 that meant that I was just in the field in IndyCar. I mean as far as overall results are significantly different for goals. Probably more so because you get this feeling like you are established and you know what you are doing on some level. You should jump in and be able to do okay, but in IndyCar I really had no idea at all. So, I feel like I have had to establish goals far more in NASCAR than in IndyCar. Just as far as just having goals. That is all. I think in an IndyCar it felt like if you have a good day overall it’s a good day. If you have a bad day you are in the back and you are 20th. If you have a good day you are top five. It’s much more straight-forward where in NASCAR there are so many cars and the competition level is so high. There is so much money being spent on so many different things in NASCAR and so it just feels like you chip away a little more at it than in IndyCar.”