WITH ONE PRACTICE UNDER YOUR BELT SO FAR, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS WEEKEND AT SONOMA?
“Well, I had hoped that being here before would have made it a little bit better for me out there, but it didn’t. So, I don’t know. The car just doesn’t feel very good. It just feels like it’s all over the place. It’s loose, it’s tight, it’s loose, it’s tight; it just doesn’t feel very settled. I feel like we just have a lot of work to do. I think that it’s going to be kind of a different story when it comes to race time because the rear tires just lose so much grip. So between that, and fuel-saving, I think that it’s going to be a fair amount different than just turning a fast lap. So you’ve got to keep that in mind. But, we’re just struggling with trying to find a balance on the car that just feels comfortable to drive, to be honest.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE NEW QUALIFYING FORMAT?
“Well, it’s not new to me. We ran it in the Nationwide Series and I don’t really know any different in NASCAR. It’s been the only way that I’ve qualified on road courses; so I suppose it’s more of the same for me. That’s a positive. It is nice to have more than one lap just because it’s when you’re pushing these cars, things are bound to bounce around and move. It’s nice to have a couple of laps as an option to get your fastest.”
IS IT TOUGHER AT A ROAD COURSE THAN AN OVAL TO ADJUST YOUR MINDSET OR TEACH YOUR BRAIN NEW BRAKING POINTS OR WHATEVER YOU DO TO GET AROUND HERE?
“I think that’s a good observation. But I think it’s an observation overall for all tracks that I’ve been to in an IndyCar and then come to in a stock car. I think that just as much as it hurts to have different markers for open-wheel, it helps to just know where the track is going. So, yes; it’s probably more of a detriment to have different marks but it kind of balances out with at least knowing the track. I kept going through Turn 3 today and thinking to myself, ‘Is it because I’m doing it like I did in IndyCar that I am terrible through here and I can’t get the car to turn?’ I was thinking that to myself. Overall, it’s nice to just know where you’re going.”
HOW MUCH OF A BUMP DO YOU GET FROM LAST WEEK?
“You know, I have to say that I feel like over the last four or five or so weeks, really since Charlotte, I’ve felt like we have been in a position to get those kinds of finishes if things went our way, but they didn’t. So, I felt like overall, we were all thinking it was kind of overdue from where we had been speed-wise and the potential that we had in other races from the month before. It’s just nice, honestly, it’s a bit of a relief to get something of a result finally. I guess my words afterwards were I felt like we should have had a few of those by now. But it took a while.”
THE RESTARTS ARE SO CRAZY HERE. WHAT HAS TONY STEWART OR ANYBODY TOLD YOU WHAT TO EXPECT ON THE RESTARTS?
‘We haven’t talked about it. But, I supposed it’s going to be kind of like an even easier to bump scenario but just as chaotic as like Pocono, where you go into (Turn) 1 and it’s like everybody everywhere. But when you’re going slower it’s just a lot easier to find yourself into the back end of other cars. So, aerodynamics don’t really play much of a part, so you don’t have to worry about that. It’s going to pay off overall, probably, to be on the inside so that you don’t get pushed out or have somebody run into you. But on the other hand, the inside stops up, so sometimes you get a lot of cars if you go around the outside where they can carry the momentum and there’s somewhere to go, you know? But there’s the outside and then there’s the extra outside if you want to keep going, so on the inside you’re just stuck. I feel like I’m just going to get a feel for it over the first couple of starts and hope I’m in the right lane at the right time.”
YOU SAID YOU STRUGGLED TODAY IN PRACTICE. BUT COMING INTO A ROAD COURSE RACE, SO YOU FEEL A BIT MORE CONFIDANT BASED ON THE FACT THAT YOU RAN REALLY WELL ON THEM LAST YEAR AND YOU’VE HAD SUCCESS?
“Yep. That’s it. I feel more comfortable.”
HAVE YOU AND JACQUES VILLENEUVE PUT WHATEVER HAPPENED LAST YEAR BEHIND YOU YET?
“I don’t know. I saw him in the Rookie meeting and I was like, ‘Oh, hey’. And that was about it (laughter). You know, after the things that have happened, it’s hard to have a lot of respect for somebody like that. I respect what he’s done in his career; but the way that he treats other drivers on the track, I can’t. So, that’s all there is to say.”
WITH AS WELL AS YOU RAN AT THE ROAD COURSES LAST YEAR, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE OWED A GOOD FINISH TO SOME DEGREE? IT SEEMS LIKE ROAD COURSES HAVEN’T BEEN EASY IN GETTING THE FULL RESULT YOU DESERVE
“Yeah. That’s happened I feel like, on a lot of different tracks in just different categories of tracks. But I feel like it was just a little bit more obvious on the road courses because I was running that much better. And so many weird things happening; getting taken out, hitting a shoe….those are just not good things. And they were all running both times in the Top 5 when I was leading. It happens. I think that probably every driver can feel like they are owed something in different areas just based on their lack of luck. But you just have to keep plugging away. For every up, there’s a down. And it doesn’t mean that it’s going to come next. It just means that it will come eventually. Especially being in Cup for the first time, I feel like we just need to get to a place where the car is consistent and see what happens in the race. It think it’s just going to be a lot of tire and fuel conservation. We’ll see how it all plays.”
HOW DIFFERENT IS THIS IN A CUP CAR ON A ROAD COURSE COMPARED TO IN A NATIONWIDE SERIES CAR?
“The difference from an IndyCar to a Cup car on a road course is like night and day (laughter). Oh, Nationwide to Cup? Honestly, it’s hard for me to tell because I never drove this track in a Nationwide car. But, one of the things that is relatively obvious is just how difficult it is to keep the rear tires underneath you. I never thought it would be so difficult, but it just seems to be such a huge issue power-down. And it’s going to play a part in the race, for sure. It’s going to play a part in who can find the most rear grip and who can make the least amount of mistakes when it goes.”
ON RACING AT DAYTONA SOON
“I think about Daytona. I never mind going to speedways. I find them fun. Obviously being the Coke Zero 400 and being a sponsor of mine, it’s an even bigger event. But I’m also thinking about the fact that Harry Scott (Turner Scott Motorsports) has invited people to his house in Hilton Head and I’m going to go there, too; and that sounds really good! I feel like I’m actually going to be on vacation. I’ll be working, but that will be a nice little break.”