HOW DID PRACTICE GO FOR YOU GUYS?
“Practice was relatively productive got a little bit better, got a little bit better in race trim which leads to qualifying trim. Still feel like we have a fair amount to improve on. I felt like I was tight enough through (turns) three and four that I was sure that I was losing a couple a tenths. So if we can find that it would be awesome. We will see what that leads to in qualifying.”
WHAT IS YOUR REACTION IS THIS WEEK TO ALL THE CONTROVERSY? RYAN NEWMAN GETTING INTO THE CHASE BECAUSE OF THE MWR (MICHAEL WALTRIP RACING) FINES AND STUFF LIKE THAT?
“Well you just said that Ryan Newman got in due to the fines. He was my understanding leading the race. So I don’t envy NASCAR’s position whatsoever. That is a tough place to be put in when you are trying to sort all of that out and you have so many different entities that are involved. And put so much into it and it means so much to get in the Chase, but at the end of the day Ryan (Newman) is in and he was running in a position that he would have been in if it would have stayed green. I think that he has a lot to be proud of for that. I don’t know. Makes it exciting to see what the heck is going on, on Twitter everyday though.”
YOU ARE A DRIVER WHO IS NOT IN THE CHASE AND YOU HAVE A TEAMMATE THAT IS IN THE CHASE. ARE YOU CONCERNED AT ALL ABOUT ANY SORT OF PERCEPTION THAT IF YOU GIVE UP A SPOT YOU ARE HELPING HIM?
“I mean at the end of the day you run as hard as you can and you get every single position that you can. When it comes down to one or two drivers next to each other on the track it is one thing especially if you are teammates. But I can say that my team has never asked me to do anything at all on the track. There were no orders for last weekend, nothing, and I don’t believe they would ever make me do anything. It’s a really gray area and it’s a really sticky situation. I believe that if you want to give a spot to somebody on the track and they are right behind you, you can do that. That is your decision, but you are also not affecting the entire outcome of the race. That is just one spot. There were things done on this past weekend that involved more positions than just the immediate one next to you.”
I DON’T KNOW IF YOU WERE IN CHARLOTTE THIS WEEK, BUT HOW HAS THE MOOD CHANGED IN THE ORGANIZATION?
“I wasn’t. I was in sunny Phoenix. Actually rainy Phoenix if I may be honest.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THE GUYS WERE? VERY DISAPPOINTING THEY WERE SO CLOSE TO GETTING ONE CAR INTO THE CHASE LAST SATURDAY NIGHT AND THEN IT TO CHANGE ON MONDAY?
“I wasn’t there.”
HAVE YOU HEARD THE GUYS TALK ABOUT IT AT ALL?
“Look teams work so hard to make the Chase it’s everything. Shoot from the outside looking in it looks like there is almost more pressure coming down to that last race than there even is at the end of the season. A lot of that has to do with the fact that there are so many more people involved in those positions as opposed to the end of the year where usually it’s down to two or three drivers. A lot is on the line. I’m sure that there is a lot of relief and also a refreshed determination to be in the Chase, but I wasn’t there to exactly witness everyone’s mood, but I know what kind of effort gets put in to get there.”
EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE A GOOD TEAMMATE. HOW DO YOU DISCERN WHAT IS APPROPRIATE, WHAT’S INAPPROPRIATE AND WHERE THE LINE IS WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO BE A GOOD TEAMMATE TO WHOEVER THAT MIGHT BE?
“I mean like I just said I feel like when you do things that affect entire outcomes of the race and many positions on the track then that is a pretty big move. When you are involving one person around you in giving up a spot then that’s I feel like that’s a whole different thing. You know a lot of that comes down to relationships on the track with other drivers, manufacturers; sure you are always trying to help. It’s no different than you go to Talladega or Daytona and you try to get in line with other Chevy’s. It’s no different than that trying to help each other, but it really just comes down to the individual and what they feel comfortable doing. At the end of the day this has been going on forever and ever and ever in racing. There have been people that have given up spots here and there. There have been teams that have asked drivers to do certain things and it’s probably never going to go completely away it’s just trying to figure out how far you can go before you get punished for it. It’s a gray area there are no rules for it, but I’m glad I’m not in the middle of it.”
YOU SAW PROBABLY THE SAME THING IN INDYCAR DIDN’T YOU?
“Yeah, sure, in IndyCar it happens too. I remember getting told what to do in certain situations or who to be helping out there and when I could pass and when I couldn’t. Looking back at the end of the day I think some of it is fair and I think some of it’s a little unfair. I might do some of it different going back in time, but the attitude in general is for the greater good and what allows a team to get the highest result possible.”
YOU’VE BROUGHT A LOT OF FANS TO THE SPORT. WHEN YOU HAVE AN INSTANCE LIKE THIS, DO YOU THINK THIS HURTS THE CREDIBILITY BY TURNING FANS OFF? OR, DO YOU THINK IT MIGHT BRING MORE FANS IN?
“This is somewhat negative attention, but it’s still attention on the sport. And there is a negative side to every sport at the end of the day; and every job, essentially. So, we’re just doing it on a televised stage. So, I don’t think it’s the best of things, but I think that when people are talking about NASCAR racing and paying attention to see how it goes, I think that ultimately if they end up loving the sport, it’s a good thing. But, you try and do it with positive attention as opposed to negative.”
REGARDING CREDIBILITY (INAUDIBLE):
“Well, I think so and I think that it can have an effect as well on the sponsors involved and not wanting to be part of a negative swirl of attention. I think that’s probably one of the most negative sides to it because our sport is driven on sponsorship. But yeah, I think at the end of the day it’s probably a little bit negative. But if we generate fans because they watch the sport and love it and want to keep watching it, then that’s also a positive.”
DOES THIS BUILD UP EXCITEMENT FOR THE CHASE?
“Before Richmond, I, as a driver, could definitely feel the tension. There’s a lot on the line. And people, like I said, put so much effort into making the Chase and I feel like it’s a pretty cool format. I’m sure that when it was introduced, I wasn’t around, but I’m sure there were some people that didn’t like it but at the end of the day it creates a lot of buzz for NASCAR and creates a lot of storylines, clearly, and brings people back to the sport if they’ve drifted away over the summer. And like I said, or it generates new fans. So it’s still racing at the end of the day and you still have to race at this point to get in and you still have to race to the end to get a championship or your finishing positions, so I think it creates a very interesting layer of entertainment.”
DO YOU PROJECT AHEAD AS TO WHEN YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO COMPETE FOR A CHASE SLOT?
“I think that realistically, not necessarily for the Chase in particular, but I think to really understand the car and feel comfortable in the car and be able to start to have some more established expectation levels, I think it takes at least three years to get to that point. And some people say five years. So, I really hope it doesn’t take that long, but I feel like in my mind it’s realistic to think it could take at least three years to at least feel comfortable in the car; and then it’s about being in the right situation where you’re in the right group and you have the right car and your manufacturers are good. It comes down to a lot of other things. But I think as a driver, after a good few years, you as a driver are probably pretty ready to take the car to the limit.”
ON SPENDING TIME IN PHOENIX THIS PAST WEEK:
“This was ‘old friends week’ back in Arizona. It was nice. I saw a lot of people an A/C unit was out, which was very uncomfortable to sleep in a hot house. I think it was about 80 – 88 degrees throughout the house. But that’s okay; I can get everything fixed before we go back in November. It actually rained three days in a row out there. It was terrible. I tried to play golf. It’s really hard to play golf when it’s pouring rain. But I came back to Chicago on Wednesday night and Ricky’s dad came into town and had dinner. So that was nice; got some friends and family coming to the race this weekend. So I definitely make the most of the times when I get back to my home bases.”
RACING HERE ON THE WEEKEND ISN’T THAT MUCH DIFFERENT FROM BEING HERE?
“No, it is nice to wake up in your own bed, and spend some more nights with your own kitchen and ‘fridge and whatnot and have a nice view. But it’s not too much different than every other weekend.”