THREE PLATE RACES UNDER YOUR BELT DO YOU FEEL BETTER PREPARED MAYBE THAN EVER TO DEAL WITH THESE THINGS AND DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE TO SURPRISE SOME PEOPLE WITH ANOTHER DAYTONA 500 LIKE FINISH? OR HAVE YOU JUST LEARNED THESE THINGS BASICALLY ARE JUST THE SAME OLD CRAPSHOOT FOR EVERYBODY IN THE FIELD?
“There is a certain level of it that of course is a little bit of a crapshoot, but there are patterns. I would say that one of my patterns is that they tend to be better races for me and that find a way to the front for a majority of the race. Hopefully this will be another one of those and I know that Stewart-Haas builds great speedway cars. I know I feel very comfortable and confident on these tracks. What I would like is for having good races to not be a surprise and especially on these speedways to really not be as they have been something that I’ve been comfortable and had good results at obviously from the beginning, but from Daytona especially.”
AS SOMEONE WHO IS NOT IN THE CHASE DO YOU THINK ABOUT RACING UP FRONT WITH CHASE DRIVERS NOW THAT WE ARE IN THIS PLAYOFF?
“I feel it’s an element of thought at times, but you just have to get on with the racing. I feel that when, just like with teammates, when you start to tiptoe around someone too much you are not doing what’s normal. Or in some ways not what is expected as a driver. You really have to get on with the job at hand and understand that these races will just play out how they will play out and there will be accidents. You hope that you aren’t the culprit, but if you are that on some level there inevitable in this kind of racing and that nobody wants to crash, but it’s just the nature of everybody going over 200 mph a couple of inches from each other.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS THAT HAS HELPED YOU HAVE THE SUCCESS ON THE RESTRICTOR PLATES? THERE ARE A WHOLE LOT OF VETERAN DRIVERS THAT HAVEN’T HAD SUCCESS AND DO NOT LIKE COMING. DOES IT FIT YOUR STYLE OF DRIVING? DO YOU THINK IT’S THE POSITIVE ATTITUDE YOU COME IN ACTUALLY LIKING THESE THINGS? WHAT IS THE KEY?
“I’m sure that you are right about some of those things for sure. Having a good attitude always helps. As I have said before IndyCar racing on mile and a halfs was much like this kind of racing. Flat out, close quarters and just trying to do whatever it took to keep the momentum up. I feel like visually it’s very familiar racing to me. Aerodynamics work different, but as far as the visual of how it goes and needing to keep the momentum up is very similar. Then it’s being with good teams that have good speedway cars it’s important. I think that has been seen in qualifying and obviously with Daytona qualifying on the pole for that race you need to have a really fast car to do that.”
HOW MANY FRIENDS DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE MADE ON THE TRACK BEING AS PEOPLE KNOW YOU ARE CONFIDENT HERE AT THIS TYPE OF RACING? TALK A BIT ABOUT WEATHER YOU THINK THIS RACE WILL BE ANY DIFFERENT THIS TIME AROUND BEING IN THE CHASE?
“Well I think as far as it being different these are the races that when I have been a spectator at home they are the ones that you see drivers that are in the Chase hanging back waiting until the last 10 or 20 laps before they really make their move and try and get to the front without putting themselves at risk the whole time. That is something that you might see that might be a little bit different although that happens every now and again otherwise. As far as friends go I think that happens when you do well. Everybody wants to be your friend when you are fast so the best thing I can do is go be fast.”
CAN YOU COMPARE RACING HERE WITH DAYTONA?
“The races are really similar other than the fact that Talladega is a little wider. They are very similar races.”
GIVEN YOU ARE THREE QUARTERS OF THE WAY THROUGH THE SEASON NOW HOW DO YOU PERSONALLY JUDGE YOUR PROGRESS? DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE ON TRACK WITH WHERE YOU WANTED TO BE FOR THIS SEASON?
“I’m right where I need to be. I’m right where I was going to be. All I know is that I’ve done everything I can to prepare for the year, to learn throughout the year and that is what’s going to lead into next year. And trying to really put it altogether to get great results for GoDaddy and for Aspen Dental next year. I don’t think that you can ever plan how it’s going to go or give yourself a grade because everybody learns at a different rate. There are times that I probably was unexpectedly better than they thought and worse than they thought. It’s just my own personal progression and everyone’s is different.”
THE GEN-6 CAR WE THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE ADVANTAGEOUS TO YOU BECAUSE EVERYBODY WAS KIND OF STARTING ON THE SAME LEVEL PLAYING FIELD SINCE NOBODY ELSE HAD DRIVEN THE CAR EITHER. WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THAT CAR? YOU HAVE NOTHING REALLY TO COMPARE IT BY, BUT WHAT WOULD YOUR FIRST YEAR GRADE BE TO IT? DID YOU PAY ANY ATTENTION TO MONDAY’S TEST AND POSSIBLE CHANGES THEY MIGHT MAKE AND HOW THAT WOULD HELP WITH THE DRIVABILITY?
“I think it’s been a successful year for the car. I feel like there has been very little issues. It’s just a different balance of a car. I think it suited some driving styles better than others probably, but I think that it really comes down to as we feel and saw as a team to start the year off that you’ve got to bring the best cars possible. I feel like we started a little bit behind, but have rapidly throughout the year been learning and understanding the car better and better. What is hard is everyone else does that too to some degree, but I think that it’s going to give us a lot of knowledge going into the off season for what we need to work on to arrive with better cars next year. Speaking more in specific with excluding the speedways they are a special unique character of their own, but the rest of them. I think it’s been fine. I think there are no issues and I’m also definitely not smart enough to know what they need to fix it. I don’t have the experience with these cars yet to really know, but I will be for sure asking how the test went and I know that there were team members there to watch and to see what was going to go on and what is maybe happening for next year.”
MARTINSVILLE NEXT WEEK YOU HAD PROBABLY YOUR BEST NON-PLATE RUN THERE. DO YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE THERE AT ALL?
“Two extremes there, speedway then the extra short track. I think that what that shows is what is possible when you have a good car to work with. I feel like I definitely had that at Martinsville so the challenge for me this time around will be to not down shift from fourth to third when I come out of the pits and over rev the engine and have to start from the back and in general just have a better qualifying run so that I can start further up and work from there. It’s a short track and those leaders are on you very quickly if you don’t have a good qualifying run. Qualify better and let it play out from there.”