HAVE YOU GUYS HAD A CHANCE TO PROCESS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED IN BOSTON WITH A MEMBER OF YOUR TEAM?
“It’s someone that related to our team and that we know how that is going to affect this team and their family. Definitely, our thoughts and prayers are with them and that whole situation is just so tragic. I think not just our country the whole world was watching in kind of shock and disbelief of what has happened there. Somebody has been affected by it and has lost their life that is associated with our organization. We take that to heart.”
ANYTIME SOMETHING HAPPENS TO ONE MEMBER OF THE ORGANIZATION DOES IT KIND OF HAPPEN TO EVERYBODY IN A WAY?
“Yeah, it does. We have certainly been through our tragedies at Hendrick. We have also had our triumphs. We win and lose as an organization and we deal with losses as an organization as well.”
IS IT HARD TO RACE THIS WEEK WITH EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING ON?
“When you get in that race car you focus on your job. When I’m outside the car I’m certainly anxious like so many others are of what is going on. That is weighing heavy on everybody I think throughout this country. Dealing with that event and right now it’s about just being with those people as they recover, deal with the loss or finding justice.”
WITH ALL THE TEMPERATURE SWINGS IT COULD BE 30 DEGREES WARMER ON SUNDAY. HOW HARD IS THAT TO ADJUST TO?
“The track is super-fast, a lot of grip with these cool temps. In the wind it’s playing pretty significant call on how the balance of the car is. These cold temperatures are definitely making for some fast times. Anytime we are preparing for a race we want to have even or equal conditions that we are practicing in to make the best adjustments and decisions for race day that we possibly can. I haven’t seen the forecast on Sunday. All we can do is deal with what we have right now and tomorrow when we are practicing what we have then. We try to make the best decisions we can for Sunday.”
CAN YOU COMPARE THE SPEEDS THAT YOU GUYS ARE SEEING THIS TIME WITH THE NEW GEN-6 TO WHAT YOU GUYS HAD WITH THE NEW PAVEMENT LAST TIME?
“It is mind boggling how fast it is out there. It’s hard for my old brain to process some of the speeds that we are carrying out there. I’m telling you it’s insane. The cars have a lot of grip which allows you to push the limits of them. This car has a lot of downforce and then the track and the tire and the temperatures also have a tremendous amount of grip. I knew it would be fast. I remember it being fast last time we were here, but boy I didn’t know it would be this way.”
TALK ABOUT PRACTICE TODAY. DID YOU GUYS MAKE A QUALIFYING RUN? YOU WERE KIND OF IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PACK THERE AT THE END OF PRACTICE:
“We got a little bit delayed there while we were making our switch over to qualifying trim. We didn’t get the best run, but we did make a run. We’ve got some speed to find. I thought the car was really close in race trim. We’ve got maybe a tenth, a tenth in a half to gain there. Yeah, there were some cars that ran some really quick laps. We have typically seen here in the past on this track last year as well as other repaves it’s sometimes hard to back those times up when you go to qualify and everything calm and sits. Versus when you just bolt the tires on and everything is kind of warm and hot. We will see. I’m hoping we will pick up a little bit some other guy’s maybe can’t back up what they ran in practice and we find our way in the top-10 or 12.”
WHAT WILL YOUR CHALLENGE BE NEXT WEEK AT RICHMOND?
“It’s a short track. Getting the balance correct dealing kind of with what we were dealing with in Texas last week where you practice during the day and you race at night you’ve got to guess. I feel like every time we go to Richmond something is changing. I feel like we are advancing the technology of the cars. Gaining more downforce, gaining more mechanical grip and so you are always trying to figure out what combination is going to work best for the night race. We’ve been very successful there I would say three out of the last four times, but we also missed it big on one of those times. That is going to be our goal is to find that right balance and make sure we don’t miss it like we did that time.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED AT ALL THAT PEOPLE ARE STILL WORKING IN REAR SUSPENSION AREA?
“I was a little surprised this week with what was going on there because I feel like it’s pretty clear NASCAR’s stance on those types of components. I feel like over the last couple of years they have really stepped it up on getting parts approved. They see something that somebody is doing and if they don’t feel like it is blatantly intentional against the rules then there is usually a time frame where people start pushing the limits too far and then they make a rule. Or sometimes they wait for the off season to do that. That is kind of where I see this year I feel like they’ve really made a stronger statement of that these components need to be approved. When they don’t get approved and go against the intent of the rule they are going to act very strongly about it. This obviously showed that.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED AT ALL ABOUT HOW HARSHLY THEY REACTED?
“No, I think everybody was expecting it to be pretty harsh. I think an area that we all feel like this year is not an area that you want to have pieces that weren’t approved by NASCAR pushing those limits.”
BRAD (KESELOWSKI) WAS PRETTY OUTSPOKEN LAST SUMMER ABOUT THE HENDRICK CARS. THINGS HE THOUGHT WERE GOING ON. IS THERE ANY SENSE FROM YOUR CAMP IN TERMS OF KARMA AND NOW THE SAME THING THAT HE WAS COMPLAINING ABOUT THAT IS WHAT THEY GOT NAILED FOR?
“I think you have to look at every situation a little bit different. This is a much different year, different car and different components in the cars. The rules have changed completely from last year. I think if anything Brad has probably learned a lesson on how far to take some of those statements and opinions because they can come back to haunt you. While those things were going on we were just putting our heads down and working. In all honesty those guys went to work as well. Brad made those comments but by the end of the year I felt like their car was exceeding the skew that we were exceeding. Those guys made those statements and then they went to work, but those things were within the rules last year. NASCAR knew it was going on. The parts and pieces were approved. The parts that Brad was talking about we had approved through NASCAR. They knew what we were doing. I think they kind of knew there were some other teams doing more. I think that it’s interesting how this has come to this, this year. We looked at it. I think it’s just interesting how people from the outside look at it. What’s the difference? Well there is a big difference from 2012 to 2013 and it’s all written in the rule book.”
DOES THIS TRACK FEEL LIKE THE SAME TRACK YOU RACED ON OVER THE YEARS?
“No, not at all, because it’s not just a repave so it’s not like you just go back to the first year we raced here. The type of pavement is so much different now that they are using to pave these tracks versus what we used to have. They are just not as abrasive so they have a lot more surface there for the tires to grip to and forces NASCAR/Goodyear to build a harder more durable tire. Yet we’ve got a car with a lot of grip, but it’s on the edge. Things are quite a bit different than they were when we first came here, but I still love it. The transitions and the banking and all those things are very similar. That part of it does remind me of the old track. Those are the things that I’ve always enjoyed here and still do.”
DO YOU EXPECT SUNDAY THERE PROBABLY WON’T BE AS MUCH TIRE WEAR?
“Well there wasn’t a lot of tire wear at (Las) Vegas. This is going to be quite a bit different than Texas. You are not going to see guys changing four tires like we did in Texas. That track in particular is pretty abrasive. California is fairly abrasive. These are quite a bit different conditions than what we saw last week.”
LESS SIDE-BY-SIDE RACING DO YOU THINK?
“Because of the side-by-side restarts you are going to see an outer groove working. I think we were quite surprised last year at how much of an outside groove there was. In practice we were all running the bottom thinking there wasn’t going to exist. In the race it was there, it wasn’t great, but it was there. If the temperatures rise I think that the outside groove could get better. As you start to lose grip you just aren’t able to hold it down on that bottom so you start searching around and start trying to build a little bit of a lane that gives you more room to get the car through the corner as fast as you can. That usually starts to build a little bit more of an outside groove.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES IT EASIER ON THE TEAM TO KIND OF JUST TAKE THE PENALTY THAT IS HANDED DOWN OR TO APPEAL?
“Well, most of the reasons why we appeal or anybody is appealing is to give them time to…when you are having suspensions and you are losing your crew chief, car chief and engineer it takes time to replace them. It takes time to manage some people so that you don’t lose more than you have already lost from a performance standpoint. They may feel like they have a very strong case I don’t know. When we felt like we had a strong case and feel like we were wronged we appealed and we fought it to the full stint. We feel like we were in the wrong we usually appealed if there was a suspension just to try to work personnel out and gives us a little bit of time there to work on those details.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HOW OUTSPOKEN BRAD (KESELOWSKI) WAS LAST WEEK? AS A NEW CHAMPION DO YOU HAVE TO AS A GROWING PROCESS DO YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW FAR YOU CAN PUSH THINGS?
“We all learn from our experiences and not all of them are good. Sometimes we push the limits whether it be on the race car or on the race track and sometimes you do it in the things that we say and our opinions. I think we all love how outspoken Brad is, but being that outspoken can sometimes get you in trouble. I think in this case it’s probably been a pretty valuable lesson for a young guy, a new champion and I think that his opinion matters more. He has got more people listening so sometimes makes you want to say more and be more outspoken and then there are times when you think about it and you go ‘you know what I probably should have just said less.’
YOU EVER HAVE A MOMENT LIKE THAT?
“Oh yeah, I made a comment about Michael Waltrip my rookie year when he wrecked me at Darlington. I wish I could have taken back because I thought it was disrespectful and looking back on the situation he didn’t deserve some of the comments. So, little instances like that where you are just saying ‘hey I probably just should just…’ less is more.”
WHEN YOU WON YOUR FIRST TITLE THOUGH DID YOU FEEL EMPOWERED AT THAT POINT WHERE YOU FELT LIKE YOU COULD DO MORE? THEN YOU KIND OF LEARNED TO BACK OFF OR BE MORE EVEN?
“Absolutely, you feel like you have more respect and you feel like the thoughts that are running through your head that you would like to get some of those out there. There is still a way to do that. You just have to sometimes thread the needle on what you are going to gain from it and what you are going to lose.”