WHAT DID YOU LEARN YESTERDAY THAT NOW THE RAIN IS GOING TO UNDO?
“Not sure the rain will undo a ton. I’m glad we got on track yesterday. That was a good move by NASCAR to give us some extra time on top of the fact that if we did have rain or some issues, we would all have on track activity. I feel good. We worked on race trim and qualifying trim so I don’t know if they would, but if they say, ‘Hey, you guys got your practice yesterday and we’re going to put qualifying into effect this afternoon and that’s all we get,’ then I feel like we have our bases covered. Our car was fast. It took us a few runs to sort out things down in one and two over the bumps, but once we got that under control then we had a lot of speed in our Chevy.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED BY THE FINE TO DENNY HAMLIN AND DOES THAT CHANGE HOW YOU APPROACH ANYTHING GOING FORWARD?
“I think we’re all watching and learning as things unfold and we do know that NASCAR is sensitive to some things and that line is becoming more defined right now as to where that is and what type of criticism is allowed and what is not.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR PROFESSIONALISM WILL HELP YOU TO ADAPT TO ANY CHANGES OR ANY MOVEMENT THAT NASCAR MAKES IN THIS AREA?
“I think we’re all learning and we’ve all been encouraged to have an opinion and speak our minds about each other as drivers and on certain topics. The old phrase ‘actions detrimental to stock car racing,’ that’s something that I am going to try to keep top of mind and as my opinions come about if it’s something that’s going to hurt our sport and I think about it and it enters my mind then I probably need to keep my mouth shut and head over to the truck and talk it out in there rather than through microphones.”
HOW MUCH WILL THE NEW CAR IMPACT A SHORT TRACK RACE LIKE BRISTOL COMPARED TO A TRACK LIKE LAS VEGAS?
“I think short track racing is going to be short track racing. The bumpers aren’t as square so the bump-and-run can be far more effective. It was really tough to get somebody out of the way with the COT or Gen-5 car so we might see a little difference there. I think the crash damage is going to be different. There is some glass on the nose of these cars that we can fold up pretty easily and we might have to cut noses off the cars even from not being part of a crash, but just the stack up on the restart might cave in noses. We might have some modified looking vehicles out there running around. There will be a learning process. I don’t think the aero balance and implications there will come through, but we’ll be talking a lot more about less weight, the type of camber we’re allowed to run this year and things like that.”
HOW IMPORTANT WAS YOUR FIRST ROAD COURSE WIN AT SONOMA?
“It was huge to get that first win out there. I hope to get another. I’ve been competitive since that day and that’s something I’m very proud of. That track is tough for me to get a hold of and especially with the big Cup car. I just melt the tires of the car and could be fast for a few laps and that was the end of me. Thankful I got my win and I hope to get back to victory lane again out there. It’s such a cool race track.”
IS STARTING THE SEASON WITH A FIRST AND SECOND PLACE FINISH COMPETITIVE OR DOMINANT?
“One, one would be dominant, one-two is competitive. We’re around the front throughout the Phoenix race, but didn’t have a chance to lead and take control so I would even put that more in a competitive mindset, but we’re still learning. Daytona is its own animal. Phoenix was a very good sign that we have speed in our cars and I think by the time we get to California Speedway we’ll have a much better idea of which organizations and which makes have the speed.”
HOW MUCH OF WHAT YOU LEARNED YESTERDAY TRANSFERS TO THIS WEEKEND AND HOW MUCH TRANSFERS TO THE FUTURE RACES?
“A lot, we’re learning a ton. Phoenix, things changed quite a bit and I can use Kasey Kahne and myself as an example, they’re thought and setup was very, very fast there last year. They came back this year and had to work pretty hard to get it. We showed up at Phoenix and was fast right off the truck. Coming here, running a very similar package to what we thought worked here last time, it didn’t exactly work. The front end didn’t ride like it should and we had to go to work and get the front end to stay down on the car and not bounce up and down so bad through the bumps. Some of that is probably due to the fact that the splitter is a much more solid structure now where before you had some give in the front end of the car and stuff would move. NASCAR added a bunch of bars up there to stiffen that and splitter contact has a big impact on how the race car drives now and we were feeling that yesterday.”
HOW MUCH DO THINGS CHANGE TO IMPACT THE HANDLING OF A CAR COMPARED TO YOUR TEAM’S SIMULATION PROGRAMS?
“The structure of the nose is one and the other part is the data that we have for race tracks to run in our sim (simulation) program and all the machines we have at home, it’s so old. That’s the biggest reason every team is excited for testing this year so that we can go out and get some current data files. As tracks evolve every winter and every summer, we haven’t had a chance to pull data here in a long, long time so we’re just working on old data and a lot has changed out there.”
DO YOU THINK THE LIGHTER CAR WILL MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE AT BRISTOL?
“I think the mechanical aspects will help the cars at Bristol. The last time there we were very curious about the grinding and what would happen and what wouldn’t. The track just changed in some ways and we will just go back and get in a rhythm and see what happens. For the longest time we were not competitive at that track and now we’re in the mix and I’m really happy about that.”
WILL YOU LEARN A LOT SUNDAY ABOUT HOW THE CARS RACE WITH EACH OTHER?
“Yeah, we’re still learning a lot, even by ourselves in trying to understand the race tracks and how the car wants to be setup. Then at these higher speeds, downforce-wise, this will be our first exposure to it. I tried to get around some cars yesterday, things seem stable at least catching one car, but when you get all 43 in a big pack and the air is really swirling around then the cars drive a lot different. There will be a lot of learning going on come Sunday.”