TALK ABOUT THE CONSISTENCY OF THE TEAM AND HOW YOU HAVE BEEN RUNNING SO WELL IN RECENT WEEKS:
“It’s been a nice combination of really working hard and then testing a lot. We tested every other week in the month of May so the month of June will be nice to not have to go to the other tracks during the week and that way we can get caught up with things and really review and get more intense with the debriefs. It was great though, the month of May at Charlotte with a couple top-fives and then now we jump into the summer stretch. I read that it’s only 14 races until the Chase cutoff, which is hard to believe. It’s like, wait a minute the season was just getting started, but at the same time here we are, it’sJune 1 and away we go. The next few races will be tough for us. Where we struggled was the tracks with fresh asphalt like Kansas and Vegas and that’s what we have with Pocono and Michigan coming up after Dover. We’ll see how that shakes out. That’s where if we can capitalize on the tougher tracks for us. That’s when we’ll fall into that groove where we need to be. Basically, you can walk the garage and see where we’ve been running and we just need to get our points with consistent finishes. We can’t get it with good, good finishes. We just have to be consistent.”
WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP TO GET TO VICTORY LANE?
“Just those last 50 laps. When you’re running at the end of the race, I had a guy that we played together with at a charity golf tournament yesterday and he goes, ‘What’s wrong with this sport? Why has it turned into this last 50 laps thing?’ It’s like football in the fourth quarter or like basketball in the fourth quarter, baseball right after the seventh inning stretch and everybody changes the way they run. I’m a guy that runs intense every lap and so I was just trying to carry that banner of keeping it real, racing hard, racing every lap and giving it my all 100 percent every lap.”
HOW IS YOUR ROAD COURSE PROGRAM AFTER TESTING AT VIR THIS WEEK?
“We tested at VIR (Virginia International Raceway), the road course testing is really weird because you can have a guy like (Juan Pablo) Montoya who is fast at the test and click off quick laps, but then his car doesn’t hold the pace as well. For us, our car, it was the same as what I’ve run the last couple years where we didn’t post that fast lap, but we didn’t drop off as fast. Do you do the two pit stop strategy or do you do the three at Sonoma? With the tires, they are dropping off quick and we have to decide what we’re going to do with our strategy.”
WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET A TOP-FIVE AT POCONO FOR YOU?
“We’re going to lean on the RCR (Richard Childress Racing) guys. They tested there, the whole group went and put in a strong effort to test so we’ll lean on them heavily on what we can get from them.”
TALK ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP WITH KEVIN HARVICK AND WORKING MORE TOGETHER: “The (Kevin) Harvick and (Paul) Menard, (Jeff) Burton, just having that teammate situation and it legitimately is that we are the fourth car. It has been good to work with them and have the information go down both sides of the interstate so to speak. It was great to see them win. We’ve had two really good runs at Richmond and Charlotte and we didn’t capitalize and they did. It’s great to see a teammate capitalize at the end of the day and bring home the trophy to Richard Childress Racing.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR DAD PASSING HIS RACING DOWN TO YOU AND KYLE?
“It’s been such a family effort over the years that we owe everything to our dad. Tom has been there all the steps of the way from the first go-kart to Legends cars to modifieds, you name it. It’s been fun with dad and even bringing him to Indianapolis a few weeks ago and sharing that moment of driving the IndyCar, there’s the Andretti name and you see Mario, Michael and Marco. Auto racing is definitely something that it takes the whole family to reach the top levels and me and Kyle have our dad Tom to thank for everything.”
WHAT DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT YOUR BATTERY?
“We had a cable plug issue. It wasn’t necessarily a dead battery, it was a plug and a wiring snafu. Something that shouldn’t have bit any team out here at the Cup level and it wasn’t like it fell through our system, it was just one in a million type chance. Kind of like the regulator at Texas for us where we had it crack and we had a fuel leak.”
HOW DOES THE TEAM HANDLE ADVERSITY LIKE THAT?
“We bounce back with not dropping off the lead lap, changing a battery and came back to finish third. That’s how you soldier back from it.”
DID NASCAR COMMUNICATE WELL WITH TEAMS DURING THE CABLE INCIDENT AT CHARLOTTE?
“The way the whole cable problem happened and then they said people could work on their cars, I quick jumped into the whole mindset of like an All-Star race when they have a 10 minute break, you can work on any aspect of the car. We got busy with our car. If you’re sitting there and you don’t take advantage of that situation then other teams are just going to pass you while you’re literally sitting still in the garage or on pit road. You could work on your cars so let her rip.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS YOUR BEST CHANCE TO MAKE THE CHASE, TOP-12 OR WILD CARD?
“The wild card thing could get sticky with guys like Kyle (Busch) where they have two wins and they need to fall back on that. If you go for wins then you’re going to run well and finish consistent. If you try to go for a win and gamble and then you get an 18th place finish then you’re going to wish you went more for the consistent side of it. The way I look at the garage right now is consistency is what pays and that’s the way it’s always been.”
WILL YOU GAMBLE FOR A WIN?
“Gambling can be one of two things, you can go with the full two stop strategy at Sonoma or you can gamble and try to stay out on fuel at a place like Michigan. Raw speed is going to be the best way to make the Chase and that is what we have right now and we have to lean on that.”
WHAT IS THE TOUGHEST PART ABOUT RACING AT DOVER?
“The toughest part about racing Dover is just when the track rubbers in and you’re out there for 350 laps and that last 50 you haven’t simulated that in practice whatsoever and that is when the track gets rubbered in. You’re out there slip-sliding around and you have to be dialed in for that last 50 laps. It’s hard to predict what setup you need exactly for that and I’ve only found it one time. I’ve only got one win here and that was September 2011.”
WHY DO THERE SEEM TO BE MORE CAUTIONS THIS SEASON VERSUS LAST SEASON?
“It’s just when it comes down to the end of these races you see guys on four tires and guys that stayed out on none and some have two tires and then the patience level is worn thin.”
DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE MORE OF A SHORT RUN STRATEGY THIS SEASON RATHER THAN A LONG RUN STRATEGY?
“When there’s a lot of three-and-outs in football and then TV calls up and says we need a timeout, that might be what we see ourselves having a little more of.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE FINALLY BEING APPRECIATED FOR YOUR TALENTS BY DRIVERS LIKE BRAD KESELOWSKI?
“It’s cool for (Brad) Keselowski to say that. We were teammates so I didn’t take him under my wing, but I did. Just what I do with what needs to be done next. There is no set protocol to help a young driver, but the way that he came up and had his first year struggles and then settled in his second year it was great to watch that unfold and then boom, he won in his third year. I was trying to give him pointers all along the way and so he knows that I’m one that gets elbows up and gets up on the wheel and then the way things get written, he knows that it’s not necessarily the guy that’s there in that suit driving the car.”
IS IT TOUGH TO RACE A TRACK LIKE DOVER AND THEN RACE A TRACK LIKE POCONO?
“It’s just the demand of our sport every week is a chance to hit the reset button and do something special and you can be a hero one week and a zero the next. Every race track is demanding in its own setups as well as how you drive the track. I’m just pumped up, it’s Dover and you have to be up on the wheel here.”
IS YOUR PERFORMANCE WITH THIS TEAM REMINDING PEOPLE OF YOUR TALENT? “Perception is reality and it’s whatever people want to believe the perception is. I’m not worried about how things are written, I just go out there and drive. I’m glad that we’re having success right now, but we have to stay on top of finding the setups that are going to help us make the Chase. That’s what we have to do at the end of the day.”
ARE YOU DRIVING BETTER AND CAN YOU WIN ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP?
“Don’t put the cart before the horse guys. We just run good a couple weeks and we still have a long way to go.”
HOW PHYSICAL IS DOVER ON A DRIVER?
“You’re just on edge here and the speed that you have to carry on corner exit, you’re right there on the edge of smacking the wall every corner exit and you do it 800 times with 400 laps and two corner exits, that makes it tough. This race will wear you out for sure and you have to pace yourself.”