TALK ABOUT YOUR THOUGHTS COMING BACK TO DAYTONA:
“Happy 4th of July. We had the pole here in Daytona and started the year off that way. It would be nice to start the second half of the year off the same way. At the end of the day it’s not the most important thing, but it sure is nice to start up front. Obviously we don’t have our Daytona car here, but we have our back-up and that tested really well. We nearly ran that anyway. It should be good still.”
CAN YOU DO THE SAME THING HERE SATURDAY NIGHT THAT YOU DID IN THE DAYTONA 500? HOW MUCH DOES A 500 MILE RACE IN THE WINTER TIME AND THE DAYTIME HERE TRANSLATE TO A 400 MILE RACE IN THE SUMMER TIME AT NIGHT BOTH WITH THE CAR AND THE SET-UP AND WITH YOU AND THE SKILLS YOU HAVE LEARNED AT DAYTONA SO FAR?
“To answer your first question can I do the same thing yeah I don’t get worse as the year goes on. Especially in the early years of running in a new series, so presumably I should hopefully have better experience at doing it especially having done Talladega too. It’s definitely possible. The difference you know the cars are well stuck here. I feel like it’s not going to be worlds of difference. It’s maybe a little less single file just because we have been in the car all year and people don’t feel the need to just kind of get on with the season, get it started and start the year off well. As opposed to maybe a little more antsy-ness, a little more comfort in the car. You could see some more people a little bit more prepared to pass and know how to do it a little easier than at the start of the year. It should be very similar in the end.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY MORE IDEA NOW HOW TO CLOSE THE DEAL AT THE END OF THE RACE? OR IS IT STILL HELTER SKELTER?
“I think it is still a little bit of helter skelter. Right after the race I said I wish I would have had a plan, but then I got done with it and I talked to Tony (Stewart) afterwards. He said you probably had more to lose than you had to gain by trying something at the end. He said you could have just as well of been 20th in the end as opposed to where you did finish. You probably had more to lose so he thought I made the right decision on what I did. After I said good job to Jimmie (Johnson) after he won. I had said that I wished I knew what to do better. He said that the two times that he has won now at Daytona were the two times he didn’t have any kind of plan. I suppose it is about being at the right place at the right time and having the right people behind you. There is luck that plays into it that way. Although a lot of times good drivers win, so you still need to know what to do. Probably more than anything it just means have a little bit of experience so that you can handle whatever situation comes up best.
“Maybe if I would have seen that Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) was dropping back I would have just drug the brake to stay back to him. Maybe it wouldn’t have necessarily been about trying something other than just making sure that I wasn’t going to get a run. Nobody was going to get a run on me maybe. Just being kind of ready in the moments of what’s going on.”
IF THE SAME SITUATION DID PRESENT ITSELF THIS TIME DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE IN THE SAME MINDSET OR IS THERE A DIFFERENT MINDSET NOW THAT YOU’VE GOTTEN THAT FINISH. COULD YOU RISK MORE TO GO FOR SOMETHING EVEN IF YOU DID DROP?
“No, I think that is a really good question. I think that is a good point. On these speedway races there is definitely a feeling of, I feel like over time, especially the longer you have been in them. It’s like to go for it. I think that you have to start to take a chance to try and put yourself in a position to win. I don’t feel like I would want to just settle for the same thing. Although a top-10 finish is always good to have. I think that in the long run it will serve you better to try things. It will show other drivers that you are willing to do it. That when the time comes maybe next time or the time after or the time after all of a sudden then you’ve got a little bit of a better trust and following of other drivers that you want to win. Every driver wants to follow someone who wants to go for the win.”
DO YOU COME IN HERE WITH ANY MOMENTUM HAVING FINISHED ON THE LEAD LAP YOUR LAST FOUR RACES? YOU GUYS TALKED ABOUT SMALL STEPS AT THE START OF THE YEAR. IS THAT A STEP?
“Yeah, I mean it is getting better. Do I wish it would get better faster? For sure, I mean everybody that is not running in the top 10 every weekend wishes it would get better faster. Its small steps and part of it is being a rookie and learning. Part of it is just making changes and making the car better or making things better internally so that you can go faster. Faster cars all that kind of stuff, so there is a lot more that plays into it than just getting experience. Through getting experience on the track I’m also getting experience and understanding how a team works and giving my input on how I think it could get better.”
ON THE LAST LAP OF THE DAYTONA 500 YOU WERE RUNNING THIRD. WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS AT THAT POINT?
“I think it was pretty much what I was thinking at the last lap was like ‘come on, come on boys keep it flat, don’t lift, nobody lift.’ The thing that threw me off was that, and this is probably some of the inexperience’s that, I was flat out. I was hoping they were too, but the reason that allowed me to be able to go flat out and feel like we were going faster and potentially pulling away was because Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) was dropping back. Whenever you lose the push behind you, you need to make up for it in throttle. I know better now. I was thinking ‘man I feel like we are driving away from them right now.’ But that really wasn’t the case. I was just thinking ‘let’s hold onto this’ because a top three would have been great. It ended up being at top 10 which is till good, but I was just thinking let’s just hang onto this and let’s finish it off like this.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT RESTARTS AND HOW YOU WERE WHEN YOU FRIST CAME TO CUP COMPARED TO INDY CAR AND WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED?
“As far as me and the restarts go, I feel like they are getting better and better; and a lot of it has to do with the car sometimes if it’s really tight or really loose on a restart, there is just nothing you can do about it. You’re just hanging on. So, you tend to not have as good a restart in those situations. But there are other ones where, man; I’ve passed five cars and having awesome restarts. So I feel like I’m actually having those days now. So, that’s very important, especially this year with how important track position has been. That’s where you can make up the most amount of ground. It’s challenging to pass. It’s really tough to pass. So, that’s good.
“Now, the difference between IndyCar and NASCAR starts are totally different. I think it’s hard for people to understand just how quickly IndyCar’s accelerate. In NASCAR, it’s really just about Turn 1. In IndyCar it’s just about who gets flat first. That’s the whole restart. It’s who can get flat first and anticipate that. So, even jumping the start on some; there’s a lot of jumping the start that goes on in IndyCar I feel like. Where in NASCAR, there is a penalty for it. But it’s been this way for a long time, so it’s a much more organized start and I feel like it leads to a little bit more of kind of putting yourself in the right place at the right time and understanding how each lane works and where you might need to go. Like sometimes at a track, the outside lane is really where you want to be and sometimes it’s the inside. So, hoping to get in the right line. But in IndyCar it gets a lot more spread out a lot quicker and it all happens right on the initial start when the green comes out or as I said, maybe just before.”
WHEN YOU WERE HERE IN FEBRUARY, THERE WAS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH RICKY STENHOUSE, JR. ARE YOU HAPPY THE HOOPLA HAS DIED DOWN AND HOW DO YOU THINK IT IS GOING AS FAR AS WHETHER YOU HAVE DEFENDED HIM (TALLADEGA).
“I don’t think there have ever been any scenarios where we’ve been put in a position to defend either one of us or say anything. The only incident we had was at Charlotte during the Coke 600. Honestly, I don’t really get that many questions about him. More than anything, you are one of the first kind of questions I’ve had where somebody is asking how it’s going and how it’s been going in the media and things like that. I don’t really get asked about it a lot. For the most part, I’m the one who has stories that I say, ‘Oh, Ricky and I were talking about this,’ but, nobody really asks me specific questions about him. I guess I would say that it’s going fine and I don’t really have to answer a lot of questions about it.”
IS THERE ANY DISAPPOINTMENT ABOUT NOT RUNNING THE NATIONWIDE RACE THIS WEEKEND?
“Not necessarily. I will always run it if I can. But if I don’t, it’s okay too. I think that it’s about getting the right funding and getting it all together. To be honest, our focus as a team was put on running Watkins Glen, which comes after this one. So, that’s kind of where we put our efforts to get the funding to run. So, I understand that this one came second and it didn’t get done because Watkins Glen is not done. So, I’m okay.”
WITH YOUR NATIONWIDE SUCCESS HERE AND HOW YOU RAN IN FEBRUARY WITH WINNING THE POLE, HAVE YOU FOUND THAT YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL HUNGER TO WIN AT DAYTONA?
“I would say that it came more in Nationwide because it was the best opportunities to win. Tony Eury Jr., just like Tony Gibson builds very good speedway cars and I felt like we had a real chance to win on the speedways. As a driver, if I’m going to pick a race to win, of course I want to win the Daytona 500. That’s a huge one. But as a driver, you want to win the challenging driver tracks. You want to win at places like Bristol or Darlington or places that are more known as driving tracks. So I wouldn’t say I’ve marked it down. No. But I haven’t marked any one of them off. So, I’ll take any one I can get.”
LAST WEEK JIMMIE JOHNSON SPUN OUT AND WAS REALLY TICKED OFF ON THE RADIO
“But he held on so good, didn’t he. Oh, that was really impressive.”
AND THAT’S WHAT I WAS GOING TO ASK ABOUT. HE CAME BACK AND STILL GOT A TOP 10. HAVE YOU EVER DRIVING TICKED OFF IN THE CAR AND DID IT HELP YOU AT ALL?
“Oddly enough, it does help you. When you’re mad, you just get extra aggressive and get on a mission. It can help. And you wonder to yourself, why can’t I just do that all the time? But every now and again, a certain emotion bubbles inside of you and it makes for a different result or different racing on some levels. And a lot of times it happens when you’re running better and you get taken out of that position. So, those are also days where you probably have better cars to do it, too. I wouldn’t say that I’m running 26th and something happens and I end up 30th and I’m like oh, my! I can’t believe it. But, on those days where you really get all that mad.
“But when you get knocked out of being up front, you’re probably there because you have a good car and it makes it more possible to get up there. It doesn’t, by any means, make it easy. And him (Jimmie Johnson) coming from the back of the field to 9th at the end was pretty impressive. But you do tend to find a little extra.”
WHEN YOU GET CRITICISM, HOW DO YOU SEPARATE THE CONSTRUCTIVE FROM THE SNIPING? DO THOSE LINES EVER BLUR? IS THERE ANY EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING THAT’S BEEN SAID EITHER ABOUT YOU OR TO YOU THAT MIGHT HAVE SOUNDED LIKE SNIPING BUT THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE ACTUALLY TAKEN AS CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM ALONG THE WAY?
“I think that if there is ever constructive criticism that comes, it tends to come on a one-on-one basis from a driver or a crew chief or something like that. But it tends to come from a driver. And they’ll talk to you one on one. It’s happened a few times; whether it be on how you handle lapped traffic or how you handle running with somebody. It just tends to be a one on one situation in a conversation. Anything beyond that it just conversation.”