YOU’VE HAD A REALLY BUSY WEEK THROUGH ALL THE MEDIA STUFF, HOW NICE IS IT TO BE BACK TO A NORMAL SCHEDULE?
“I’m excited to be at the track and get back to something, just to be back to normalcy and get a good night’s rest last night. I got a lot of sleep, but I still think I need another night to catch up. I can feel it in my eyes and my face that I’m no quite back to normal. What an experience. (I) won the Daytona 500 in ’06 and then championships after. Maybe I just wasn’t aware of how much range the 500 had or maybe things have changed between ’06 and now. We certainly came off a very popular Daytona 500, but the reception, the reach of this win, it felt like I was on a champions tour, and it was for the Daytona 500. Very special week for me, very tiring week, and I’m ready to get back in the car.”
WHY DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY, WHAT STANDS OUT?
“Everywhere we went, the fans that gathered to be a part of whatever show, the shows I was on, it just had a feel that it was really one of the biggest things that I’ve ever done in my career. It was just eye opening to me how big this race is and really the popularity of NASCAR right now, I think we’re off to a really strong start this year from a fan viewing situation, you know, from attendance hopefully will rally and follow. The impressions the eyeballs you know everybody that’s watching right now it was noticeable from my perspective.”
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT’S HAPPENING?
“I think it’s a lot of things. I think the new car has brought a lot of excitement; Danica’s success in Daytona brought a ton of excitement. We can’t count out the personalities emerging in our sport. I think of Clint Bowyer and his fan base and the excitement that he brings, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, mine, Danica’s, I know that I’m leaving guys out, but I really think that the sports in a good spot. We’ve been growing over the last few years and a lot of it I put a lot of credit towards the personalities of the drivers coming out. It kind of goes back to the point a few years back when NASCAR said they were going to take the gloves off and let us have at it and that’s led to some exciting things on track, but also the emersion of personality and I think that’s been helpful.”
YOU NOTED WHAT DANICA’S (PATRICK) DOING; THIRTEEN PEOPLE HAVE EVER LED THE INDY 500 AND THE DAYTONA 500 IN THEIR CAREER, SHE’S ONE OF THEM NOW. WHAT’S YOUR REACTION THAT THAT, WHAT KIND OF ACCOMPLISHMENT IS THAT?
“It’s huge, I mean for her to lead both races that’s no small feat that’s big time stuff. I’m happy that she performed like she did on Sunday. It could have set her up for some criticism if she had a poor race and fell to the back and didn’t run right but she didn’t. She stayed up front all day long and raced for the win and I think on plate tracks she’s convinced me that she’s capable of winning the race.”
WHEN YOU WON THE 500 AND YOU REALIZED YOU WERE DOING DOUBLE DUTY THIS WEEKEND WERE YOU LIKE WHY DID I COMMIT TO THAT RACE OR WERE YOU EXCITED TO HAVE THAT MUCH TIME IN THE CAR?
“A little bit of both, I knew this week was going to be busy anyway. We had our national sales meeting for Lowes in Las Vegas, responsibilities for both cars and all of that. A busy week got much busier. I’m excited to get in the Nationwide car and get a feel for the track. As things went by I was happy to see the media side slowing down and know that I was going to get back to driving race cars again.”
WHY DID YOU COMMIT TO THE NATIONWIDE RACE?
“Just truthfully to get better here at this track it’s tough to get laps on this track. We considered coming out and testing, but with the tire change and with them changing the testing policy for Cup it just wasn’t going to work for a couple reasons. The next best thing was to run the Nationwide series race. I have no clue what I’m going to learn from those cars to carry over, but reps on the track can’t hurt and ultimately that’s what I think I need.”
YOU HAVE BEEN SO GOOD HERE; CAN YOU EXPECT THAT TO TRANSLATE TO THE NEW CAR? DOES YOUR PAST HISTORY HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THAT?
“The track here is so different than what it was before. I just need to do something to try and improve this track and we were probably going to run top-10 if I didn’t blow a tire (in the 2012 fall race), but the way the Chase is settled anymore, you don’t need top-10’s, you need top-5s and wins. We need to make sure we are covering our bases and we are ready for the race this fall.”
REGARDING LOWE’S RENEWING WITH THE NO. 48 TEAM AND HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS:
“It’s great to have it buttoned up and with the economy the way it has been the last few years, of course there has been some concern. You know, I was confident as far as what the team provides for Lowe’s and the success we’ve had. I felt like the partnership would carry on and we were able to get it done really early in a contract year. All those signs show how important this race team is for Lowe’s and how great the partnership is so happy to have it behind us. If we got into the late summer months and didn’t have something locked in, far more concern would set in then. To get it done really after the first race of the year is a great sign of Lowe’s strength and the belief they have for this race program for marketing.”
YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500 TO GET IT DONE RIGHT?
“Oh no, as you can imagine with a big corporation and lawyers, and documents that this stuff has been well underway for a long, long time to get this thing done. It’s just a great time to announce it following the 500.”
CHAD KNAUS NOTED AFTER THE DAYTONA 500 THAT HE WORKED 38 STRAIGHT HOURS ON THAT RACE CAR. WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THAT AND HOW NORMAL IS THAT FOR HIM TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
“It’s not surprising. I mean the guy works tireless hours and truthfully, I think his work ethic over the last 12 years in this sport has forced the garage area to do the same. There have always been some guys that have been willing to put in the time but now it’s so close, if you don’t put in that kind of time in, you are not going to have the kind of race you want to have. So I say it, and I think every driver says it when they get out of their race car; they have to thank the guys in the shop. It’s for good reason because they work countless hours.”
DID HE CONTACT YOU DURING THAT TIME PERIOD?
“He was sending me text messages that day and when 6:48 came around and at the end, he said he saw 6:48 three times. I think I was all cozy in bed and relaxing when the text came in. I try not to make him mad too often, but at that time I had to. I said, ‘thanks man for doing it, but I am laying here in bed relaxing’.”
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE WHOLE JEREMY CLEMENTS SITUATION? DO YOU THINK NASCAR HAD TO DO WHAT THEY DID THERE?
“I don’t know much about it because we have been so occupied with what has been going on from the Daytona 500 win. I did hear about it. It’s a huge statement that NASCAR is making and they don’t react this way for the heck of it. So something big must have happened.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY HERE AND WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
“Favorite memory would be the fall wins. Because the fall wins here have put us in position to….well I would actually say my best memory would be my final championship. We had a great race and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) had something work against them in pit strategy and that was the springboard that led to our fifth championship. Worst memory…..first one that comes to mind would be last year and blowing a tire, and hammering the wall, and that leading to us not winning the championship.”
DID YOU SEE IN THE PAPER TODAY THAT DARRELL WALTRIP AND RUSTY WALLACE SAID YOU HAVE THE BEST BRAIN IN NASCAR?
“Really? A brain, like between my ears? (laughs). I am just dumb enough that I am smart, I guess. I don’t know.”