TALK ABOUT YOUR PAINT SCHEME THIS WEEKEND AND YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEKEND:
“Excited for it for sure, the Dover race earlier this year, I can’t remember what we had on. Was it Madagascar 3? Yeah, that is right I just didn’t have a wig to wear this time. No, I won with 3 what was on the car earlier this year?”
THAT WAS DOVER LAST YEAR:
“But Dover this year I had something on there too. You can tell it’s really embedded in my mind. Anyway I think they are cool. It’s great to have them on the race car. It gets my daughter excited. The way I became a fan was going to the race track as a kid and if we can capture young eyes and have them watch a race for whatever reason, if it’s a cartoon that they enjoy or a movie from Disney that they enjoy it’s helpful. I think it’s good for all of us. It’s fun to have the car look different and everything that kind of spins off from it. We have had very fast race cars when we have had the Disney movies on our race car. Excited for the opportunity I think Dane Cook is going to be here this weekend which will be fun. I’m sure he will make some people smile and laugh. From what I understand the fly over is going to be exciting too with the plane from the movie. All in all, just a fun way to tie it all in. I think it’s good for the track, good for Lowe’s, good for myself, good for NASCAR and hopefully we get some new young fans out of it.”
“That’s what it was Monster’s U.”
DOES IT MOTIVATE YOU GUYS WHEN YOU LOSE A RACE LIKE THAT TO COME BACK?
“No, I mean there is more frustration in it than anything. I mean you hate to give away race wins for whatever reason, especially when you have a dominate car. Whatever the mistake may be and where it comes from driver or team you just hate having that on your shoulders for the week following. You are just eager to get on the track and get that behind you. For me it hasn’t brought anymore focus or drive or meaning to the next event. It’s some ways some relief, it’s something new to talk about, something new to put your mind on and to move forward from there.”
YOU HAVE BEEN DOMINATING THIS WHOLE YEAR IN POINTS. DOES THAT INFLUENCE THE WAY YOU FEEL WHEN YOU ACTUALLY GO INTO THE CHASE? DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE THE ADVANTAGE? DOES THAT INFLUENCE ANYTHING THAT YOUR TEAM DOES?
“It’s nice to have the point’s lead. I think it sends a message to the garage area that we are good on all types of tracks, all types of situations. But through it all even though I have a huge points lead right now I still have my eyes on three or four cars that I think will be the guys to deal with in the Chase. I watch them and their performance and how they run, especially on Chase tracks that we have a chance to race at in the regular season and form opinions through all of that. There is nothing negative to come from the point’s lead and having a big one. I think race wins sends a really strong message too especially late in the regular season. If we could win some races that would be another very helpful thing for the No. 48 team. When things change in September and you are seeded based on wins, 75 points we have now, right now we would be tied with Matt (Kenseth). I don’t know I guess it would be 40 points, no 20 points, to the lowest person. We are 75 up now. It just shrinks so quick and getting into the Chase no matter how dominant you are your point’s lead is never going to be a 75 point spread. I’m enjoying life now, but I know things are going to get really intense here in 6, 8 weeks, whatever it is.”
WHAT DO YOU AND YOUR FELLOW COMPETITORS DO TO STAY IN SHAPE ON THE LONG WEEKEND OTHER THAN GET BEHIND THE WHEEL OF THE RACE CAR?
“I think a lot of us focus during the week in Monday to Thursday, our travel day is when a more structured workout routine and most of us have a trainer that we work with or nutritionist. If it’s your own individual group of people you work with or someone that the team uses for the pit crew guys. For myself when I get to the track on the weekends I still stay active. I got up this morning and ran 6 (miles). Tomorrow I’m going to ride, it’s just for fun just to stay active and tomorrow’s ride is a lot of fun. There is a group of probably; it depends, but 8-15 guys that ride and the majority of them are all crew members. We have our bikes here and we will load up and ride. This is pretty hilly terrain around here so we will ride; I think this ride is about 50 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing. We will ride on a Saturday. That again it’s not a killer pace, we are not trying to race we are just riding along. If we see a little country store we will stop and grab a Gatorade and a snack, talk a little bit and head off to the next spot. It’s really a fun way to burn some calories, stay fit and get through the afternoon and not sit in the motorhome on a weekend and eat way too many calories watching television.”
HOW DO YOU USE THE NEXT SIX WEEKS? DO YOU GO AFTER WINS AND THOSE POINTS OR CAN YOU GUYS USE THOSE SIX RACES TO PLAY AROUND WITH THE CAR AND EXPERIMENT?
“Honestly, we need to do both. We have great speed now, but in two months’ time a lot can change. If the Chase started now we would probably be more conservative and just refine the package that we have now. You can’t give the garage two months things are going to change too much. We will try to manage both. I think the closer we get to the Chase the importance definitely is on winning, but top three’s, top five’s is really the motivation there and to get into that rhythm. To feel the pressure from a driver’s stand point to perform each week and also for the pit crew on pit road there is just a mental advantage, I believe, if you are able to live in that top three world week in and week out. That is the world you have to be in to win the championship. If you are running, 15th, 18th and then expect to handle all forms of pressure when the Chase starts, I just don’t think that is all that possible.”
WITH WATKINS GLEN COMING UP I JUST WANT TO TAKE YOU BACK TO LAST YEAR. YOU FINISHED THIRD THERE, BUT THE END OF THE RACE WAS SO CRAZY. WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF THE END OF THAT RACE? JUST GENERALLY SPEAKING WHY HAVE ROAD COURSES GOTTEN SO CRAZY?
“They were too far ahead for me to really see. My spotters around the race track kept encouraging me to stay on the road and hurry up because the leaders were going to crash and wreck. When I saw the video now I understand why. It was a really exciting final lap or so. I think that we have all become very comfortable behind the wheels of these cars on the road courses. When a so called ringer comes in I’m not sure if they really run in the top-10 any longer. All the oval specialists have worked very hard to understand road course racing and the teams have as well. It’s a chance for a win and I think guys are very hunger to win on road courses because there are only two a year and we all want to be well balanced racers. We all want that nod of the hat, that ‘W’ in the win column that you have won on a road course. I know that I did and I still want more. I would love to have more than just one and hopefully we can get one at ‘the Glen’.”
YOU ARE ONE OF SIX GUYS THAT HAVE SWEPT THE SEASON RACES HERE AT POCONO. YOU HAD A SWEEP AT DAYTONA THIS YEAR. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SWEEP RACES? WHAT IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS RACE AS OPPOSED TO EIGHT WEEKS AGO HERE?
“Pocono to me has always been a track that I felt a sweep is possible and easier to have a sweep here than other tracks just due to the calendar. There is not a lot of time between the first race and the second race. Things don’t change a ton. The track doesn’t change a ton although it does lose some grip later in the season. With the cool temperatures this weekend I’m not sure it’s going to be much different than what we had in the spring. The Daytona sweep I would say is probably the hardest one to get. When you look at restrictor plate racing and the draft and how many cars really have a shot to win, I think the odds shift the other way pretty far. For a while there I think the first handful of years of my career we were able to sweep each year. We had a nice consecutive streak going then that came to an end. I’ve personally enjoyed sweeps. They have meant a lot to me and happy that I have one this year. It would be awesome to have two sweeps in a year if that is possible this weekend.”
YOU ARE NOT USING THE SAME CHASSIS THIS WEEKEND AT POCONO THAT YOU USED LAST WEEKEND AT INDY. HOW MUCH DO YOU LEAN ON ONE FOR THE OTHER GIVEN THE SIMILARITY BETWEEN THE TWO RACE TRACKS?
“We took the race winning car from here to Indy and finishing where we did we just didn’t get the car back in time to turn around and bring it here. We would have loved to have brought that race car here. We feel like in today’s world in the rules and the templates and everything it takes to bring a race car to the track today it’s much easier to repeat and bring a car as good if not better than five, six years ago especially the gen-4 race car. It was very tough to repeat with those cars. We definitely did have a favorite there. Anymore I can’t tell the difference. I know that we have our latest package on this car and it shouldn’t be a lot different than what we had before.”
PEOPLE ARE USING THE WORLD DOMINATE OFTEN TO DESCRIBE YOUR SEASON. HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE YOUR COMPETITIVENESS AND SPEED EVERY WEEKEND TO THE BEST SEASONS YOU HAVE HAD TO DATE?
“I feel like the team, the cars, our racing ability and the things needed to be dominate it’s right there if not a touch ahead of my best year where I think I won 10 races. The difference is execution. We have left races sitting on the table. We have the foundation of our most dominate year, but finishing it off and executing we have given up some races this year. That would be the only difference in it, the only thing that would kind of pull it back down.”
SOME TALK LAST WEEK ABOUT PASSING VERSUS RACING AND WHAT MAKES A GOOD RACE. FROM A DRIVER’S STAND POINT HOW MUCH MORE FRANTIC IF IT IS MORE FRANTIC FOR A DRIVER ONCE YOU LOSE ALL THE TRACK POSITION YOU HAVE HAD ALL DAY?
“It gets really frantic to be honest with you. Especially if you haven’t been in traffic throughout the day and you have set your car up to run in clean air typically you can have the car a lot freer when you have the whole race track to yourself and solid clean consistent air on the car. For me when I got in traffic last week my car would get a lot looser. I was already on the free side and was already struggling up off the corner, but having the lead like we did, clean air, stable air, I could really use that to my advantage. Lap traffic was a struggle then trying to run Ryan (Newman) down at the end was tough. Obviously, didn’t get there and I only feel to second and I’m not saying that is why I didn’t catch Ryan. If you go from first to 15th it’s a game changer. Your car drives so different. Especially if you have run up front for an adjustment or two and you fall back it is a totally different world deep in traffic.”
YOU HAVE SAVED YOUR NASCAR TESTS TO THE LATTER PART OF THE SEASON WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE OR IS THERE A FEAR OF TOO MUCH WORK FOR THESE GUYS AT THE LATTER PART OF THE SEASON AND WHERE DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT IS GOING TO HELP YOU THE MOST AS YOU GUYS DO THESE TESTS UPCOMING?
“That is a great point we are definitely going to work our guys hard. You have to build great depth in your team so that you can let your road crew guys sit home while the team goes and tests. That is one thing we have been working hard on to make sure that we don’t have our race day road crew guys just getting worked to the bone. Although some cross over and go regardless we can’t get around that, but what really changes it this year and makes it less specific per team is the rules. You have to test as an organization. So to get all four drivers and crew chiefs to agree on what are the most important tracks we all have to compromise a little bit. Strategically we wanted to save some tests around the end of the regular season in case we had someone on the fence there and needed to get them into the Chase. We have been preserving our tests waiting for the right strategy and trying to think what is best for the company, what gives the company the best opportunity to win a championship. Clearly testing at Chase tracks is the best thing for that. It will put a strain on our crew and we have been trying to build depth. Especially Chad’s (Knaus) side of things he has believed in depth for a long time and we can go look at our over-the-wall crew and see what he has done there. We have the same thing going on in the shop. I feel as far as the No. 48 team goes it’s going to be tough, but the guys are excited for it. We do have some depth to get some rest.”
WAS THERE ANY EXTRA WORK DONE ON PIT STOPS THIS WEEK OR ANYTHING AFTER THE LAST ONE DIDN’T GO SO WELL ON SUNDAY?
“Not that I’m aware of. I talked to the guys Sunday night and just asked them to enjoy the pain, let it sit there, let it hurt, let it bother you, but Monday morning when they started hitting lugnuts and jacking the car and going through their routine that it was out of their mind. I asked them also to be fearless when they hopped off the wall this weekend and just do their jobs. The worst thing any of us can do that have to go out and perform is to carry something in the back of your mind mentally. That will do more damage than you can ever imagine. We had some great conversations Sunday evening. The guys had solid stops all week and I didn’t hear of anything additional. Just kind of a normal week for the guys.”
WHEN YOU WIN SO MUCH AND WHEN YOU RUN UP FRONT SO MUCH DOES IT MAKE THE TOUGH LOSSES EASIER TO FORGET ABOUT THAN MOVE ON FROM THAN SAY A BACK OF THE PACK DRIVER WHO THIS MIGHT HAVE BEEN HIS ONLY CHANCE TO WIN?
“It’s hard to say. I mean Indy means so much to everybody. I think that one stings universally it doesn’t matter if you are a regular up front or wherever you run. For me my eye has always been on the big prize and that is the championship. The comments I made following the race were sincere in how I felt because of where my viewpoint is. I’m not going to make a comment that is going to tear down my race team and prevent us from winning the big prize, winning the championship. That is the way we all think on the No. 48. Eye on the big prize, it absolutely stung. It wasn’t fun for any of us, but the best thing we could do is get back to our jobs and fortunately or unfortunately forget about Indy and move on. The faster we move on from that the better we are going to do here.”