You’ve had two near top-10s in the opening two races of the season. Does that give you confidence as you and the team head to Homestead this weekend?
“It’s been a solid start. I think the biggest thing for us right now is just kind of keeping that consistency. I think, especially these first five races, it’s kind of something where you want to make sure that you keep yourself in the game. You don’t want to put yourself behind and then you’re kind of fighting to get yourself back up there, so it’s trying not to put yourself in a hole right now that is probably one of the biggest things, and I think we’ve done a really good job at that. It’s just a matter of building on it week by week and I think we’ll be right in the mix of it.”
This is the first race of the season on a 1.5-mile oval, which is the most prevalent type of track on the Cup Series schedule. What are you looking to learn this weekend at Homestead?
“Yeah, I think this weekend is going to tell you a lot of where teams are on their 550 (horsepower) packages and their intermediate tracks. It should be a telltale sign for that type of racetrack. This is going to be a big weekend for a lot of teams, showing what they worked on in the offseason and what they’ve got for this year. But also, with how many road courses there are on the schedule this year, it was really important having competitiveness at the Daytona road course. Those road courses are going to be even more important this year.”
How different is it racing at Homestead when it’s not the championship weekend, anymore?
“That’s a tough question. I guess it’s still a really fun racetrack to go to for the drivers. You’re able to move around the track and run different lanes. I think from a driver’s standpoint it’s one of our favorite places to go to, just because you’re slipping and sliding around and able to do a lot as a driver. It’s a different feel, for sure, that it’s not championship weekend anymore, but you just look at it as another weekend now and you try to go there and get as many points as you can and set yourself up for the rest of the season.”
You were 22nd in your first Cup Series race at Homestead last year. What do you need to do to be better there this year?
“It’s been so long since we’ve been to Homestead. I think we’ve grown so much since then, so I don’t know if it’s even comparable, honestly. For us, it’s just going to be a matter of having a car that you can drive into the corner deep and carry a lot of throttle. That’s pretty much what the 550 package is. At Homestead, you will have to worry more about your long-run speed just because the tires do wear out a lot, but being able to be really confident with your car and move it around the track on restarts will be a huge deal.”
What is the trick to running the high line at Homestead?
“I think the guys that you see who are really good at it, they’re able to enter right on the wall and be as close to it as humanly possible. The closer you get to it, the more grip you have. There is also risk with that, so it’s a matter of balancing the risk versus reward and knowing what time to do it and what time to push it. I think that’s one of the big parts of it, just managing the risk.”
How do you know how close you need to get to the wall?
“I guess the biggest thing is that it’s a combination of using your eyes for how close you are to the wall, and then you have to use your feel for how the air is compacting it into the wall and how much of a feel you have of how close you are to it. Your eyes will only get you to a certain point. You kind of have to use your feel to kind of get you all the way there.”
People seem to be intrigued by your acting debut in the Netflix series “The Crew.” The big question would be, how did it come about?
“It was something NASCAR kind of reached out about. If I wanted to come and be a part of it, and I definitely wanted to because whenever it’s Kevin James, I mean, you want to be a part of that experience and see what it’s going to be like. I would not give myself a good grade. I don’t know if I’m going to be called back, but I did my lines and I did my best, so I can work on it for next time, maybe. But it was fun. Just being around somebody like that, I mean, someone with a totally different profession like Kevin James. A lot of the stuff he was doing was off-script, just thinking off the top of his head, and it was amazing. I couldn’t believe how fast he could think and make up different lines and stuff like that.”