You’re headed to Las Vegas, which is one of those tracks where the surface has aged and it seems to be quite racy. How does that affect the complexion of a race there these days?
“Yeah, it’s huge. Whenever you see these tracks that are wearing out more and more, it just makes them racier and racier, in my opinion. We’re able to slip and slide around and you’re able to do more. You’re able to move around the track and you’re able to kind of find some things that are better than the guy next to you, so it’s something that’s really fun and I think it’s something that every single driver gets excited about when the pavement gets wore out.”
How does Las Vegas compare to other tracks that are worn?
“It’s a track that’s kind of transitioning into that field, I guess you’d say. It’s getting there. It’s starting to get a little more worn out but, also, the big thing there are the bumps. The surface might not be extremely worn, but they have huge bumps, so it does bring a huge challenge into how the driver is going to make it through the bumps and how the team is going to set the car up through it.”
How do you feel about your first three races this year?
“Right now, I think we’re honestly in a pretty good spot. I was happy with our runs at Daytona. We ran a lot of the race in the top-10. I think we just need to keep building off that. We had a good run going late in the race at Homestead. We were in the top-five for a long time and were two laps away from a top-10 finish when a tire started coming apart. That was disappointing, but if you can run in the top-10 and get stage points and not make the big mistakes, you’re going to find yourself in some pretty good spots and you’re going to find yourself right in the middle of the points battle to make the playoffs. I think it’s just a matter of taking it week by week and making sure we keep progressing, but I think we’re in a pretty good spot right now.”
We saw a couple of first-time Cup Series winners in the first two races, and then William Byron won his second career race last weekend at Homestead. How does that affect the playoff picture, in your mind?
“It’s definitely not ideal, but at the same time it’s probably too early to know how that is all going to work out. At this point, you just try and keep being consistent, keep trying to work up to it, and run in the top-10 and get stage points and try to get as many points as you can. It’s something where, halfway through the year and you’re in that spot, it’s where you don’t want to be, you’re right on the bubble, you might have to be more aggressive. But at this point it’s too early to tell. I feel like you just have to keep trying to be consistent.”
Is there a point in the regular season when you really have to start pacing yourself?
“I think, starting off the season, you’re just trying to make sure you don’t put yourself in a hole. That’s the biggest thing, at least from my standpoint. From there, you just try and build it and you try and get more and more confident, more comfortable with what’s going on, just because we don’t have the practice to work through a lot of things as a driver. So, limiting the big mistakes and kind of working into it is probably a smart idea. And then, once you get into the summer months, you’re trying to perfect it more and more and get more and more aggressive. It’s just a matter of working up to it. That’s the biggest thing.”