What do you think about the racing at Atlanta? Why do drivers love it so much?
“I think the biggest thing about Atlanta is it’s just a driver’s racetrack where it’s so worn out that you can really control a lot with how you’re driving the car, how you wear out the tires, which line you run. So, you can really do a lot as a driver.”
It’s been a bit of an up-and-down start to season for you, so far. Does your sophomore campaign feel much different than your rookie season?
“For sure. I think there are a lot less nerves. In your rookie season, you’re racing against guys you were watching on TV since you were a little kid. Some of that, the first half of your rookie season, is pretty shocking, some of the guys you’re racing. Once you get over that, it’s just like everybody’s a normal driver. This year, that’s not even an issue.”
You earned your first Cup Series win in that rookie season, putting you in some elite company. What will it take to get the next one?
“Winning that first one definitely gives you a lot of confidence for the second win to come. It’s not easy, by any means, to win in the Cup Series. But I think we have the team to do it and I think I’ve learned a ton since we won that race, so it’s just a matter of putting it all together on any given weekend.”
Atlanta was the first race that was postponed during the virus outbreak last year. How has your ability to perform evolved with the abbreviated weekend schedules and COVID-19 protocols into the first part of this season?
“We came into this year with a lot better idea of what we have going on. Our first race back at Darlington last May, we didn’t know. It was so much different than what we were used to, but now we have a good rhythm of how the schedule works and stuff like that, and we know what we kind of want to bring to the racetrack for the schedule that we have and everything like that. I think it’s been going even smoother this year and it’s just a matter of trying to look at all your notes from last year and trying to make sure you’re as prepared and as thorough as you can going into the next one.”
With no practice or qualifying, how much more important is your preparation through simulation and watching video?
“That’s really nothing that’s new. I think we’ve all watched a ton of film even before when we had practice. We’d watch a ton before the race and be completely ready. Now, you just kind of had to change what you’re looking at and how much of it you’re looking at, so you don’t really have to look at old practice sessions and stuff like that. It actually simplifies things at times, too, because you don’t have to look at as much stuff and you don’t have as many things to mess up through the weekend. There are gains and losses, I guess, but definitely for the younger guys it would probably be a little bit nice to have some practice.”