Sunday marks your 12th career start at Richmond between the Cup Series, Xfinity Series and K&N East Series. What’s been your favorite Richmond memory?
“Definitely winning there in the Xfinity Series a couple of years ago. It was my first short-track win in the Xfinity Series and it meant a lot because we were worked pretty hard to try and get our short-track stuff better, and it’s not an easy track to get around. So, it meant a lot to win that one.”
You’ve run at Richmond so much during your career, are you immersed in footage and data from your previous runs there to figure out how you’re going to get around there this weekend?
“Yeah, that’s every weekend for me. I look at old races and try and talk to Kevin (Harvick) every weekend to find out what he’s looking for. He’s been a huge help the last couple of years. All of my teammates have been. It’s been tough, though, going straight to racing with no practice or qualifying. You can look at as much film and data as you want, but you’re still missing the experience of actually being out there. You know what you need to work on, but you really don’t learn as much until you’re actually out there on the track.”
Now that you’re not the “new guy” anymore among the Cup Series drivers at SHR, how would you describe the way the organization has impacted your continued evolution as a driver?
“It’s huge. To be able to work and race at Stewart-Haas Racing, we have some of the smartest people, we have some of the best drivers. Obviously, being able to lean on Kevin Harvick, I probably asked him every single week last year questions about how to get around tracks. Having those kinds of resources is just invaluable and it’s one of those things where you’re just very grateful to be surrounded by so many great people.”
How did last year prepare you for this year now that you have a year under your belt?
“This year is totally different. Last year, you were just trying to not hit the wall on the first lap and try to figure out your way around the racetrack. This year, you’re trying to perfect things and try to take everything to the next level, where you can be at the front more consistently and figure out ways to do that. So it just comes with a year under your belt. You’ve got notes to look at and you’re trying to fine-tune everything.”
You were the youngest driver to win in the Truck Series, the youngest to win in the Xfinity Series, you’ve already won in the Cup Series. Having those kinds of accomplishments, how do you manage to stay so grounded?
“It hasn’t been difficult, really. For me, I’ve always been the quieter guy, for the most part, so I haven’t been out there trying to broadcast myself or anything like that. It’s one of those things where you just try and make yourself better every single time on the track. There’s always something you can do to make yourself better, so you just have to keep reminding yourself of that.”