After three consecutive races on short tracks, what are your thoughts about getting out on the big track at Talladega?
“It’ll definitely be a good change of pace after Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond. We didn’t exactly have the kind of results we were hoping for at those places, and the superspeedways have usually been one of our strong suits. It’s one of those races where you can’t control a whole lot and you have to hope for the best, especially when everyone is racing for stage points and then at the end of the race. You have to race your race the best you can to put yourself in a good position. It can be a pretty stressful race, but I guess all of the races can be stressful if you let them.”
You’ve got two Cup Series races at Talladega under your belt. Is it any more difficult to race there with no practice or qualifying compared to the short or intermediate tracks? And what did you learn about racing there last year?
“My first time there as a rookie last June, having no practice was definitely a concern because you want as much practice as you can get to just feel things out and see what’s working and what’s not working. We went there after they took the drag ducts out of the car, so we would’ve wanted to get a feel for how differently the cars would suck up and how it affected the handling and the aero. But we figured it out pretty quickly in the race, as it turned out. We had fast Ford Mustangs both times there last year. I think we had top-five cars at both races, and we were able to race our way to the front both times. But we ran out of fuel at the end of the June race, and ended up getting caught up in a big wreck a little past halfway in the October race. I’m optimistic we’ll bring a fast HaasTooling.com Mustang this weekend.”
Now that you’re a quarter of the way through your sophomore season in the Cup Series, how has it been trying to find the consistency you are always looking for?
“Last year, for me, it was all about just getting used to the cars and figuring out what I needed to be doing. And then from just a team standpoint, I think it was just working really hard on trying to figure out what’s the best package for me at the various tracks and figuring out what I like in the car compared to what my teammates like, and then using our teammates’ notes to see what we can try. The process continues this year, but I have notes to work off of from the places we raced at last year. It’s always an ongoing process to see how you can make yourself better, whether you’re a rookie or a veteran.”
Is there a particular less you’ve learned thus far that was the result of a mistake?
“I don’t know if I can just say one, honestly (laughs). I don’t know if I just had that one mistake that I could really pinpoint, but I think the one thing I’ve learned the most from has been the 550 package. It’s so much different than what the Xfinity cars were and how you drove them was almost backward from what you think, so it’s been a lot of learning. That’s been the biggest thing, and just continuing to work hard to get better and better with it.”