What does it mean to be going to a place like Nashville that hasn’t hosted a Cup Series race in 37 years?
“It’s special. For me, in my rookie season, every track I go to in the Cup Series is special, but to be a part of the first one is going to be cool. There’s only a first race at a racetrack one time – and then the second time, not that it’s not special, but it’s not as special as the first time – so to be able to experience that as a rookie is going to be super cool. There’s a lot of great racing history and heritage in the Nashville area. I remember running ARCA in Nashville at the fairgrounds and just how many people come out and how special it is to get a run in that area, so I’m excited. It’s one of the relatively closer racetracks to my hometown, so I know I’ve got a lot of people from Southern Indiana driving down to watch this race, and it’s just going to be special to be a part of it, and to have a sold-out crowd. That’s something that on the Cup side a lot of the guys are used to, but a sold-out crowd is something I’ve never gotten to experience because of COVID and everything else, so I’m excited to experience that this weekend, for sure.”
How prepared do you feel going into the weekend after those two tire tests?
“I feel like I at least have an understanding of what the racetrack is and the things I need to do to make speed, so I’m excited to get there this week. This is going to be one of the few tracks I have a little bit of experience compared to a lot of the field, so we’re just trying to take advantage of that. It’ll be nice to understand what my car needs. We have a limited practice at 50 minutes, but I already know what my limit as far as how far I can drive into a corner and just things like that. I’ve already done 30- to 40-lap runs, short runs, so I know where the car builds and what direction it’s going to go. Obviously, that could be different with more cars and the temperature and things like that, but I at least feel like I know what I need my car to feel like. We were able to try some things in the tire test and some changes didn’t work as good as others from just the speed standpoint, so just knowing those beforehand while for other guys it’ll probably take them a run or two to get adjusted and learn the racetrack. So, I think just having that advantage will be good, especially on a short practice weekend."
What were your impressions of the track after the test compared to what you knew before you got there?
“I didn’t know much. It was hard for me to even find video on the place from Xfinity races in the past, so I was kind of going there with an open mind. I knew that they had done a lot of testing there in the past with the Cup cars and things like that, but I was surprised, honestly, with how much brake we were using and just how much speed we carried. That kind of caught me off guard. I think passing is going to be a little challenging, but the good cars are definitely going to rise to the front at a place like this just because handling is going to be quite a bit of an issue, I think. I’m very curious to see what the resin is going to do versus having traction compound there and where they placed it. When I was testing, there were only three cars total and it was pretty cool out, so I’m curious as to what more cars will do to the racetrack, and the heat, as well.”
What are some of the advantages or disadvantages of a concrete track and trying to figure that out?
“I’m just a dirt guy, so, to me, it doesn’t matter. Concrete, pavement, blacktop, whatever the surface is, to me it’s all the same if it’s not dirt, so I don’t necessarily get too tied up in the differences. For me, they all drive relatively the same. They look different and how the rubber gets picked up under caution and things like that is different but, from a feel standpoint, I don’t know that I notice a difference from a concrete track to an asphalt track or whatever. I’m probably not the best guy to ask that just because I’ve never really been able to tell a huge difference in grip level or how it drives.”