Is Richmond one of your favorite tracks, and what are your expectations there this weekend?
“Richmond is a great place for us and our M&M’S team. You’ve really got to be mindful of the bottom of the racetrack and also mindful of your brakes and how you use them, just because the track is so hard on brakes, especially getting into turn one, that you can really overheat your brakes, which overheats your tires and makes you slide around more. Having good cars there has certainly been something we’ve been fortunate with at Joe Gibbs Racing over the years. I’ve won there six times and I’ve been in the top-five about every time we go there, so I would like to think that we can keep that string going and, more importantly, get a win. It would certainly be a good time for it, so we look forward to Richmond being one of those places where we can do that.”
What does it take to get around Richmond?
“Richmond is getting a little trickier, it seems like, just with the asphalt kind of getting older and the way the cars are. The consensus at Richmond is, of course, just trying to get your car to turn, but also having really good forward bite. You have to be able to get off the corners at Richmond. All of it correlates. Everything you want as a racecar driver, you’ve got to have most all of it and, if you don’t, then you better hope you have more forward bite than the rest of them. That’s sort of the equation of Richmond. It’s a fun place to race. It’s really cool. As a driver, you wish it could widen out and give you more options of being able to run around in different grooves, but it hasn’t shown us that the last couple of years. We’re hoping to get our M&M’S Camry another win there and put last week behind us.”
How important is it to unload perfectly in this first playoff round?
“It’s really important to start the race off strong. You’re starting the race with all of the rest of your championship contenders you’re racing against, so to be able to get those points right out of the gate, it’s hard to do because you’re all starting right around each other. There’s really not a lot of opportunity at some of these places for pit stops or chances to work on your car in the first stage to get those points. Even if we did have an opportunity to start up front, we would fall out of the top-10 and not have an opportunity to get (bonus) points, not even stage wins, but to get points that matter. You get two stage wins and a win at Richmond and Bristol both, and boom, you’re right back in the mix. Being able to have success racing against the rest of your title contenders is certainly a big challenge.”
Can you compare Bristol and Richmond, both places where you’ve been successful?
“There’s really no comparison between racetracks, honestly, because Charlotte, Texas, Atlanta – they all look the same from overhead, but they all drive not even close to the same. Richmond and Bristol are more than oil and water, more than day and night. Bristol is an attack-type racetrack yet, when you attack, you can get yourself in trouble. Richmond is a very methodical racetrack and you have to be – you’re very much on edge there all the time, especially corner entry, getting into the corners. You’re always loose there and you have to be able to be loose there in order to carry the speed through the middle and have good drive off.”