Back in 2017, Texas was repaved and turns one and two were reconfigured. How has the track aged since then and has it changed how you drive the track?
“It changed where you drive on the racetrack. You move up the racetrack, so you don’t have to be as technical through (turns) one and two as you used to. Just put it on the grip strip and hope for the best. It’s still a good racetrack for us, still a lot of good things that have happened for us, and hopefully we can continue that.”
Explain a lap around Texas, specifically, how you approach turns one and two and how you approach turns three and four?
“Texas is unique in the fact the two ends are so different. When they changed the racetrack, they made the width of the racetrack a lot wider through (turns) one and two than what it used to be. It’s a lot flatter, as well. It’s a very technical corner both in order to get your car positioned correctly and in order to make your car turn and stay in the throttle. It’s not as technical as it used to be now that the PJ1 is there, but you still have to put your car in the right spot in order to make a good lap time.”
Old pavement. New pavement. A reconfigured turns one and two. No matter the surface or the layout, you’ve been strong at Texas. What has made you so consistent at Texas despite a lot of changes to the track over the years?
“I think it’s just been a great racetrack for us. It’s a racetrack that Rodney (Childers, crew chief) and the team put a lot of effort into. Before we got together, I hadn’t won there. But from the moment I went there with this 4 team, we’ve been good. It’s a testament to how hard this team works.”
How much would you like to see the return of practice and qualifying like it was pre-COVID to where you could get a baseline understanding of how your car would respond to current track conditions before the race begins?
“You can have some form of practice, but there’s no way you can go back to three-day weekends. It’s too streamlined now and there are too many people who have come to realize we don’t need to go back. We’d be foolish if we went back. If we went back to the original format, I think everybody in this whole sport would flip upside-down and try to figure out who the one person is who decided that was the right thing to do.”
The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is out and it features only one off weekend. Are you OK with that as it puts you in a groove of racing every weekend but one, or would you like to see some breaks during the course of the year?
“I don’t mind the one off-weekend, personally. I can manage the season, but I wish we had two weeks off. I really wish they could take that first week and lock the shops and give the guys working in the shops a week that they can take off. Those are the guys who get hammered in this whole thing are the road guys who travel week-to-week and the guys that work in the shop. I like the way that F1 does that. You’re going to have a break between the two TV schedules, anyway. I really wish we could just take care of the guys who are in there grinding away on a weekly basis by doing that. We’re keeping track of wind-tunnel time, we’re keeping track of financials, we’re keeping track of so many things with all those super computers that there’s no way you couldn’t figure out how to do that for a week.”