With Martinsville being one of the iconic short tracks in NASCAR, what are your thoughts about the significance of doing well there?
“Martinsville is one every single driver wants to win because I think the driver can make a pretty big difference at Martinsville. You get the grandfather clock, all the history about the place, every single driver wants to go there and get that trophy. It’s just one of those tracks I would call one of the crown jewel races because it’s one you want to check off your list.”
What would it mean to you to win one of those grandfather clock trophies?
“I’d have to figure out somewhere to put it. (Laughs.) I’d probably put it somewhere in my kitchen, or in the middle of the living room or something, because it would be probably the biggest and best trophy I’d ever gotten. That’s one every single person wants. It’s so unique, it means so much in our community in NASCAR to win that trophy. At the end of that race, everybody wants to get that clock and they’re going to beat and bang for it.”
You made your first NASCAR starts back in 2014 at Martinsville in the Truck Series. Take us back to that experience.
“I remember my first two Truck races at Martinsville. It was a deal where we were really fast, but I just couldn’t figure out how to race there and keep my truck in one piece until the end of the race. You’re racing in such tight quarters and everybody’s beating and banging, it’s hard to know when you’re supposed to be aggressive and when you’re not supposed to be since you’re supposed to be taking care of your car. It was one of those things where I had to figure out the pace of the race.”
What’s the biggest thing you’re looking forward to about racing there this weekend?
“For me, it’s just the challenge of it. It’s one of those tracks where, when you’re out there by yourself, you have to finesse your car around the track and it takes a lot of rhythm. And once you get out there with 39 other cars, it becomes a physical race. So it’s a matter of balancing those two things of finesse and beating and banging, it’s one of the toughest tracks on the schedule.”
People say it takes a long time to master it. Do you feel like you’re mastering it?
“I would not say I’ve mastered Martinsville, yet. I don’t know if you ever master Martinsville. It’s a place that is always going to challenge you. Something different is going to always happen in the race, something is always going to get thrown at you, like somebody messing your race up or something like that. It’s just a constant battle of trying to get your car to handle right and then to try and navigate through 39 other cars.”
You talk about navigating – what does that mean at a place like Martinsville?
“They call it the paperclip for a reason. It’s one of those tracks where you have to try and go down this long straightaway and then come to a stop, pretty much, in the corner, and how you manage your brakes and how you manage the throttle – everything about it is just difficult. And you have to finesse the car around the corners. It’s one of those tracks that’s not easy for a driver to figure out and try and get a rhythm.”
When you and the team are at the shop talking about what you and the car need for race day, how much input do you have?
“It’s a balance. When you look at it, we have such smart people working on the cars at SHR and Ford, I don’t want to step on any toes, really, by telling them what I think is right because they know way better than I do. (Laughs.) It’s one of those things that, as a driver, you have to know what kind of feel that you want and know that feel, so you tell them, ‘This is what I’m thinking going into the weekend, this is the feel that I’m looking for, and maybe we can work in this direction.’ But at the end of the day, the engineers and the crew chiefs have a way better idea of what to do than I do. I try and trust the people with the big degrees to make those decisions.”