Does the NextGen car make this season a blank slate, to where whatever you knew with the old car really isn’t applicable to this car?
“It’s all relatively the same as far as the thought process, but the way to achieve that goal, in what you need and what you want, how you race, is going to be different. As to how that equation comes together to make the car go fast, to be competitive, how you race and all that is still to be developed, but it’s the same as all the other cars. I think the development is much different, but in the end you still have to go race. As many differences as there are with the car and the things that you do with the car, in the end we want our Busch Light Ford Mustang to go faster than everybody else’s car, and that really comes down to communicating with the team, understanding what the car feels like, and trying to be a part of that evolution.”
Will the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum give you a decent understanding of the NextGen car’s characteristics in racing conditions before you begin points-paying racing with the Daytona 500?
“I don’t think so, but the thing that it will give you is just that time in the car in an environment that’s at a low rate of the speed to be able to kind of diagnose it all. I mean, we’re still at a point where we’re diagnosing how the throttle works and how it functions, the steering, and how hot it’s going to get inside, and vision, and all the little nuances in the driver’s compartment that you’ll want to try to have out of the way before you do get to a place like Daytona. It gives us a great opportunity to do something we all know how to do, and that’s short-track race. But it allows us to still diagnose those things in a situation where you really can’t quit, or come into the pits and say, ‘This isn’t working right, let’s fix it.’ You’ll have to work through it. And are those things that you’re going to have to work through for 500 miles? How do we work through these things methodically in order to just survive? Or, what are the things that are OK and you’re going to have to pick and choose the things that you’re just going to have to survive with for a while?”
Since 1972, we’ve referred to this time in the sport as the modern era. Does the NextGen car usher in a new era, where statistics and records need to align with how different this racecar is to its predecessors?
“I don’t think so because, in the end, it’s still the same process and it’s still a race. And no matter how they lined them up in 1975 or 2020 or 2021, you still had the same goal in the end, and that was to go faster than the other guys on the racetrack no matter the number of cars, no matter the type of car. In the end, it’s still the same goal no matter what you race.”
What’s the shortest track you’ve ever raced on and what was that experience like?
“The shortest track I’ve ever raced on was the Orange Show Speedway. It was in the football stadium and it was a paved, quarter-mile racetrack in San Bernardino, California. That’s definitely the shortest racetrack – in a car – that I’ve ever raced on, which is exactly what we’re getting ready to do in a much heavier, much bigger car. That was in my Southwest Tour, my Late Model days, that we raced there, so that was always one of the smallest but, definitely, the narrowest because it was, literally, the running track, but paved.”
What did you have to do to finish that race?
“It was a demolition derby and you had to be willing to race like it was a demolition derby in order to pass people. Obviously, how the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum develops is yet to be determined.”
What are your expectations for the Busch Light Clash?
“It’s going to be a lot of quick throttle, heavy brake, and the speeds are going to be so much slower compared to what we’re used to that you’re going to have to just wing that part of it.”
You grew up in Bakersfield, California, and were around for the Mickey Thompson Off-Road Series that raced at the L.A. Coliseum and the 1984 Summer Olympics, which held many events at the Coliseum – what has shaped your perception of the Coliseum, and does racing there as a California native hold any special meaning?
“I’m not 100 percent aware of the full history of the L.A. Coliseum, but I have enough of the history of the L.A. Coliseum in my past, living in California, that I understand the magnitude of putting our vehicles on the ground there and having a race, and the historic events that have happened in the L.A. Coliseum. I remember those Mickey Thompson Off-Road races with the trucks and the buggies jumping out of the arches at the top of the stadium, down the hill, and usually at the bottom of the hill, once they landed, they went into a 90-degree turn. So, from a racing standpoint, I have memories of that. So it’s just a unique event and, when you look at the facility itself, there are just a lot of prestigious moments that go along with it.”