TY, ERIK JONES WAS IN HERE THIS MORNING AND SAID THAT THEY QUOTE REALLY NEED TO SAVE THE CAR FOR SUNDAY SO THEY ARE GOING TO TAKE IT EASY DURING THE DUEL. ARE YOU DOING THAT AS WELL AND WHAT HAVE THE LEADERS AT PETTY GMS TOLD YOU?
“I’m not going to take care of it. I am just going to go, I think. Just kidding. It’s a balance right. I think if we make it through the Duels, we are in a good situation car wise for the west coast swing. I think that is where everybody is kind of playing that game. Man, I can’t help it. I’m a racecar driver. I am going to go. Sometimes it turns out and you don’t tear the car up, but I think you are not a racecar driver if you don’t get in a race and try to win it. So, that’s a tough balance. I’ll be maybe a little more cautious, but I would really love to get that 42 into victory lane again. I’ve been given a great opportunity second go around and it’s hard to be conservative. I know we have a lot of great guys back at our shop and I’ll do my best to take care of our equipment. I know what that means going down as far as the amount of work that our team would have to do if we don’t. But also, I am here to win, and I have been given an opportunity to drive racecars and that opportunity entitles me to win.”
AFTER SITTING OUT MOST OF LAST YEAR OUT OF A CUP CAR, YOU LOOKED REALLY STRONG OUT IN LA. IS THIS GOING TO BE THE NEW APPROACH FOR TY THIS YEAR? ARE YOU GOING TO BE REALLY AGGRESSIVE AND HAS THE TEAM ESSENTIALLY GIVEN YOU WHAT YOU THINK IS MAYBE THE BEST CHANCE TO WIN IN THE SERIES?
“This might be a little long winded but being out of the sport helped me in a sense of going into last year not knowing if I was even going to have the chance to race again. It really put things into perspective for me of what I love about doing this. Why I originally did it when I was 13 years old and why I ran 70 to 100 races a year and was fine with that. It’s literally just the genuine work that I get to put into it, whether it is mentally or physically or working with our guys to just try to get our car a little bit better. It might not always go the best, but you really enjoy that and when it is gone you miss it. It’s really getting me back to my genuine passion for why I race. So, I am very grateful to have this second chance. So, my mindset this year is you don’t get many second chances in life and I don’t want to leave, whether the next race is my last or the next year is my last one or if it is 10 or 15 years, I don’t want to stop and say I wish I would have done more. I guess I kind of set the tone for myself in LA. Yes, I was very aggressive, but I had a car that was probably to the standard of the field one of the best ones I have ever had. If you look back in my career, whether it is ARCA, trucks or Xfinity, when I have had chances to win races I have been on the aggressive side. I’ve been in my share of bumps and dust ups off the track. I think that is a little bit of who I am as a driver. The LA situation is a little bit different. There were no points on the line. It’s a quarter-mile track. I grew up going to Bowman Gray Stadium. I know what it takes to get to the front of one of those races, when you have a good car. You know there is a combination that led to some of that aggressiveness, but a lot of that is who I am and I felt very satisfied even though I didn’t make it into the feature that race about my effort level and so I felt peace about that. So, this is all about the second chance and making the most of it and not feeling like I left anything on the table and enjoy the heck out of it with my family.”
DO YOU FEEL THAT THE CAR THAT YOU ARE IN THIS YEAR, THE TEAM YOU ARE WITH, GIVES YOU THE BEST CHANCE TO GET TO VICTORY LANE THAT YOU HAVE HAD DURING YOUR CAREER?
“Yeah, I don’t want it to seem ill-spoken of my time at Germain Racing. Learned a lot there and had good opportunities, especially at speedways. Even stepping into before we were Petty GMS, but just GMS speaking with Maury Gallagher, his focus towards NASCAR, the sport and racing in general he has a deep passion for that. He is also extremely successful businessman and a good person too. He is easy to talk to as a leader and he’s put great people at his company led by Mike Beam to be the most successful and a winning culture doesn’t go away just because you go from the Truck Series to the Cup Series. They have a very strong winning culture at GMS with the trucks. The championships and the wins that they have there and that is in the building already. And now we’ve brought in the Petty name, the most historic, winning, famous name in the sport. Infusing that in and building that into this Cup team we have all of the ingredients that it takes. So, absolutely I feel like this is my greatest opportunity that I have gotten yet. We’ve shown really good speed, more speed than I have ever been able to show. I’m building a new confidence with this new car that I don’t know if I had it compared to others and I don’t know if it is the situations of just what has transpired in my life and my career over the last couple of years, but I am really excited for this next chapter and I hope everybody gets to see the driver that I have always believed I am and the capability that I have.”
LAST YEAR YOU HAD AN INCREDIBLE PERFORMANCE IN THE DUEL, UNFORTUNATELY IT DIDN’T WORK OUT FOR THE 500. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE LESSONS THAT YOU CAN TAKE AWAY FROM THAT RACE AND APPLY IT TO HERE OR IS IT COMPLETLEY OUT THE WINDOW WITH THIS GEN 7 CAR?
“I think just another race around here is definitely helpful, experience wise. (INAUDIBLE) Going into this next chapter, I finished sixth. I think I lapped Cindric, who ended up getting into the race. I was very disappointed, very upset. I had been in the Daytona 500, I had been coming to the Daytona 500 my whole entire life, I ran it for eight years and had been a part of it and this is such a cool event to be a part of and to walk out that night just devastated that I wasn’t going to be a part of it. I cried with my wife til about midnight that night. It was very tough and it just changed me. It set the trajectory of that year, last year. Like I said it was well needed for perspective and gratitude. I feel like even in that race I did really well and I couldn’t have done anything really different coming to the line. I finished sixth. I feel like I should have been in the race, but I was very satisfied with the effort. That led into a year that was very up and down with different opportunities. I don’t know how many different race teams and how many different series. All three series and I learned so much and it’s definitely helped me. So to walk back in this racetrack that you love so much and have so much history with your family here, but to know you are locked in is a pretty good feeling and its led off the gratitude of being here and having this second opportunity is a special thing. You don’t realize it until, whether you are on a team that is not locked in or you don’t have an opportunity. You don’t realize how special it is to have it and I’m extremely grateful and I’m going to make the most of it. I promise you.”
IN ALL THE DRIVERS TALKING ABOUT THE ADAPTATION OF THE NEW CAR AND DRIVING IT DIFFERENTLY FROM LAST YEAR DO YOU FEEL THAT DRIVERS LIKE YOURSELF AND LARSON WHO HAVE HOPPED BACK AND FORTH FROM MODIFIEDS, LATE MODELS, SPRINT CARS AND CUP CARS DURING THE SAME SEASON THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREERS MAYBE HAVE AN EDGE IN ADAPTING TO SOMETHING DIFFERENT COMPARED TO SOMEONE THAT HAS COMPETED IN ONLY CUP?
“Yeah, you know I think so. You know I haven’t done as much dirt racing during my Cup career, but my career was almost set up for this. As I was developing, I ran, like you said, modifieds, super late models, all kinds of different cars in different series and what that taught me the most was to adapt. Always be adaptable, always be thinking what you can do. I’m a very, I wouldn’t say a pre-calculated driver as much as a feel driver in the moment because of that upbringing. When you have something so new and a new car that is changing all of the time, I do think it leads into somebody who is more open minded who doesn’t get hung up on it has to be a certain way and if it is not this certain way I can’t drive this car? The person who can adapt and who can kind of hit that refresh button over and over and over again and not lose it mentally is going to be successful. I think that does fit my style pretty good.”