TOP-10 TEAM CHEVY UNOFFICIAL QUALIFYING RESULTS:
2nd ERIK JONES, NO. 43 FOCUSFACTOR CAMARO ZL1
5th DANIEL HEMRIC, NO. 16 POPPY BANK CAMARO ZL1
8th CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CAMARO ZL1
10th WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA CAMARO ZL1
TOP-FIVE UNOFFICIAL QUALIFYING RESULTS:
1st Austin Cindric (Ford)
2nd Erik Jones (Chevrolet)
3rd Kyle Busch (Toyota)
4th Denny Hamlin (Toyota)
5th Daniel Hemric (Chevrolet)
FOX will telecast the NASCAR Cup Series Wise Power 400 live at 3:30 p.m. ET tomorrow, Sunday, February 27. Live coverage can also be found on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.
TEAM CHEVY NOTES AND QUOTES:
ERIK JONES, NO. 43 FOCUSFACTOR CAMARO ZL1 – Qualified 2nd
“I definitely left a bit out there. I thought we probably could have had a shot there for the pole, but missed (turns) one and two a bit. But nonetheless, I’m proud of number one, Petty GMS Motorsports; and number two, Dave (Elenz, Crew Chief) coming into a new role this year and being really strong right off the bat. We were strong at the Clash, Daytona and here. Obviously, there’s a long way to go tomorrow, but I’m happy with how we’ve started with the No. 43 FOCUSFactor Chevrolet.
“I’m looking forward to it. I was excited the second we hit the racetrack and started making laps with how the car was driving; and obviously the speed in qualifying. It’s definitely on an edge and it’s challenging. It’s easy for me to say it’s fun. I’m sure some don’t have the same opinion at this point, but it’s definitely a challenging car right now.”
WHAT WE’RE SEEING OUT THERE, IS IT JUST AS SIMPLE THAT THE CAR IS HARD TO DRIVE? WHAT’S GOING ON TO CAUSE ALL THIS?
“Yeah, I think so; 100 percent. It’s challenging. I felt sick to my stomach until really I got over here. Just after the first run - I was nervous before I even went out for practice, just seeing those guys out there making mistakes. A guy like Kevin Harvick is not going to go out and wreck on lap one in practice, especially in the old car. So, they’re just challenging. It’s really unknown. The driving style is 100 percent different. You cannot push the car as hard as you could and there’s just a really fine line of pushing it hard to make speed and really stepping over that line. And when you do, it’s hard to get it back. I don’t know how that’s going to change as the car develops and what goes forward with it. But it’s definitely the most challenging car I’ve driven in the Cup Series to this point.”
IS THERE A WAY TO MAKE THE CAR LESS TWITCHY; OR DO YOU HAVE TO RUN IT THAT WAY IN ORDER TO KEEP UP WITH THE PACK?
“I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a lot of guys a lot smarter than me that are looking at that. I think there are a few factors that play into that. Part of it’s tires, part of it’s suspension. Kind of what we’re chasing on the underbody and those sort of things. You can see some of it in the platform of the racecars out there and how they look a little bit different than years past and it’s making them drive a little bit different. There’s just so many factors. It’s not one thing. I think the tires are probably the bigger thing that’s making it twitchy; and as well as a little bit of some suspension stuff. Will that get better going forward? I don’t know, I really don’t. It’s hard to tell. This is the first time I’ve even driven this package. I didn’t get to drive it at Charlotte. So, today getting on track here was the first time I made laps with it. It’s a lot different. It’s definitely a different feel; a lot less feel on the car than probably we had in the old car.”
WITH THE WIND THIS MORNING A FACTOR DURING PRATICE, COULD YOU FEEL THE GUSTS OF WIND OUT THERE?
“Yeah, I could for sure. Some of those guys probably got in trouble in (turns) three and four with it. I came close once or twice making my practice laps on entry, just with it kind of pushing me in the corner. The exit I think was a little bit more of bump and guys kind of getting around that and getting on the apron where we saw those wrecks. It was a big challenge. The car was already presenting its own challenges and then we had 30-40 mph gusts of wind that were making it even crazier, which was challenging with the old car. I don’t know – I hope it’s not windy tomorrow. That’d be nice.”
YOU HAD A LOT OF SPEED IN PRACTICE AND BACKED THE SPEED UP IN QUALIFYING. WHAT’S REALISTIC FOR TOMORROW?
“I don’t know – I feel like our car was good. I was happy with it. The balance – it was not the balance at all that I’d look for in the old car. If we had that balance with the previous generation car, I would say we were out to lunch and we’d probably have to make some pretty big changes tonight. But this car, is it right or wrong? I don’t know. The speed was there. There were some things that still concerned me about the race tomorrow and how it’s going to drive and some tire wear stuff. We’ll have to see how it goes and we won’t know until tomorrow. Hopefully it gets better with the Xfinity race today, but it’s hard to say. Expectations are high. The speed is there and I felt like it was in practice too on the longer runs. Obviously running up front and taking advantage of it. I think teams are going to continue to get these cars better and right now, we seem to have it going well. So, hopefully we can take advantage of that tomorrow.”
ERIK, WE’VE SEEN THE NO. 43 CHEVROLET SLOWLY BE MAKING IMPROVEMENTS YEAR AFTER YEAR. YOU’VE BEEN WORKING FOR TOP-20’S AND TOP-15’S; SNEAKING IN SOME TOP-10’S. WITH THE COMBINATION OF THE NEW CAR COMING AND THE WHOLE RESET BUTTON, DOES THIS KIND OF SET A NEW LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE FOR YOU GOING INTO THE SEASON, KNOWING YOU CAN RUN UP THERE AND START OUTSIDE POLE THIS EARLY IN THE SEASON?
“I think goals change every year and probably every week. For me, the process last year at RPM was a rebuild mode, in some ways. Obviously, they’ve struggled in the past and trying to improve them was my goal because I want to run well. I want to be upfront and I want to win races. Petty GMS Motorsports wants to do the same. I think them coming in during the off season has been a pretty big positive for us. Dave coming in during the off season has been a huge gain for us. Him and Danny have been working together really well. The guys have been working together really well; putting in a lot of hours on these cars. It’s been tough for everybody, but they’ve been putting in the work this week and this month.
“I think right now, expectations are high. I think Dave’s expectations were high coming into this year. He’s a guy that’s been around the sport a long time. He wants to make his mark in the Cup Series. I still want to make my mark in the Cup Series. I’ve been able to win before, but I want to get back to that point. I know we’re capable of it, we just have to continue to do what we’ve been doing these last four weeks and continue it into the season.”
IS THIS CAR RACEABLE? I KNOW YOU HAVE WHAT YOU HAVE, BUT IS THERE A FEELING THAT THERE NEEDS TO BE A LOT OF CHANGE BEFORE YOU GO TO LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY NEXT WEEK; OR IS IT GOING TO BE DRIVERS LEARNING WHERE THE POINT IS ON THIS CAR?
“You’re probably asking the wrong guy (laughs). I’ve felt good about it this morning, so I would say race it. I can remember a Carl Edward’s story a few years ago. When I was first getting to JGR, they went to Watkins Glen and tested a tire; and guys could barely make a lap with it. Everybody was really against it except Carl. Carl wanted to race that tire. His opinion was that racecars shouldn’t be easy to drive. It’s going to make the driver work, put it in their hands and make them work for it. I may be having a totally different feeling after Sunday if we go out and wade it up and get in trouble. But I don’t think racecars should be totally easy to drive. Does that always put on a great show? Yes, no, sometimes; depends on the track. But it’s just going to be a learning process. Right now, I’m content. I’m happy with what the team has done to get it driving good. I feel like I have a feel for tomorrow and what I need to do to stay out of trouble. And I think guys are learning quick. You’re seeing a lot of mistakes. But I think about when we went to the low downforce package a few years ago. We saw a lot of guys spin out with that too early on, until teams got better. We’ll see. If we need to make changes, we’ll make changes. But right now, I’ve been happy with it.”