I WAS CURIOUS DANIEL AFTER THE RACE LAST WEEK, I WAS LISTENING TO ONE OF YOUR COMMENTS “WE DIDN’T DESERVE TO WIN” BUT I THOUGHT YOU DROVE A HECK OF A RACE, HAD A HECK OF A RACE CAR. I’M CURIOUS WHY YOU DIDN’T FEEL YOU DESERVE TO WIN? YOU PUT YOURSELF IN A POSITION TO WIN?
“Yeah, I mean I think that I didn’t really have a clean race. I just needed one more lap you know being in the top five to know exactly what to do there. That was my first time in the top five the entire day and I thought things were working one way and they were actually working a different way. Probably I shouldn’t have said we didn’t deserve to win, but we are not 100 percent prepared for that. The rear (inaudible) of the car broke early in the race and it took us half of the race to figure it out. We had unbelievable pit stops. I feel that my car was capable of running the top five, top-10. I feel like there was still a little bit missing to be able to win the race. We’re going to get it for sure. I just felt that we were a little bit behind. Not much, just a little bit. That was the difference in winning and not winning.”
HOW MUCH DOES THAT BUILD YOUR CONFIDENCE, HOWEVER, IN THE TEAM AND WHERE YOU GUYS ARE HEADING AND WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THIS NEXT GEN CAR AS FAR AS PARODY?
“Definitely a lot. I mean every time you get the opportunity to have a shot at winning, you get more confident. You get hungrier and that happens not just for me as a driver, but for the entire team. My engineers, my crew chief, my pit crew on Monday night I got to meet with most of them and they were ready to race again on Tuesday. We are very excited. I have an amazing team. All of them, they want to win, be competitive. And when you know that you can, you just show up to the racetrack even more excited. I’m very fortunate to be in this position. I think that we’re going to be able to do some fun things this year.”
DO YOU FEEL THE NEXT GEN, WE’VE HAD 19 DIFFERENT TOP-10 FINISHERS IN THE FIRST TWO RACES? DO YOU THINK THAT IT IS INDEED BROUGHT THE PARODY THAT YOU GUYS DO HAVE A LITTLE BIT MORE OF A CHANCE, A TEAM LIKE TRACKHOUSE TO BE THE GIBBS AND THE HENDRICKS, BEAT THE PENSKES?
“Without a doubt. I think what NASCAR did with this Next Gen car is something that, on my opinion, we’re already seeing the results. We are going to look back in a few years from now, five years from now and we are going to be very, very thankful we did this thing called Next Gen car. It just brought opportunity for new players in the game. I don’t think that if it wasn’t for the Next Gen car, I don’t think that Trackhouse would be here, I don’t think 23XI would be here. I'm sure that there’s more team owners that are maybe thinking about it now that there is a Next Gen car. So yeah, answering that question I think that the competition and the way that we are competing with the Nex Gen car is way more (inaudible) than before.”
HAVE YOU KIND OF REPLAYED THE FINISH OF THAT RACE LAST WEEK IN YOUR MIND, ESPECIALLY THE LANE CHOICE THERE AT THE END? THERE’S BEEN SOME CHATTER ON CHOOSING THE INSIDE.
“Yeah, I mean only like 137 times. That’s exactly what I meant with having a little bit more reps running up front. I run in the top-10 for a good amount of the race and then we had the (inaudible) issues going to the back and then we came back to the front. I never had clean air, so I didn’t know what that felt. In the first half of the race I knew that with new tires people were running the bottom for a few laps and I thought that was going to be the case by the end of the race. And after watching the race, that wasn’t the case. I was able to almost make a pass for the lead corner one and two on the bottom. Normally three and four is even stronger in the bottom than one and two. That was a decision that I made and that is a decision I am going to live the rest of my life with. Unfortunately it didn’t work out . if I can do everything again, I would have done things a little bit different. I still think that the five car was quite a bit stronger than me, so I don’t know if I was going to be able to hold him off but probably I was going to have a higher chance. But like I said just having reps up front. It was my first time with clean air the entire day. It’s easy to say now but I think that’s going to be one of the first opportunities that we’re going to be running up front and hopefully I can have a little bit more experience next time running up front so I can take advantage of the opportunity.”
AND THE WIND TODAY, HOW MUCH OF A FACTOR IS IT GOING TO BE AND WITH IT NOT BEING WINDY TOMORROW DO YOU JUST KIND OF HAVE TO LIVE WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT CAUSE YOU’VE GOT TO BE SET UP FOR TOMORROW?
“You know every time that we talk about track conditions, windy not windy, I always try to think that it’s exactly the same for everyone. Everyone is playing with the same rules. Today, yeah, it’s going to be challenging, but also the fact that Next Gen car has never been here in Las Vegas as far as I know is going to be a challenge by itself. So, we have a lot of work to do. We only have 35-minutes of practice, so we are going to try to learn as much as we can. Be smart about it, make a plan. Go to qualifying try to put the 99 Chevy Camaro as close to the front as possible, hopefully the pole. That would be nice and go play tomorrow.”
DANIEL, WHAT’S IT FEEL LIKE TO RUN UP FRONT AGAIN AFTER SO LONG?
“It feels great. I was talking to Julie about this not too long ago that how life is a roller coaster sometimes. I was part of really, really good teams in the past. I always felt like there was something missing. Not just with myself, but there was something missing and for some reason I don’t know if it was my experience or voice or whatever that may be that changes were not happening. Then 2020 was probably one of the most difficult years of my life and career. Then I slowly started to go where I wanted to go. You know with Trackhouse Racing being competitive again. It definitely feels good. It feels very good especially having he experience that I have in 2020. That was very, very tough. I felt that not every driver out there has an opportunity like the one I have right now. It’s fairly simple to get to a good team, with a good name team, but it’s difficult to build a good team around you. Good everything. Good crew chiefs, engineers, pit crew, mechanics, that’s a difficult part. Unfortunately, it took me a while to figure out. I have had to learn pretty much every step of my career by myself. In a way, it’s been the hard way. But it’s been a process and I think that I am so fortunate and so blessed to have the team that I have right now. It’s pretty amazing to have a team strong. A team that has confidence in you and a team that believes that we can go out there this coming weekend to have a shot at winning. That’s pretty amazing and I’m just lucky to have Trackhouse on my side to do that every weekend.”
WHEN YOU GOT TO TRACKHOUSE DID YOU FEEL THAT THING THAT WAS MISSING, DID YOU FEEL THAT IT HAD BEEN FILLED?
“It’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. If you ask me, do I think I had everything filled in the beginning of last year when I joined Trackhouse, the honest truth is no. Do I think that Trackhouse was going to give me the tools to find everything that I needed, yes. It’s a process. You have to be either very good or very lucky to land into a team that’s already great. Many times you have to build it. Many times it can take you your entire career to find that or sometimes it is already like that. In my case, it has been a process to find that and learning and knowing what I need, what I don’t need. Having a lot of confidence in my crew chief, Travis Mack has been a huge step. He has done a tremendous job building the 99 team that we have today, and you know I honestly think that the team that I have right now is probably the best team I ever had in Cup. I’m talking about everything. Engineers, crew chiefs, pit crew, like complete team. It’s pretty amazing and I am very, very proud to be in the level I am right now with experience and with all the experiences with this team right now. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment as much as I can.”
I SAW A QUOTE YOU SAID “I CAN TELL YOU THAT I’M GOING TO WORK VERY, VERY HARD TO GET TO VICTORY LANE VERY, VERY SOON. WHAT IS WORKING HARD MEAN? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?
“It’s a combination of many things you know. If you were asking me that question two years ago, I was going to tell you go work out, work physically and trying to watch some film as many hours as possible. But right now, I have learned and realized that it goes just way more than that. Trying to work with your team and trying to realize what we could have done different and better. I look back in California and we left a lot on the table. I did, the car did a little bit. We had a good car, but I believe that we are going to have such a better car this weekend and probably everyone is going to say that, but to our plan and the way that we are growing as a team I feel like we just keep getting better. Learning as we go and learning is a process and I understand that but I think that you know working hard and smart is going to be very important. Doing that with a team like the one I have is going to be important and really fun at the same time.”
IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU ARE WORKING ON COMMUNICATION. REALATIONSHIP BUILDING.
“Yes and no. It’s a process. I have work already for a year with Travis Mack my crew chief, my main engineer Jose Blasco-Figueroa. I have been working with him for a couple years, I have known him for 15 years. Dustin, one of my other engineers is super smart. One of the smartest guys I know. It’s just the (inaudible) working together. Maybe yeah you can call it communication, but it’s a little bit of working together with the new car. Everyone is going to get better. There’s no question about it. Everyone is going to keep getting better as we go. The difference is going to be who can clean up all the little things a little bit better and I just think that we are in the good side of things. Working towards our goal, being competitive and win races.”