GOT A 20-MINUTE PRACTICE SESSION COMING UP HERE SHORTLY. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING TO GET OUT OF THE CAR?
“Yeah, we didn’t come out here and test so just getting a decent balance of understanding. It’s the first short track, so the other two places, three places we’ve been to has been a lot more of an aero track. So, this is the first probably mechanical grip heavy track that we’ve been to. I think we continue to learn more and more about this Next Gen car. We learned a lot of stuff at California that we applied to Vegas and ran pretty good last week, so hopefully we can apply and make some gains here this week. There’s not a whole lot you can do. One set of tires, you (inaudible) them off and try to shake the rust off for five or six laps and then you got to be right on your game.”
YOU MENTIONED COMING TO PHOENIX, A SHORT TRACK, PREVIOUS THREE RACES YOU DIDN’T USE A WHOLE LOT OF BRAKE. NOT A WHOLE LOT HERE EITHER, BUT MORE THAN THE PREVIOUS THREE, DO YOU ANTICIPATE A LEARNING CURVE WITH THAT AND ANY CONCERNS WITH LEG NUMBNESS?
“I think that there’s a couple different issues there that makes these guys have, cause my feet get numb not from probably the same thing that Tyler Reddick has a problem with, whether that is a pressure point in his seat or the way the belts or sub straps are mounted whatever the case may be. I think that the floor mat and pedals in the Next Gen car don’t dampen as much vibration, so just that harmonic vibration of your feet is what makes mine go sometimes a little bit like pins and needles. You’re on the brake pretty hard here. I mean you’re making 800 to 900 pounds and you’re making 900 pounds at Martinsville, so you are using quite a bit of brake. You definitely don’t want your feet falling asleep anywhere, but particularly here cause into Turn 1 you have to have a really good feel of that brake pedal to keep it rolling speed up.”
DO YOU ANTICIPATE A LOT OF PEOPLE GOING DOWN TO THE DOGLEG EARLY ON OR MAYBE JUST TESTING IT OUT IN PRACTICE?
“Yeah, as crucial as those diffuser strakes are that seal up the ground, I feel like those sealing up to the ground are as important as the side skirts used to be. So, I will not be the first, second or probably 15th person to be down there in the flat but I think out of habit you are going to see some guys go down there and probably take a little bit of diffuser damage. I think that that will show up or take a toll over the course of the day because the under bodies to these cars are not as durable as a Xfinity car or things like that. And they’re stiff and you hit one of those rob blocks and it jars you. I think you will see considerably less. I still think you might see on restarts just cause you are going slower that will definitely be an element we will see in play on Sunday.”
WHERE ARE YOU AT RIGHT NOW WITH YOUR PERSONAL COMFORT LEVEL WITH THE CAR AND HOW HAS THAT SORT OF IMPROVED OVER THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS AS YOU’VE GOTTEN MORE RACE TIME WITH THE CAR?
“So, I’m always been a little bit of a conservative learner if you will because all the teams I have driven for have always been lean on parts and people and all the things that come along with it. So, I’ve never really had the leash long enough to go learn it and find the edge and back in the fence and roll out a back-up just as good. So, I’ve always kind of crept up to it and I think that’s played up into our hands just a little bit because we’ve run the same car for all three west coast races which I don’t think there’s many guys doing that. Hopefully we can get this thing through practice and qualifying straight and have a good day. You’ll just get more and more comfortable finding the grip of the tires with the 18 inch wheels, they definitely give you a different sensation whether it be the trans-axel reacts different than what a Ford 9-inch rear-end does too. Every lap on the racetrack, we’re definitely learning something so my comfort level continues to get more, and I think it’s going to continue to get more and more the more races you get under your belt. I also think, I was talking to Austin Cindric last week about it, I think it’s probably been the best year for a Xfinity guy to transition to the Cup Series just because the Xfinity car’s downforce level is comparable to what we are running currently, where all the Cup guys for the last four or five years have been running eight inch blades at 550 horsepower. Now the downforce and horsepower ratio with these cars is a lot more similar to a Xfinity car, so I think that now all the years after this I think the jump from Xfinity to Cup will be that much further because we’ve had a year to understand these cars. This year, this off season would have been the perfect time if you are a rookie to jump in the deep end of the pool and now the deep end of the pool is going to get a lot deeper now that all the Cup drivers have understanding these Next Gen cars and how different they are.”