WHAT’S THAT LIKE GOING OVER TO SENOIA, COMPETING AGAINST SOME LOCAL HEROS? ANY EXPECTATIONS COMPETING ON THE (INAUDIBLE) TONIGHT?
“No. Definitely no expectations. Yeah, excited to go there. Bubba called me a couple weeks ago or maybe it was last week and asked me about it. I told him I’d love to. He and his family bought that track probably a couple years ago now and it seems like they’ve been doing a great job with it, getting some big shows in town and I think tonight is more local one of their local events. Excited to go race number one and drive one of his cars and have some fun. Obviously try to support a local short track that we all want them to do well and succeed close to here. So, feel like they will get a good crowd and good car count.”
CHASE YOUR NAME HAS BEEN TOSSED AROUND IN CONNCECTION WITH THE HENDRICK TRIP TO LE MANS NEXT YEAR. DO YOU HAVE INTEREST IN THAT?
“Yeah, you know I’m not super up to speed on it. Boss called me last week and said they were going to do it. I guess we are probably racing on that weekend, but I think it would be a lot of fun to go do that event one day. I’m not sure it’s really possible the way our schedule is. I don’t know 100 percent how that is going to line up, but certainly would have interest in it. I just don’t think logistically that’s going to work for any of us, but we’ll see.”
IF THE OFF WEEK IS THAT WEEK?
“Yeah, potentially. I don’t know. We will just have to wait and see how the schedule falls.”
ASSUME YOU WATCHED SOME OF THAT TRUCK PRACTICE. DID THAT TELL YOU ANYTHING ABOUT HOW YOUR CARS ARE GOING TO BE ON TRACK?
“Yeah, I actually didn’t. I was working my way down here. I was keeping up with it from afar and it sounded like those guys were wide open and drafting. I would imagine we would be doing the same, which I think is what we all pretty much expected coming into this. You know I think there’s a lot of ways you can look at it. I really, for a repave and the situation for a mile and a half getting repaved and kind of the way these places drive to have the ability to you know move off the bottom and get rubber down in different lanes, I feel like this might be the best way to do that. I think it will be interesting for sure. I don’t exactly know what to expect but hopefully we have two solid lanes, and you can work them both and not think that the cars are probably going to drive good enough where you can do that. So, we’ll see. I don’t know man, I’m as open as anybody about it and I really don’t 100 percent know but I do think it will be kind of speedway-esque and just looking at it reminds me a lot of Turns 3 and 4 at Texas and I think it will be really similar to the All-Star race out there last summer on that end of the racetrack is kind of been my head space and how I would approach the weekend.”
WILL YOU SPEND A LITTLE BIT OF TIME LOOKING FOR ROAD AMERICA KIND OF FOR PREP THIS WEEK OR WHAT WILL YOU TAKE IN TO COTA NEXT WEEK?
“I mean, I think just learning. Obviously our first road course race with this car. I don’t think anybody has really driven it a lot on road courses. You know we had the test at Charlotte there early on, but it seemed like every team was they had a car at the track and they were kind of rotating drivers through. So, I don’t think any of us got a ton of time with it, but you know these cars, really a lot of the design pieces come from road race background some of the things they see and on the IMSA side of things. I really think they’re probably going to suit road racing well. I think they’ll be fine, and I don’t know that the race will look a ton different honestly. I think the cars will drive fine. Certainly, getting use to those small things that are going to be a little bit different and the shifting and the brakes. Just how they act at some of those different style of corners. You know COTA has a lot of different angles and weird off camera situations, so curious to see how it drives. I think it would be fine.”
OVER YOUR LAST SIX YEARS HERE IN THE CUP SERIES, WHEN YOU LOOK BACK TO YOUR FIRST RACE TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR DEVELOPMENT AS A DRIVER COMMUNICATION WISE WITH YOUR TEAM?
"I would like to think it has gotten better. I hope, you know i feel like I’ve learned a lot for sure over the course of my time. I’m always learning, you know I don’t feel like I ever had it perfect. Somebody has it perfect, I’d love to meet them. I think it’s definitely a learning thing and you know the sports just always changing. I mean look at this year. We are coming in with a new car and these things drive different. Coming to a brand new Atlanta Motor Speedway here, things are just always changing. It’s like nothing is ever just going to stay the same always. So, I think just having an open mind and maybe taking some of those past experiences with you as you encounter new things and be willing to maybe break a habit or two to improve. Sometimes those things are hard to do. I feel like a lot of times, as a driver, you always kind of fall back into what is natural to you. But sometimes you have to adjust that, and you know like I said, break a habit which is tough. I think it’s necessary sometimes to be successful, so yeah just trying to take a weekend at a time and make the most of, like I say all the time, a great opportunity. I’ve got that right now, so I’m just trying to have some fun with it too.”
YOU SAID SOMETHING INTERESTING YESTERDAY ON SIRIUS (XM NASCAR RADIO) THAT I HADN’T THOUGHT ABOUT. YOU SAID THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU’VE GONE THROUGH A CAR CHANGE, I GUESS BESIDES OTHER THAN CHEVY WHEN THEY CHANGED THE BODY. SO, WHAT HAS THAT BEEN LIKE, I GUESS MAYBE BREAKING OUT OF ANY COMFORT ZONES OR ANY WAYS THAT YOU’VE HAD TO ADAPT AND JUST TAKE ON A CHALLENGE LIKE THIS WITH A COMPLETELY NEW CAR?
“Yes, first time I have been through it. You know I think some of the, there’s probably a handful of guys in the field that went through the COT change and then as the car transitioned to whatever they called the last one, but for me personally this is the first time I’ve kind of gone through that. I’ve had fun with it really just because it is different. This thing does drive different. I feel like it is a little less forgiving than what we had last year. You’re not really going any faster, but it’s just less forgiving which is interesting. Typically, with a lack of forgiveness comes extra speed, but that’s just not really the case with this car. It’s still very draggy, but there’s just not a lot of cushion to lean on with the right side from an aero standpoint. It’s just a different feel, but I think as you go through some of these changes as I said a second ago, you really have to have an open mind. I mentioned it yesterday, but I felt like California was a pretty natural feel to me and that seemed to work ok. Phoenix was kind of the same way. Vegas was not and I think that’s just something that I have to really think about how I go back and find that sense of comfort and still go fast. You might have to adjust that as you go from these different tracks, so yes that’s been my experience so far, but it has been fine and been fun and it’s been a challenge.”
WHAT ARE THOSE THINGS? WHAT’S POSITIVE WITH THIS TEAM RIGHT NOW SETTING YOU UP FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON?
“I mean like I said, I look at California I thought we were really solid there before I crashed the car the first time. I thought we were really good at Phoenix; you know in contention there for the majority of the day. We’ve had great pit stops for the most part all year. Like I said, the pace has been there when we get the thing driving like I want at some of those tracks too which is good. It’s nice to go to a place, like last week I thought was like a nice weekend builder to say hey we showed up, I was looking for a feel and we were able to achieve that with the car and then when we achieved that we had that pace comparison to the rest of the competitors. When those things happen, it’s a good thing and I feel like all the pieces to the puzzle had been there at different times, just not the end results. Certainly no wins, so we want to be better and try to check those boxes.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO CONTINUE TO RIDE THE MOMENTUM THAT NASCAR HAS RIGHT NOW BY YOU DOING THINGS LIKE THAT? FROM KYLE DOING HIS GRASSROOTS EFFORT, HOW MUCH DOES THAT HELP THE SUNDAY SHOW AND JUST BRINGING EYEBALLS ON IT?
“I hope it helps. I feel like, speaking for myself, I do that type of thing because I enjoy it. You know, I enjoy going and racing and driving a different car and challenging myself in a different way. So it’s very naturally, I don’t do it because I’m trying to pull people from one area to the other. If that comes along with it though, I think that’s a great thing. That should be a natural thing too just like it’s natural for me to want to go do that stuff. You want someone to naturally have interest in watching us on Sunday if they are at the race tonight or vice versa, somebody is going to watch on Sunday maybe cruise over there tonight and check out the dirt track that’s only a half hour away. You want that to be a natural thing and I think that’s really my standpoint is I naturally want to go do it and if you pull some people with you to enjoy that crossover then great. Maybe you’ll make a new fan or two or have somebody take part in an event that they wouldn’t have before which would be positive as well.”
ALAN GUSTFASON WAS ALSO ON THE CHANNEL THIS WEEK AND SAID SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF THIS CAR DOESN’T REALLY SUIT YOUR DRIVING STYLE. DOES THIS CAR REMIND YOU OF ANYTHING PERHAPS THAT YOU’VE DRIVEN BEFORE?
“Not really, no. It’s definitely different for sure and I think most everything I have driven along the NASCAR side of things, look at truck they have the big flat right sides, a lot of forgiveness with the air from that standpoint. The Xfinity cars are really the same way. The Cup cars were that way you know and especially last year with the big spoilers on them. You can take advantage of that. You know guys can take advantage of that comfort on the right side of these things and this thing just does not, there’s not a lot extra there. Once you get past that slip of the tire on whatever is available grip wise in the right rear or the right side it seems like that’s kind of it. There’s nothing beyond that, so you know for me I think going to some of these places like a Las Vegas you know I was really loose and just couldn’t find that comfort. Potentially going to have to break some habits and that’s a part of the deal. I have no problems with that, it’s ok to have to challenge yourself in a different area to get better. I’m all good with it and I think it’ll be interesting. I think a lot is going to change throughout the year and I think right now there’s a lot of teams in a lot of directions right now and in six months I don’t that’s really going to be the case. I’m curious to see how the racing changes from now until mid-late summer.”
THERE’S BEEN SOME TALK THAT DRIVERS WITH A DIRT BACKGROUND OR MAYBE WHO ARE WILLING TO KIND OF HOP INTO DIFFERENT CARS AND EXPERIEMENT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO HAVE SUCCESS WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR. AS SOMEONE WHO HAS DONE THAT LATELY IS THAT TRUE? IS THAT WHAT YOU ARE FINDING?
“Yes and no. I mean I think a guy can still be really good if you just race on Sundays and you’ve had success along the way and kind of learn the right tools, I guess, over the years to have this kind of bigger background. So, I don’t know that you really have to do that, but I definitely don’t think it hurts anything to go and run different style cars dirt or asphalt. I will say the one thing that has really stood out to me is anytime I’ve gotten into a car that you may or may not be going faster mile per hour wise, but when you’re in a car that is going fast for a certain style racetrack and it feels fast, things are happening really quick, I think anytime you can jump back into something that your surroundings are slowing down is a big help whether it is on dirt or asphalt. Certainly, searching around and finding the grip and all that’s good and is a helpful thing too, but I think anytime you can jump in something really fast and you can come back and slow your surroundings down, things happen slower for you and I think things get easier too.”
AS THE BIGGEST BRAVES FAN IN THE GARAGE HAVE YOU BEEN PAYING ATTENTION TO FREE AGENCY AND WERE YOU CRYING WITH FREEMAN LEAVING (INAUDIBLE)?
“Yeah, no I think it was, look I get both sides of it for sure. I’ve enjoyed keeping up with it. I had a chance to spend some time with Freddy when we were out in L.A. and that was the first time that I had ever really been around him and he was just a super guy, which made me want him to stay even more. Obviously, he’s a great baseball player, but really an even better individual in my opinion. So, I hated to see that, but you know I knew as things were starting to get talked about around the All-Star break and what not it could go either way. I get it, it’s money ball. It’s part of it. The Dodgers certainly got a good one, so I hate to see him go but I’m excited about their team and I think they have been filling all the gaps well and I think they’ll be just fine. I’m excited to watch either way.”