YOU DID THE TEST HERE AND YOU WERE JUST ON THE TRACK IN A TRUCK. IS IT WHAT YOU EXPECTED?
“Yeah, there were some differences. They smoothed out a lot of the issues that they had. The truck drives a lot different. I was at the limit of the rear tires the whole practice, so we were pretty loose. I didn’t have any of that with the Cup car. It was a handful in the truck and I think they did a good job smoothing out some of the bumps and dips.”
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHANGE YOU’VE SEEN OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS FROM WHERE YOU’RE AT NOW, JUST WITH THE RACE TEAM AND HOW THINGS ARE CONDUCTED? YOU SEEM A LOT MORE CONFIDENT IN YOUR CRAFT.
“I am, but I don’t get as high as I used to and I don’t get as low as I used to either. Truly, we had two good weeks this year; the last two. But the first two were terrible. We finished last in the Daytona 500. I crashed the car in practice and spun out in the race at California (Auto Club Speedway). These four weeks are a good example – two bad, two good. And I didn’t get too upset whenever we were bad; and I didn’t get too happy when we were good either. I’m an emotional guy, so I had to really control that and be more neutral on all that stuff.”
“As far as Trackhouse though, if that’s part of your question, the breathe of fresh air that is – it’s almost unmeasurable. I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s a lot of the same people. Justin (Marks) being young - the way he’s come in. The way he see stuffs that he does in other aspects of his life, now we’re a part of that at Trackhouse with the Cup team. We’ve seen it, we’ve heard about it. We’ve heard about Pitbull. Now that we’re truly getting to see what it’s like to actually work with Justin, it’s incredible. There are a lot of smiles.”
WHEN YOU COME SO CLOSE TO WINNING, IN THE LONGTERM THINKING, IS IT MORE OF A DISAPPOINTMENT OR ENCOURAGEMENT THAT YOU WERE THAT CLOSE?
“It’s so awesome. People keep asking me if I keep finishing that close and not winning, would I get upset, and I don’t think so. I want to win; we’re preparing to win. We are prepared to win and we have everything we need to win. For me, I couldn’t be in a better spot. The resources that Chevrolet and Trackhouse are giving me – they’re putting us in a position to go win Cup races and that can’t be overstated enough. I’ve been to all of these places for years and was doing my deal; on my plan for that weekend. A big moment of a race weekend at Phoenix was trying to run 15th in Xfinity, which I don’t believe until 2020 I had ever done, and I had raced there for four or five years. I had never finished top-15 in the Xfinity Series. Now, to say in 2022 we are competing for a Cup win at Phoenix, it’s incredible.”
WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FROM BEING IN THE TRUCK THIS MORNING?
“I’m still getting over it. My heartrate was pegged. The Cup car at the test was easy, flat, three cars; it was cooler. The truck, even by myself, was a handful. It’s a different beast. I guess the biggest difference was in the truck, you hit the ground with like a truck on mounts and side skirts; the rocker box and splitter. You don’t do that with Cup cars… INAUDIBLE.”
“The truck, I picked up on a lot of different bumps that I didn’t feel before. The overall track felt smoother. The Cup cars were held up off the ground on purpose. Yeah, it was a handful. We had to work on the truck for two runs before I really wanted to get in the draft. We were too loose. In the Cup car, I had no feeling of that. I’m watching the Xfinity practice and they are tucked up behind each other. I think they’re slower than what we were in Trucks. They are under the limits of the tire. The trucks – everybody I saw besides (Ryan) Preece, was out of control sliding.”
“It feels like the compression of Daytona, but you are turning around and going the other direction so much quicker. Where at Daytona, you’re like driving down the highway, it’s really like a sweeping turn. And this is like the interstate exit that creeps up – it says 25 mph and then you get there and everything is sliding in the car and you’re like ‘oh, I’m going too fast’. That’s what this feels like. Daytona is like that nice, long exit that you can see for a mile. This is just such a tighter radius. You feel like. The sensation of speed is high. It’s not just going to be single-file along the bottom. You’ll be able to move around and people will be lifting, in trucks anyways. I don’t know about the other stuff.”
I THINK IT’S SAFE TO ASSUME YOU’RE RUNNING THE TRUCKS TO GET MORE LAPS AT ATLANTA THIS WEEKEND?
“Yeah, for sure. I want to race with Niece Motorsports as much as I can. I want to race. I love that. Justin (Marks) and Trackhouse are giving me that opportunity to race. They’re all for it.”
“Yeah, we’ll have more. Not really ready to speak on exactly which ones; still working through all that. We know we can’t run Playoffs, triple truck challenge, or the regular season finale. We learned that the hard way last year the week of the race. We’ve buttoned up all the rules and I think we understand all of that, as far as eligibility. So, it’ll be stacked the first half of the year, but there will be more.”