AS THE MOST RECENT WINNER AT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE IMPENDING FUTURE OF THAT TRACK?
“That’s not what I expected to get asked about first thing here at Richmond (laughs).
I like Chicagoland a lot. It’s a really technical, fun racetrack; super slick and extremely rough. I don’t really know what’s happening with it, but bummed it’s not on the schedule. It’s definitely a special place.”
FOUR OF THE NEXT FIVE RACES ARE AT TRACKS ONE-MILE OR SHORTER. THREE OF THOSE RACES YOU WON LAST YEAR. DOES THAT GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE GOING INTO THIS NEXT LITTLE STRETCH?
“Yeah, for sure. They are all racetracks that I really enjoy. I think if we still had last year’s car, I’d be super confident. But a lot has changed this year with this racecar and I don’t really know what to expect at a lot of these places with the Next Gen car. So, at least kind of knowing that I know what to look for and know what I need in the racecar to be successful at these places is good. But trying to find that with a completely new racecar is definitely going to be tough.”
CHEVROLET AS A WHOLE HAS WON FOUR OF THE LAST FIVE RACES. WHY DO YOU THINK THE MANUFACTURER HAS HAD SO MUCH SPEED EARLY ON?
“I think we’ve definitely had really fast racecars each and every week, and it’s cool to see Chevrolet have so much success. There were races that things went our way too. We have a lot of really smart people that have worked really hard. I feel like the playing field is pretty even right now.”
WITH SOME OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS CAR, I KNOW AERODYNAMICALLY, IT’S SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT, PARTICULARLY ON THE RIGHT SIDE. THE COMPOSITE BODY LENDS ITSELF TO LESS TIRE RUBS. IS THERE A DIFFERENT LEVEL OF INTENSITY IN THE RACE THAT WE MIGHT HAVE SEEN AT A ROAD COURSE THAT WE’RE LIKELY TO SEE AT A SHORT TRACK?
“Yeah, for sure. I think you can definitely run into stuff that would have ended your day in the past. We kind of got sandwiched in between a bunch of cars on a restart last week; drove straight into somebody and it would have completely ended our day last year. Probably would have ended up knocking the radiator out of it and just been done. It’s cool to not have any damage after that. I think there’s a fine balance between that, right? You don’t want to be able to just bounce off stuff and I don’t think you are. But the old car was super fragile. I think it’s definitely going to change the racing a little bit. I don’t know that it’ll change the racing here a ton. Going to Homestead, it’s going to make running the fence way easier and way less stressful, I think, just because if you hit it once, you’re not going to instantly get a flat tire. It’s definitely different and I’m excited to see how it all plays out.”
MY HOME TRACK, MOBILE (SPEEWAY), IS KIND OF COMING BACK TO LIFE THIS YEAR. I KNOW YOU MADE A COUPLE OF ARCA STARTS THERE. DO YOU HAVE ANY MEMORIES OF RUNNING MOBILE OR RACING THERE?
“Yes, I ran there once in an ARCA car. I remember being there to test and it rained, and we sat around and did nothing because we didn’t have a jet dryer or anything. It was a fantastic time (laughs). I think we sat fast time and ran third or something.
It’s a cool place. The Mobile memory for me is the video of Will Kimmel flying off the end of the racetrack. That’s the one that sticks out in my head. It’s a cool racetrack, for sure.”
YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED IN SOME CHAOTIC, WILD FINISHES THIS YEAR. DENNY (HAMLIN) HAD KIND OF INSINUATED ON TWITTER EARLIER THIS WEEK THAT THE ETHICS OF LATE RACE RACING HAVE CHANGED OVER THE LAST FIVE TO SEVEN YEARS. DO YOU SEE THAT AND WHY ARE THINGS MORE CUT-THROAT OR WIN-AT-ALL-COST NOW?
“I think the Playoff format has a lot to do with that. But I think we’ve seen that over the course of the years. You’ve seen people spin people out at the end of races and get pretty physical at the end of the races for a long time. I think there’s some new guys in the series that are extremely aggressive. Like everyone knows how aggressive Ross (Chastain) is at all times. AJ (Allmendinger) is an aggressive driver, too. I don’t necessarily think it has changed as much as Denny (Hamlin) thinks maybe. But I think if there’s a reason and you have to put your finger on it, it would be the Playoff format. How much winning matters and sometimes you can overcome those guys hating you for that trophy.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO BRISTOL, YOU’RE A DIRT GUY. YOU’VE BUILT CARS FOR DIRT RACING. LOOKING AT GOING BACK TO BRISTOL AND TAKING THE NEXT GEN CAR THERE, WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU ANTICIPATE THAT CAR MIGHT HAVE RUNNING ON DIRT?
“Similar challenges to what we had last year. I think the cars last year adapted pretty well to the dirt stuff. Obviously, independent rear suspension is way different. I’ve never driven anything on dirt with independent rear suspension, so it’s going to be interesting to kind of learn about that and see how the steering rack is and all that. I think your main challenges are still going to be visibility and keeping the grill open. The things we fought with last year.
I’m excited it’s a night race. I think that’s going to help everybody. I’m looking forward to it. I love dirt racing. While I couldn’t see an inch from my windshield last year, I still had a blast when I could see. Bristol is a really fun time.”
I’VE HEARD IN THE PAST THAT THERE HAVE BEEN SIMILARITIES BETWEEN PHOENIX (RACEWAY) AND RICHMOND (RACEWAY). WITH THIS NEW CAR, IS THAT A SIMILAR SITUATION WHERE SOME OF THE DATA FROM PHOENIX CAN LEND ITSELF TO HOW YOU GUYS SETUP THE CAR HERE AT RICHMOND. IF NOT, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT YOU GUYS FACE WITH THE NEW CAR COMING HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME?
“Yeah, I think they’re definitely similar. They are two places where I’m pretty awful at (laughs), so they kind of lend themselves to each other there. (Turns) one and two at Phoenix (Raceway) is somewhat similar to here. Just trying to take the data from that and know what we fought with our racecar there. Obviously it’s different. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s at least close.
We struggled at Phoenix this year. We were better than where we finished, but still wasn’t great. So, just trying to learn from that and use the parts and pieces that we can. And also, use all the engineering stuff to be better here.”