WHAT IS THAT LIKE FOR YOU, CONFIDENCE WISE COMING INTO A RACETRACK EACH WEEKEND AND WHAT ARE YOU SEEING IN THE TEAM IN TERMS OF THEIR MINDSET AND ATTITUDE COMING INTO THE RACETRACK WHEN YOU GUYS ARE PUTTING CARS ON THE TRACK THAT ARE CONTENDERS?
“I think it really dates back for us to last year. I felt like that last 10 races of the year last year, and probably the last 12, kind of getting ready for the playoff stretch we started to elevate our game a little bit more. We realized as a team that we weren’t, necessarily, one of the teams like we were really consistent, but we weren’t one of the teams that would win every week. I felt like towards the end of last year we were one of those teams that could win every week. Obviously, things didn’t come together. Then you go into this year, you start with a new car, got to go through testing, we’ve got to figure out what setups are close. We went through a lot of that adaptation period during the off season, but we started off the season pretty amazing. We were running third at Daytona before we got crashed. I made a mistake at California after we had the lead, you know we had our pit road issues and then was running in the top-five again. I think it’s just kind of been trending that direction. The comfort is there as a team. I feel like our communication is really spot on. We’ve got to work through different issues with this Next Gen car. We go to certain tracks right now and we’re miles off or really close. When we are really close, we know what we are doing. Miles off we’ve got to start throwing things at the car and figure it out. I think just good communication, good teamwork and I feel like we are really clicking right now, which is good. At the same time, there’s a lot of season left.”
WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE PART OF SOMETHING HISTORICAL LIKE THAT FINISIHING TOP FOUR AT DOVER? WHAT WAS IT LIKE AT THE END OF THE RACE TRYING TO HOLD YOUR SPOT AND MAKE SURE THAT YOU GUYS PULLED IT OFF?
“It was pretty amazing. Dover was a crazy day to see that, with the Gen 6 car that was a really good track for us and we knew that going there. Notes wise we knew we would be fast, but I think everyone in the shop was like our setup is the best, no our setup’s the best. We went through that process and I think to show up, last year we had no practice, but to see the speed we had early. Us, on the 24, we took the lead early in the race and then struggled to keep up with the racetrack, as well as our teammates. It was a little bit of a bummer that I finished fourth, but at the same time I was so excited for everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, because that shows so much strength to be able to take four cars and really we were battling ourselves the entire race which was pretty amazing.”
HOW DID MR. HENDRICK TAKE THAT?
“I think it was a sign of strength and what we’ve built with teamwork. The four of us work so closely and so well together that it feeds off of each other. Iron sharpens iron and I feel like we continue to work together and put ourselves further towards the front. It helps when you have teammates that are fast. It helps when you have, if Kyle is really fast at a racetrack, we can look at his setup or I can look at his data and say ok that’s maybe what I need to do different. We’re all capable of getting to that point, it’s just a matter of everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Fortunately, it’s funny because Chase (Elliott) is so good on road courses, Kyle’s (Larson) so good on the mile and a half’s, Alex (Bowman) is really good on the short-tracks and I’m trying to blend it all together. It’s fun to have people that you can lean on for that.”
WITH THE TRUCK WIN YOU GOT LAST NIGHT, HOW DO YOU FEEL THAT WILL HELP YOU FOR THE RACE COMING UP ON SATURDAY?
“I think it will help me tremendously. I feel like we’re only going to get 20 minutes of practice here, so it’s not like you’re going to have a good idea or good chance of getting in a rhythm. You’re probably going to be in traffic. You’re probably going to be passing somebody, so I don’t have to worry about where are my marks. I can figure out all of that stuff. Obviously, the Next Gen car’s going to have more grip I would think than the truck, so I’m just going to have to drive it a little bit harder. It should be fun and it’s good to do that. I was pretty nervous going in the truck. I hadn’t been in one in a long time, besides a little bit last year. That was a new racetrack and kind of hard to get my bearings and we blew up early in the race. Last night was definitely fun. At the same time I really want to win the Cup race and feel like we were really close last week. We’ve just got to close the deal.”