TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR OVERALL THOUGHTS HEADED INTO THIS WEEKEND?
“I think everybody’s looking forward to it. We learned a lot last year, which obviously probably went into everybody’s preparation for this year. I think Goodyear learned a lot. SMI and the track learned a lot, and NASCAR as well just trying to make a good show even better. Switching it to night should be beneficial for some of those things. Looking forward to this practice session and getting some long runs in with these tires. Obviously, last year we had to cut our segments down to 50 laps with having too soft of a tire for the track conditions and our cars. Now, we feel the tire is hard enough that it won’t just burn it off, but I think you could maybe get too much wheel spin and get some blistering. We’ll have to pay attention to that in this practice session. Always looking forward to coming to a racetrack when you don’t really know the conditions. I feel like coming to Bristol or going to any asphalt track you know exactly what you are going to get for the most part. Here, we’re all starting this practice session with the unknown of what track conditions are going to be like and that’s fun for me.”
CAN YOU TELL ANYTHING FROM JUST WHAT YOU’VE SEEN ON THE TRACK NOW AND DOES IT LOOK ANY DIFFERENT THAN LAST YEAR?
“I mean the turtles are a little bit smaller, which obviously kind of killed left fronts last year and body panels. I think those being a little bit smaller will definitely help. A little less banking at the bottom is something that I am hoping will kind of bring the middle portion of the racetrack in. I don’t feel like the very top of the racetrack will ever come in, but if the bottom does get slow enough and we’re capable of running the middle where there is a little bit more banking. Watching some of the late model races from the last couple weeks, toward the end of their 30 or 35 lap races, the middle portion of the racetrack was definitely the faster way around. There was a handful of guys that found it and made up a lot of spots. It gives us hope that maybe that can happen for us. Watching the video of Friesen running around here, I feel like he ran the middle really fast. You’ll have to see once the track conditions start changing if that line goes away or not. All in all, again watching from the previous two weeks everything that they’ve done it looks like they’ve got the racetrack really smooth. I don’t know if you’ll see as many holes in the racetrack, which on one hand I’m kind of bummed about because I thought the holes were a lot of fun last year and challenging and kind of tricky the way you hit them. Also, that created more dust as well, so the smoother the racetrack the less dusty it will be as well.”
WITH THIS WEEKEND AND NEXT WEEKEND TALLADEGA, IS THERE A SENSE OF URGENCY OR MORE OF A SENSE OF OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU GUYS WITH THE WAY THINGS HAVE STARTED THIS YEAR?
“Yeah, let’s say a little bit of both. Definitely looking forward to these two weeks, knowing that I feel like we’ve got a really good shot to win here or next weekend. We’ve really struggled on the short track races so far this year and I feel like we’ve learned a lot over the Phoenix, Richmond, and Martinsville, but you never know until you go back to another short track. So, for us, we’re trying to gather as much data as we can as a single-car team and I’m trying to give as much feedback as I can to kind of speed our process up of learning. I feel like we’ve done a good job of that, it’s just obviously the bigger teams are still quicker to get that information figured out. Been a bummer on the short tracks, but then again on the mile and a half and superspeedways I’ve been really confident in the racecars my guys have been bringing me. we’re going to continue to work on that, but definitely a sense of urgency and excitement in the next two weeks.”
IS IT FRUSTRATING THAT YOU UNDERSTAND DIRT AND YET DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY GOOD AT DIRT WILL HAVE AN ADVANTAGE OR DO YOU FEEL LIKE STILL BECAUSE OF THE NEW CAR AND THIS TRACK, THAT IT’S A WHOLE DIFFERENT ANIMAL?
“I think for me if the track stayed prepped with moisture in it and you had a cushion to run on and things like that, that yeah maybe your dirt experience could help you a little bit. I think as you saw last year, really the cars with the most grip kind of like any track you go to still have the advantage and still had the best shot at winning. We’re going to try and get our car handling as best we can in this practice session, because whether you have a ton of dirt experience or not you know the car’s still going to play a massive role in who wins this race.”
AT THE START OF SEASON, YOU GOT PAIRED UP WITH TAB BOYD AS YOUR SPOTTER AND YOU’VE GOTTEN A FEW RACES UNDER OUR BELT, WHAT KIND OF THINGS CAN TAB BRING? OBVIOUSLY, HE’S WORKED WITH A LOT OF DRIVERS IN THE PAST.
“Yeah, he’s got a lot of success on all different racetracks and championships and wins. I think for me, man right off the bat we really hit it off. Both southern guys, which is nice. He puts a lot of effort in. he comes to the shop for our meetings, takes notes and we talk throughout the week to kind of go over game plans for that weekend. Like you said, he’s got a lot of experience from other drivers and kind of knows what to look for. I felt like this year some of the biggest things is just trying to keep me pumped up and trying to keep my head in the game. If we’re struggling or even if we’re running good, making sure he’s giving me all that information, been a huge asset for us for sure.”
WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR THIS YEAR, WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE THAT IT HAS HERE ON THIS DIRT TRACK THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE WITH LAST YEAR’S CAR?
“I guess I’ll probably have to wait and see when I get out there, but I definitely think a wider tire is more suitable for this car on a dirt track compared to what we had last year. Other than that, I’m not 100% sure. Obviously, a lot of the short tracks we’ve been down shifting and things like that. I don’t really know or think that’ll come into play, but I guess you never know. We really haven’t expected it at some of the racetracks we’ve done it in. I think some of the steering components could be a little bit more beneficial for how quick we’re going to have to be turning the wheel left and right. Definitely some cool things about this racecar that’s been a benefit at other places, and I feel like it’s been putting on really good shows for the most part. I think the body that we have on this car will definitely help some of the racing. Last year, I felt like if we banged fenders a little bit here people would get tire rubs and cut tires and I don’t think you’ll see that as much this year which could make the race even better.”
YOU REFERENCED EARLIER JUST ABOUT BEING A SINGLE-CAR TEAM, THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN YOUR CUP CAREER YOU’VE BEEN A SINGLE-CAR TEAM. I KNOW YOU TALKED ABOUT IN THE OFF SEASON YOU THOUGHT IT WAS AN ADVANTAGE WITH THE TESTING, BECAUSE YOU GOT ALL OF THE TRACK TIME, BUT WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES NOW WITH NOT HAVING THAT INFORMATION TEAMMATE TO RELY UPON AND SOMETHING YOU HAVEN’T EXPERIENCED IN YOUR CUP CAREER?
“I think on one hand I still think there’s a few advantages of being able to get parts and pieces and be prepared to come to the racetrack and focusing on our car. Then I think on the flip side of that, we’re kind of finding out on the fly is we can only run really one setup throughout the weekend. We do have a little short practice session, but it’s tough to get massive changes in in that period of time or after qualifying going into the race. That’s been, for us, when you have other teams with four cars and can run four different setups you just learn at a quicker pace. So, you know I thought coming into the season it was going to be a hey well everybody kind on start on a similar playing field, but I think maybe now you’ll see that towards the end of the year once all the teams have more data because their not making new parts and pieces for our car. That was kind of always a struggle with I feel like some of the bigger teams is you would never really be able to catch up, because they were always developing new parts and pieces. Now we have the same parts and pieces, which is encouraging knowing that hey their making their car go that fast with these same tools. We’re just trying to gather as much data as we can, and you know my guys are doing a really good job of giving me something different to work with. I’m excited to continue that.”