WHEN WE WERE IN ATLANTA WE HEARD A LOT ABOUT DRAFTING THERE AND IT WAS LIKE A SUPERSPEEDWAY. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU LEARNED THERE THAT YOU CAN APPLY HERE? DOES ANYTHING CARRY OVER?
“I think, I mean Atlanta was just more intense than here I would say just in the fact that it was really narrow, and you had a lot of things going on fast. The corner exits would come up fast. Guys would merge off the bottom and it was harder to hold the bottom. It was harder to predict where guys were going to end up on corner exit. I think my general thoughts about here is I think you’re going to see some tandem for half a lap or three quarters: maybe a full lap. I think that’s going to be the difference here is handling is not as big of a deal and you might see that play out more.”
A FEW YEARS AGO WE WERE AT DAYTONA AND YOU AND BRAD (KESELOWSKI) HAD A DISSAGREEMENT OVER BLOCKING AND DRAFTING. HOW HAS YOUR CONFIDENCE IN THE DRAFT GONE AND YOUR MOVES THAT YOU MAKE AND KNOWING WHEN TO BLOCK? HOW HAS THAT CHANGED OVER THE YEARS, HOW MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE ARE YOU NOW GOING INTO SUPERSPEEDWAYS?
“I think knowing what I need, what I need to do. When that deal happened with Brad (Keselowski) I was in my second year and I was fast on the superspeedways, but I wasn’t making all the right moves. I thought I was making the right amount of right moves. It was a good learning experience and Brad (Keselowski) is always good at these tracks and I feel like we are always usually around each other at these tracks. I think it’s just experience like you just get with your spotter and understand what moves are going to happen. As much as the rule’s packages do change the drafting a little bit, it’s nothing I feel like is massive. If anything, probably my rookie year was the weirdest package because we had lower downforce and there was a big bubble behind the car so you could basically lead the whole race which we saw with Stewart Haas the one time. I think now there’s so many comers and goers that you just have to learn throughout the race and get better.”
YOU GUYS WERE AT MARTINSVILLE, YOU GO TO BRISTOL AND NOW HERE. CAN YOU JUST GIVE ME A SENSE OF THE CHALLENGES FOR A DRIVER THE LAST THREE WEEKS AT THESE THREE PARTICULAR TRACKS? IT WOULD SEEM TO BE AMONG THE MORE CHALLENGING STRETCHES FOR YOU GUYS.
“It’s probably among the more unpredictable stretches of the season for sure. You know Martinsville was great for us, obviously. Bristol was not great. I was under the weather all weekend and I don’t have a ton of dirt experience, so that one’s kind of a wildcard for us. I think for this weekend a little bit back to normal. This is an important race in the fall. We can talk about how you just kind of don’t know where you are going to finish here, but this is the race last year that knocked us out of contention. So, I feel like we want to do well this weekend for that reason, to be able to be ready for the fall and know what we need to do. Once we get into Dover and then Darlington, I think it will kind of be back to a little bit of normalcy.”
GIVEN THE NEW CAR, HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH NOT HAVING PRACTICE AT TALLADEGA?
“I mean it would be pointless to have practice. There’s literally nothing that we do here that would relate in practice. You’re basically just wearing off the underside of the car for a couple of laps. I always thought practice was really difficult here to get a feel for what you are going to need in the race. I would like to do some procedural things like hot pit entries and exits, but I think this is a good format for sure.”
INITIALLY THERE WAS TALK ABOUT HEAT IN THE CAR WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR. IT’S GOING TO BE HOT THIS WEEKEND. WHAT ABOUT THE CAR ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT AS YOU ROLL INTO THE RACE THIS WEEKEND?
“We’ve been working through a couple of different things. One of them was carbon monoxide intake and how the fumes that were coming in the car were affecting me at COTA. Just trying to work on where the helmet was mounted, where the fan was mounted to go into my head. At COTA I got a little bit of a headache, so I think that has been pretty common throughout the field just trying to figure out air intake stuff to make sure we don’t have issues. As far as the heat goes it’s been great. I’d say it is probably similar to the old car, that’s all we wanted. In pre-season testing it was really hot and pretty unbearable. I think they’ve gotten it now where it’s similar to the old car, it’s just about the fumes.”
DO YOU KIND OF FEEL LIKE YOU KNOW HOW THIS CAR WILL HANDLE HERE?
“I think the little bit that I did race the DAYTONA 500, I think I was 60 laps in, I felt like the car handled better than the old car. It accepted the pushes better than the old car too. Both things were good for competition because you could just be aggressive with pushes. That was probably the most aggressive 500 that we’ve seen with pushing. I think that had a lot to do with the car.”
WILLIAM, NOT A NASCAR QUESTION FOR A SECOND HERE. WE ONLY HAVE A WEEK LEFT UNTIL THE NFL DRAFT. YOU’VE BEEN PRETTY KEEN ON THE MALIK WILLIS TO THE PANTHERS. HAS ANYTHING CHANGED SINCE THEN?
“Yeah, I would love that. That makes the most sense for Liberty (University) as a whole. I would love it. I think Malik is a great talent. I’ve watched him play in person, watched him play a couple of games up there over the last few years and feel like he was well coached up there with Hugh Freeze. That would be a really cool pic. I don’t know what they are going to do. I try to follow it. It looks like the Hornets fired their coach, so I don’t know. Hopefully we just get it all turned around. It’s been a rough few years in the Charlotte sports, but hopefully we can get it rolling here soon.”
IS THERE ANY SITUATION WHERE YOU WOULD BE OK WITH THEM NOT TAKING A QUARTERBACK AT SIX?
“We need a lot of pieces. I mean, I’d look at offensive line but that’s always a boring pick to take in the draft. It’s important. They did get a couple of free agent offensive lineman that I think will be good. A guy from the Rams I think, so yeah I think they need pieces but quarterback is probably the easiest fix first.”
BACK AT DAYTONA, THE FORDS WERE MOST ORGANIZED FOR THE ENTIRE WEEK. DO YOU THINK CHEVY HAS CAUGHT UP TO WHAT THEY WERE DOING?
“We’ll just have to wait and see. I think it’s not for lack of effort for sure. I think there’s some really aggressive Chevy drivers when you look at (Tyler) Reddick and Ross (Chastain) and Chase (Elliott). I think there’s some really good drafters that we can work with. I felt Erik Jones too has been great at the speedways. I felt like at Atlanta we were better. We were improved. That’s probably the closest thing to this weekend. I know those guys can tandem really well, even at Atlanta for a lap of so they could stay connected and that’s something that we have to work on. I don’t know if that will be different, but I think we’ve got the aggressive guys to push each other as much as we need to.”
I HAD WATCHED YOUR PRESS CONFERENCE AFTER MARTINSVILLE AND YOU SPOKE ABOUT HOW JEFF GORDON HAD GIVEN YOU ADVICE ABOUT HOW TO GET AROUND THE TRACK. DO Y’ALL STILL TALK ON A WEEK TO WEEK BASIS ABOUT ADVICE LIKE THAT?
“Yeah, I’d say all the time. I usually fly with him at some point every couple of weeks. It just works out that way. You know he comes to quite a few races now, so I try to get advice from him that’s going to pay off. He’s pretty direct with his advice and he’s good with the crew chiefs too. I’ve noticed at times he’ll be talking to Rudy (Fugle) on his own that isn’t with me. It’s good to kind of get his opinion as a driver too. I think there’s things that Rudy (Fugle) can use from him to set up the car that might help at certain tracks. I’m very confident in the feels that I have at tracks I have run well, but there’s a few tracks that I haven’t run as well that maybe Jeff (Gordon) can be good advice for the crew chief as well.”
HAVE YOU PLAYED ANY IRACING THIS WEEK AND HOW ACCURACTE DO YOU FEEL LIKE THEIR DRAFT MODEL IS GOING TO BE TO WHAT YOU MIGHT SEE ON SUNDAY?
“Yeah, from what I’ve watched it looks really similar. With my guys that race in the Coke Series over there, I’ve kind of learned from them some little bits of advice. No, I haven’t been able to race on there this week. I was gone in Orlando, so I haven’t been able to. Hopefully I remember what I’m doing when I get out there, I guess lap one.”
WE ARE 1/3 OF THE WAY THROUGH THE SEASON, SO AT THIS POINT WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR HOW MUCH DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE HAVING TO RE-LEARN TRACKS OR RE-LEARN SPECIFIC STYLES OF RACING ON A WEEKLY BASIS WITH THIS CAR?
“I’d say every week is a new week. It really is. We look at our old notes for balance and things like that, but even that’s kind of changed. I think Dover’s going to be eye opening to see how this car gets around Dover, because you know it has way less downforce. Downforce is key at Dover. I’m very interested to see how that feels and how that plays out, because I don’t know what to expect. Darlington it sounds like is really difficult with this car. Lots of spins and wall contact just by yourself, so I am sure you guys will see a great race the next few weeks.”