ONE OF THE CRITICISMS TOWARDS YOUR TEAM IN PAST YEARS HAS BEEN THE LACK OF CONSISTENCY. BUT IN THESE LAST FEW WEEKS, YOU’VE BEEN ABLE TO STRING TOGETHER A PRETTY CONSISTENT RUN OF GOOD FINISHES. WHAT ARE YOU FEELING WITH THIS NO. 48 TEAM THIS YEAR AND HOW HAS THE TEAM ADAPTED TO THIS NEXT GEN CAR?
“I feel like that’s been a knock on us; but at times, we’ve been really consistent. Like the end of 2020, we were really, really strong. Last year, we were definitely less consistent than we wanted to be. I feel like we’ve been good so far this year. We’ve had some races - like Martinsville, we struggled, and that’s probably the worst we’ve been. Other than that, we’ve just had some things that were out of our control at a couple.
But yeah, I think we’ve done a good job of adapting to the Next Gen car. We’re in a good place right now. It’s really interesting coming to a lot of these race tracks not really knowing what to expect. The setups are almost a guess. It’s completely based off of simulation and hoping that we get it right; and you really can’t change much once you’re here. It’ll be interesting to see how we are today, but I think we’re in a good place. My guys have been doing a really good job with the Next Gen car.”
ARE THERE SPECIFIC THINGS THAT YOU’RE MOST CONCERNED ABOUT HERE AT DOVER MOTOR SPEEDWAY, WHEN WE LOOK AT THE CHALLENGES OF THIS RACE TRACK?
“I just feel like the loads are really high. Entry and exit is never comfortable here, just with falling down into the corner. And then as you unload the car up off the corner, typically you’re really, really, really loose in both situations. With this car, you can be a little loose; but if you’re really loose, you really can’t catch it and you kind of just don’t have the feel and end up backwards most of the time. Hopefully we can avoid that.
I don’t really know how the race is going to play out. I keep getting asked how it’s going to play out all week and I don’t know. I think a lot of it is going to be dependent on the tire. But I think this Next Gen car – it might drive better than the old car did here and it might drive worse, but we won’t know for the next hour and a half or so.”
IS IT A LITTLE UNNERVING WHEN YOU, YOUR CREW CHIEF AND ENGINEERS ARE USED TO BEING ABLE TO PREDICT STUFF; AND YOU COME HERE AND IT IS SO HARD TO PREDICT AND HAVE SO LITTLE TIME?
“A little bit. Just finding the grip level the first couple of laps is probably the biggest part. Dover (Motor Speedway) is pretty high commitment. Like once your off into the corner, you have to drive in pretty far; and if it doesn’t stick that first time, it’s going to be a bad time. So, just trying to figure out how committed to be the first couple of laps and trying to get up to speed quickly, but also smartly, is probably the hardest part.”
I TALKED TO SOME XFINITY DRIVERS YESTERDAY AROUND THE QUALIFYING EFFORT AND THEY WERE ACTUALLY GETTING STOMACH ACHES AS THEY GOT READY TO TAKE THAT DROP. IS IT THAT WAY FOR YOU TOO?
“Yeah, that’s kind of typical Dover (Motor Speedway). The first couple of laps here feels like a rollercoaster more than anything. But I think as you’ve ran here for 10 years or whatever, it feels normal. But I remember my first couple of times here, it’s really aggressive and I’m sure for a couple of laps today it’ll feel that way, as well.”
THE 1-2-3-4 FINISH FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS – A YEAR LATER. REFLECT ON THAT MOMENT, THE CELEBRATION AFTERWARD AND THE PICTURE THAT’S STILL ON THE COVER OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES.
“Yeah, it was really cool. I’m glad I was on the right side of it; got some bragging rights there. I don’t have many bragging rights over guys like Kyle Larson, but I’ll take that one. It was a really special day, for sure. Pretty unbelievable that Hendrick Motorsports had never done that before. So, to be a small part of that was really cool. It was a good celebration, for sure. Definitely was the only guy in sunglasses there the next day to take that picture for a reason (laughs).
But it was fun. Really enjoyed celebrating that with my team. This is a race track that I really wanted to win at, so it’s really cool.”
THE NO. 48 HAS A LOT OF HISTORY HERE AND COMING BACK HERE AS THE DEFENDING WINNER, IS THERE ANY ADDED PRESSURE IN THAT REGARD?
“I don’t think so. It’s hard to have a ton of pressure when you don’t know what to expect. I don’t know how the car is going to drive. There are so many unknowns and I’m just trying to figure those things out. So the pressure to run well is there, but I don’t think there is any added pressure coming back as the previous winner or driving the No. 48.”