DID YOU GUYS GET A CHOICE OF WHICH NASCAR XFINITY RACES YOU WANTED TO DO? IF SO, WHY DID YOU PICK THIS ONE?
“Yeah, we did. The process was kind of up in the air based on what JRM could do, as far as a fifth car, and what races they also had open for HendrickCars.com to support. We did have a choice and I wanted to do this one. I just feel like I’ve struggled here the last couple of years and I haven’t done a great job. So, I wanted some extra laps. I don’t know if it will help or not, but I wanted to give it an effort to do so and try to be better for Sunday.”
EARLY ON, THERE WERE SOME HEAT CONCERNS ABOUT THIS CAR AND SOME CHANGES WERE MADE. HAS ALL THAT BEEN CLEARED UP? AND ADJACENT TO THAT, WHAT’S THE HOTTEST YOU’VE BEEN IN A RACE CAR?
“Yeah, honestly we haven’t really had any really hot races yet. So, I think it’s kind of tough to say. It’s really been a pretty mild spring; mild start to the year. It was fairly warm at COTA. I’d say that was probably the hottest one we’ve had, so far. And really outside of that, it’s been pretty cool about everywhere we’ve been. I’m not really sure just yet until we get to the summer months. This weekend is fairly warm, but it’s not as hot as it has been down here on other trips.
We’ll see. I don’t know, man. I’ve been hot plenty of times in the car. Just the right circumstance and the right car configuration can certainly bake you.”
DID LAST WEEK’S WIN CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE ABOUT GOING FORWARD THIS SEASON AND WHAT YOU GUYS CAN ACCOMPLISH?
“Honestly, no. I feel like for us, like I said last weekend and the weeks leading up to last week, I feel like we’ve been solid at times and had a lot of pace. We just hadn’t been able to put an entire race together until last Sunday. We just have to do more of that and try to be better. Better execute the entirety of an event. I think as long as we’re doing those things, I think we can run and compete with the best of the garage. I feel confident in that; just as confident in that today as I did three weeks ago.”
YOUR DAD IS IN THE FOX BOOTH FOR STAGE THREE THIS WEEKEND. HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO TALK TO HIM ABOUT IT? WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
“Not a ton. Just logistics of getting over here and getting home. I think it’ll be interesting. He’s not much of a TV guy, so that should be fun for him. He didn’t have to do it, so somehow or another they talked him into doing it. Why that was, I don’t really know. But I think it will be entertaining. For him, it’s not something he does all the time. He wasn’t one of those guys that got done racing and wanted to go do TV. It will be a good vantage point for him and I look forward to seeing how he does.”
CAN YOU GIVE ME A SENSE OF THE EVOLATION OF WHAT CHEVROLET HAS DONE THE LAST FEW YEARS? OBVIOUSLY THERE WAS THAT STRETCH WHERE EVEN WITH SOME SUCCESS, THEY WEREN’T GETTING CARS IN THE FINAL FOUR. NOW, IT SEEMS LIKE IF YOU’RE NOT IN A CHEVROLET, YOU’RE STARTING BEHIND IN A WAY. JUST KIND OF THAT EVOLATION YOU’VE EVEN EXPERIENCED OVER THE LAST FOUR OR FIVE YEARS AND HOW YOU’RE SEEING THE GROWTH IN THAT PERIOD FROM YOUR EYES.
“I think it’s like what my dad has always said over the years and has tried to teach me – it’s a rollercoaster and it’s going to continue to evolve. There is going to be a time where that’s not the case. I’m a Chevy guy and I want that to always be the case. But that’s just not how it works. You’re going to go through periods where you’re going to struggle and you’re going to have to go back to work and get better. I think 2016, ’17, ’18 - I guess more ’17 and ’18 - we were certainly behind and needed to be better. We tried to come together as a manufacturer and, fortunately, we were able to do that.
I think Chevrolet should take a lot of pride in that; and the teams within that banner should take a lot of pride in that, too. I can’t say that anything just miraculously changed overnight. I think it’s just the way this deal works. You’re going to go through those periods and you have to ride that wave while it’s good in a positive manner, just like you do when it’s bad. And just accept that’s the way it’s going to be sometimes. That can be a hard thing to accept in certain periods, but I am a believer that I think that’s just how this works and I don’t ever see that really changing.”
WILLIAM BYRON SIGNED A CONTRACT EXTENSION, SO NOW EVERYONE AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS IS SIGNED AT LEAST THROUGH 2023. DOES IT MATTER? PRO ATHLETES ARE USED TO CHANGE, BUT DOES IT MATTER THAT EVERYBODY IS SETTLED?
“I think it’s great. Those three guys deserve their opportunities in my eyes and I think they’ve done a great job. They’ve had a lot of success and have run really well over the course of the last couple of years. So yeah, I think it’s a great thing. When a guy or a girl is deserving of an opportunity and they’re able to achieve that and have one presented to them in a manner like all of our guys have, I think it says a lot about them. I think HMS is in a really solid place right now. I feel like we all work pretty well together. It’s just kind of an easy flow in operation, which is good. I think it’s a great thing. I’m happy for William (Byron) and, in light of his news this week, I think he’s very deserving. I look forward to racing with him and working with him over the next few years too.”
YOU’VE MENTIONED YOU HAVEN’T DONE WELL AT DARLINGTON LATELY, BUT IN 2014 WHEN YOU FIRST SHOWED UP IN THE NASCAR XFINITY SERIES, IT WAS AN INCREDIBLE FINISH. HAVE YOU LOOKED BACK ON THE TAPE FROM THAT AND KIND OF GET INTO YOUR HEAD OF WHAT YOU DID AND HOW YOU MADE ALL THOSE PASSES HAPPEN?
“Yeah, it seems like I’ve just gotten worse here over time. So, I guess ignorance was bliss. But as it pertains to that night in particular, the win was great, don’t get me wrong. But I was really more proud of how we ran. I felt like we were one of the best couple of cars that night. I thought us and Kyle Busch were really good that night. (Kyle) Larson was also good that night. But I thought we were right there amongst the best and I thought that was something to be really proud of as a group and as we were getting started.
As far as how the end of the race went, the seas kind of parted for me. Just the way it kind of worked out. I had the outside lane and the opportunities were just kind of laid there in front of me for me to pickup as I came along. But that was probably more of good fortune and being in the right place at the right time on a fresh set of tires in all reality. Beyond that, we were solid all night and that kept us in a position to have a shot at it. I think that’s something to be more proud of than having things just go your way in the right time. It was a great night and hopefully we can get back in that direction.
I feel like we’ve been really sporadic here for whatever reason. I feel like we had a really good run here in one of the races in 2020, and then struggled really bad in the race in 2021. I don’t know if we raced here once or twice last year; but if there were two, neither one of them stuck out so they must not have been very good in my eyes. So, hopefully this week is better.”
HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO TALK TO JIMMY MEANS ABOUT THE THROWBACK PAINT SCHEME?
“No, I haven’t. Not at all actually. Just in my talking with the folks at NAPA, they were excited about it. If they’re excited about it, then I’m excited about it. It’s a good looking car. I’m excited to represent their colors as always and hopefully we can give it a good run.”
IF YOU’RE NOT GIVING SOMEONE THE FINGER ON THE TRACK, THEN YOU DON’T REMEMBER (LAUGHS).
“Well, yeah I guess (laughs). That was in 2020, wasn’t it? Yeah, that one stood out, for sure. Not the ones last year. But I thought we were really good that night. That was part of my frustration. I thought we had a real shot at winning that thing.”
AFTER HAVING THE CAR LIKE YOU HAD LAST WEEK, HAVE YOU EVER BEEN THE GUY TO BE LIKE ‘MAN, I WANT TO HAVE THAT CAR FOR THIS TRACK OR THAT TRACK’? IF YOU HAVE BEEN LIKE THAT, HOW DOES THAT CHANGE WITH THIS CAR BECAUSE I’M SURE IT’S JUST A ROTATION RIGHT NOW OF WHERE THEY’RE GOING.
“I used to be like that when I was racing late models and stuff. We only had a couple of cars, so we would find one you liked and ran good with. If you were fortunate enough to not tear it up for a period of time, you wanted to keep bringing it back and you kind of had a little bit of a connection with it.
Since I got into the NASCAR world, not so much. I feel like everything is so precise, as far as the builds go. And from where I sit, I told you guys before – aside from the sticker over there on the dash, I couldn’t tell you one from another, to be honest with you. I really have no idea, as far as what chassis number we’re on or which one we ran last week; which one we’re bringing this week or whatever. I don’t really have a tie to it now.
And two, with the setup stuff, I think it’s really more about if you go somewhere and you have success with a certain balance of a car. I think it’s maybe more about going back and looking through some of that stuff and trying to replicate it. But you can implement those types of things in any car that we have. I think they’re all so close now that the number on the frame doesn’t really matter to me.”