GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS ON TODAY’S PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING, BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, TOMORROW’S RACE – THE THROWBACK WEEKEND AT DARLINGTON RACEWAY.
“It’s a tough track. Thankfully, I was able to be a part of the Goodyear tire test here a couple of months ago. So, it was good to get laps and get familiar with the Next Gen car here. It didn’t seem way different. Darlington (Raceway) is a fun track. Like I said, it’s really tough. I actually crashed a couple of times at the test and was able to keep going.
It’s a difficult race. It’s easy to make mistakes and if you can just limit those mistakes, you can hopefully have a good day.”
WHAT DO YOU, DENNY HAMLIN AND KEVIN HARVICK KNOW FROM THAT TEST THAT NOBODY ELSE KNOWS UNTIL PRACTICE TODAY?
“At the test, there was only three of us. All of my issues came off of turn two. I spun off of two on like lap five and backed it into the fence. And then on my last run of the day, I got loose over there as well and hit the wall. I think with them running the Truck race yesterday, the patch in turn two should hopefully be less slick. But that’s kind of where my issues came from. The transition into the new patch and then out of it is pretty rough, but that’s not really any different than what it was last year.
Other than that, it’s pretty a straight-forward kind of Darlington. I just recommend people taking it easy for the first few laps (laughs). It caught me off guard when I spun that first time.”
WE’RE ALMOST TO THE HALFWAY MARK OF THE REGULAR SEASON. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? YOUR WINNING PERCENTAGE ISN’T QUITE LIKE IT WAS LAST YEAR; LAPS LED, STAGE WINS AND ALL OF THAT. BUT YOU’VE ALREADY BEEN TO VICTORY LANE AND YOUR CAR IS COMPETITIVE.
“I guess actually my win percentage would probably be the same to this point last year. But yeah, we were definitely running stronger and contending more for wins at this point in the year last year. I still feel like we need to get better, but I do feel like we’re not far from being really good. Just have to continue to work hard and keep trying to be consistent. I had a little bit of inconsistency I feel like on my part a couple months ago. Now, we seem to be rolling OK. I think my last three finishes were a fourth, a fourth and a sixth. So, that’s been good. We would like to get more stage points and things like that. We’re way closer to the points lead than we were at this point last year, too. I guess you can spin it a couple of different ways to find some positives about it.
It's been a good year so far. Just would like to get on a roll like we had last season.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO NEXT WEEK, YOU LED A LOT OF LAPS AT KANSAS SPEEDWAY LAST YEAR. COULD HAVE WON THE FIRST RACE; DID WIN THE SECOND RACE. WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR?
“I don’t know. I’m trying to remember what race – I think at Auto Club, we were able to run really close to the wall. I think (Tyler) Reddick did a test at Kansas and I remember him tweeting something about how he just ran right next to the wall the whole time. So, I would imagine it’s pretty easy to run next to the wall. I think it may be less of a multi-groove track.
We’ll see. I love Kansas. It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks. It does have multiple lanes, typically. If that top lane gets going really fast, it does make it hard to pass. I hope we can run the bottom, middle and things like that. I know Reddick will be against the fence anyways (laughs).”
WHAT ABOUT YOUR ARLINGTON EXPERIENCE? THAT HAD TO BE OVERWHELMING IN CERTAIN WAYS.
“Yeah, that was such a cool experience. That’s a really neat tradition that Charlotte Motor Speedway has started now with the Coca-Cola 600 winner. Brad (Keselowski) was able to go last year and now I got to go. I thought that was my first time there, but apparently I went when I was really young. I have family that lives nearby Washington D.C. I think I was like six or seven years old and they had taken me there before. I didn’t really remember that.
It was a cool experience, for sure. It really puts things into perspective. We all have a lot of respect for the military, but once you get to go and do other things like I’ve been able to do now that I’m in the Cup Series with the military and really doing it around the 600. Charlotte does a great job with that. It makes you respect the men and women of the military and everybody that’s given us the ultimate sacrifice and continue to serve. It was a great experience and I hope I can visit it again someday. It would be great to win the 600 again and get to go next year; take my wife and maybe take my dad and get to experience it some more.”