We’re nearly halfway through the season with only 10 races left before the playoffs begin. Performance has improved the last few weeks, so do you feel like things are back on track and you could be a championship favorite?
“Well, you still have to get to Phoenix. If you don’t get to Phoenix, it doesn’t matter how good you are. If you had asked me that four or five weeks ago, I would have said no way. But we got back to what we were doing at the beginning of the year and I feel like we have our speed back. Hopefully, we can continue this. But, I don’t think there is a championship favorite. There are a lot of guys who are capable. This NextGen car, it is so weird how it is. One week you can be really good and the next week you can be way, way off. We just have to continue to get better and put ourselves in a position to keep trying to run up front. If we do that and get to Phoenix, I am confident we can go there and battle. It is just a matter of getting there. If you aren’t one of the final four guys, it doesn’t matter how good you are there.”
Is there anything about this new car that has made you rewire how you drive a car and has challenged you in that way?
“I haven’t felt like it’s a lot different, to be honest. I feel like it’s still a racecar. It still does a lot of the same things. I felt like maybe when I got decent on the road courses is when I started maximizing the brake zones in the old car, and with this car you can do that a lot better, so I guess just how you drive with the brake pedal on the road courses would be the biggest thing that I kind of have to retrain myself on. But truthfully, with the IMSA stuff I’ve done, it’s kind of similar to that feel, so I wouldn’t say that I’ve had as much muscle memory to relearn or forget about switching from the old car. I haven’t had any issues – knock on wood – but it is different, I think, for the guys who have done it for a long time and are trying to retrain themselves with a lot of those things."
How does the Next Gen car change what a driver now does on a restart?
“This car doesn’t create as big of a hole on restarts from an aero standpoint. The old car, with that 500 package, it would just create such a huge hole that you’d get such big runs on restarts and you could gain six, seven spots on a straightaway. It was just different how it responded down the straightaway, where this car doesn’t necessarily seem to have that as much. I feel like, with the old car, you would maybe sometimes gain two or three rows on lane choice even on some of these mile-and-a-halves because guys didn’t want to be on the bottom on the straightaway. With this new car, it seems like everybody takes inside out, it’s back and forth and you don’t really get that huge row gain like you used to be able to with the old car. So, I feel like you have to be a little more aggressive in this car just because it seems like obviously restarts is the easiest time to get the positions, and then after that it gets pretty aero-sensitive."