You’ve had an off weekend to reset and work on your game plan for the second half of the season. How would you describe the first part of the year for the No. 41 team?
“I think it’s just been a matter of finding your package. We’ve shown speed at times this year, but you only get so many chances to get it right going into the weekend because you only get so much practice. I think we’ve gone down a little bit of the wrong path at times during the year, but now that we’re getting back, I think it’s just a matter of capitalizing on the positives. We need to accelerate the process of keeping the car underneath us, but I feel pretty good about the second half of the year.”
There were 17 consecutive race weekends before last weekend’s break in the schedule. Now you’re looking at racing for the next 20 consecutive weekends. How do you approach that kind of a workload?
“You just keep grinding. It’s a really long year and you just have to stay at it and keep working with your team and get your cars better and go week by week. But I think the biggest thing is to take all the positives and the momentum to help keep you fresh as you go. Being able to run up there in the top-five and have a shot to win the race at the end like we did at Charlotte, that makes you pumped to go to the track the next week. I think we’re going in the right direction, it’s just a matter of cleaning some things up and having some good luck. I think we’ve shown we can have speed at times. I think at Martinsville, we were in the top-five most of the race. At COTA, we were in the top-10 for most of the race, and at Charlotte we had a really good run. But we’ve had tires roll away, we’ve had motors blow, and we’ve gotten wrecked I think six or seven times, so it seems like one thing after another. But if you bring fast cars to the racetrack, it’ll eventually turn around.”
This weekend, you’ve got a full, 50-minute practice session on Friday and won’t have to qualify until Saturday. How do you feel about the slight change in the typical weekend format?
“It’s exciting, I think mainly for the crew chiefs and the engineers. When you look at it, going straight to qualifying after your only practice of the weekend doesn’t allow anybody to really dig deep in analyzing what they need to do for qualifying. We’re to the point where everybody probably has a little bit of a baseline of where they’re at with these cars, but the extra time will allow the crew chiefs and engineers to consider all the different things they can do to get that little bit extra speed. So during Friday practice, I think you’ll definitely see some guys trying some different setups and things like that. It’ll be cool. It’ll be interesting.”
How well do you think the NextGen car stacks up against the intermediate tracks, from you experience so far?
“I think the car’s been solid at the intermediate tracks for the most part this year. We need a little bit more to get to the top-five, I would say, but I think we have potential to have a baseline to get better finishes going forward.”