BEFORE WE GET STARTED WITH QUESTIONS, I’M GOING TO HAND THE MICROPHONE OVER TO YOU TO MAKE A LITTLE BIT OF AN ANNOUCEMENT ON YOUR END.
“It’s always good to be in Nashville, especially after last year. We obviously had a really good run here in the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race. I’m hoping we can translate that into this new car and you continue that success that we had here last year.
It's been a good week, so far. Myself and everybody at JTG Daugherty Racing inked a new contract for me for a multi-year contract. That's been something that we've been working on. I know that a few people have asked me over the last few weeks kind of where that was. But we had been working on that. I’m very thankful for Tad (Geschickter), Brad (Daugherty), Jodi (Geschickter), Gordon (Smith), everybody in the ownership group. And then obviously everybody in the race shop. We have so many people that don't get to travel with us every weekend that put their heart and soul into this organization and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO STAY?
“I really have enjoyed my time at JTG Daugherty Racing. I feel like we haven't had the end results, points-wise. But I feel like we've had so many bright spots throughout our first few seasons together. I feel like with this new car - we were hoping to have it last year and continue to build on that. Obviously, this is the first year with it. So I know for me and the way this car has been, I feel like at certain race tracks we kind of have it figured out. And then there are other race tracks where we're pretty out to lunch and we're still looking for those parts and pieces to be in the right spot to be fast.
But I feel confident with the people that we have that we will be able to do that. Tad and everybody at Kroger has put a lot of faith in me to come over here and drive the car and I think we’ve shown some really solid strong runs this year. I had opportunity to win at Dover, I felt like. Charlotte, we had a really fast car. So, I think that's the reason why. I just really enjoy the family atmosphere from the top, down. Everybody in our shop, our partners - it's been a really good relationship.”
“I don't actually know where anybody else’s contracts are (laughs).
Like I said, from the top to bottom, obviously I've had a super long relationship with Brian (Pattie). And you look at people in the shop, Mike Kelley. Ernie (Cope) and I, even though we haven't worked together for a long time, we've had really good relationships when we raced against each other. I just feel like everybody believes in each other there and I think that's what I look for in our group going forward. This car is supposed to stay the same for years to come and I think that's only going to help us build our notebook going forward.”
IS THIS KIND OF LIKE A HOME GAME FOR YOU? DO YOU HAVE MORE PEOPLE WANTING TO COME AND JOIN YOU AT NASHVILLE THAN NORMAL RACES SINCE IT’S PRETTY CLOSE TO HOME?
“For sure. You know, in the XFINITY series, this was my home race track; I guess once Memphis was off the schedule. So yeah, it's close to home. I have a lot of friends and family that live in the area. And then obviously, for my family coming up from home, it's four and a half hours. So, really close to home. They’ve got a few spots on the backstretch, so we'll go and watch the Truck race with them. It's always nice to have family around and friends that want to come out and support you. And then obviously friends in the music industry that they want to come out here, as well. It definitely feels like a home game. I wouldn't say that Nashville in my Xfinity Series career was top of the list. But after last year, I had a lot of fun, so hopefully it stays there.”
I TALKED TO (BRIAN) PATTIE A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO AND HE SAID YOU GUYS DISCOVERED SOMETHING WITH THE CAR’S GEOMETRY AND THAT WAS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY YOU ALL HAD BEEN RUNNING SO WELL. BUT HE SAID IT’S LIKE A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD, WHERE AS MUCH HELP AS YOU GET FROM CHEVROLT, WHEN YOU GUYS HIT ON SOMETHING LIKE THAT, YOU HAVE TO SHARE IT WITH THE GROUP. HOW FRUSTRATING IS THAT BEING A SINGLE CAR TEAM, NOT HAVING THE DEPTH OF ENGINEERING THAT SOME OF THESE GROUPS HAVE – HITTING ON SOMETHING AND KNOWING IT’S GOING TO BE SHORT TERM BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO SHARE IT WITH THE GROUP?
“Obviously we were really good at the faster race tracks, like Fontana and Vegas. We had strong runs there. And then, we really didn't get back to those tracks until Dover and then we had that really good stretch of runs.
Yeah, we hit on something and definitely you get asked to share those things. I wish we got as much information back the other way. I think that would really help our program a lot. I feel like our group of guys really work hard together to come up with any setup that we can that's going to move the needle in the right direction. And we take all the information that we get - whether it be a lot or a little - and we try to make the most of it. Our guys are doing a great job with that.
Like I said, the short track stuff, we're still trying to figure out. We know that we have a lot of work to do there. But if we can continue to be as strong as we have been on the 1.5-mile tracks, that will kind of get us through the season and hopefully we figure that out on the short tracks before too long.”
WANT TO TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ATLANTA AND THE FACT THAT IT NOW HAS THAT SUPERSPEEDWAY FEEL. DO YOU GO THERE PRETTY CONFIDENT?
“Heck yeah. I'm looking forward to going back to Atlanta. Our car was so fast there earlier this year. It handled really well and I felt like it was the class of the field; and then obviously we blew that tire leading. So hopefully we learned a little bit throughout the season on the tire issues that we can maybe help ourselves. Again, that's some of the information that we didn't have before the race that we got after the race; on some tire pressure, camber, things that definitely would have helped if we had them before the race. Instead, we found out the hard way. But obviously it being hot and slick when we get to Atlanta this time versus where we were at the beginning of the season, I think a good handling race car is going to be even that much more important. I know Brian Pattie and my guys will give me that.”
JUST A MOMENT AGO TALKING TO TYLER (REDDICK), HE TALKED ABOUT NOT ONLY THE MENTAL DRAIN OF A SUPERSPEEDWAY RACE, BUT THERE WAS ALSO A PHYSICAL COMPONMENT TO IT THAT HE DIDN’T REALLY ANTICIPATE. DID YOU FIND THAT RACE MORE MENTALLY DRAINING THAN MAYBE SOMETHING AT DAYTONA OR TALLADEGA? HOW DID THE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL DRAIN FEEL?
“I guess you could say mentally it was a little bit different than Daytona and Talladega, just because we weren't 100% sure what to expect. It was a brand new race track. There was some bumps off the turn four on the top side that we were trying to navigate and figure out what the car was going to do over those bumps. There’s kind of the narrow entry into turn three. Obviously in practice, when you’re by yourself, the bottom was by far the fastest lane around the racetrack; and then it ended up being kind of in the middle to the top during the race. I felt like as a driver, you're just trying to figure out that new track. We weren't 100 percent sure it was going to race like a speedway until we got out there. In practice it did, but nobody was really pressing the issues. Once we all started going flat out and really racing, we weren't sure if that was going to be the case and then obviously it was. So just trying to learn the track physically. I didn’t think the track was much more demanding physically. I did have a headache when the No. 2 hit me in the door when we blew a tire. But other than that, I felt like the car was similar at Daytona and Talladega, physically-wise.”
“Yeah, I would say it was more compressed and definitely things happen quicker. The track is a little bit narrower than what we're used to for a speedway, which obviously makes it a little bit more tricky, as well. And then, when you have such high banking and you're going into the corner and the radius is tighter, it's harder to see out the corner. I would say that's maybe the biggest difference.”
OBVIOUSLY, THE NO. 10 IS OPEN FOR NEXT YEAR. I’M CURIOUS, DID YOU HAVE ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH STEWART-HAAS ABOUT THAT CAR? WERE YOU NERVOUS AT ALL WHETHER JTG DAUGHERTY WOULD KEEP YOU?
“I let Josh at KHI kind of handle everything off the race track, as far as contracts go and talking to other teams. We feel like we have a really good fit and felt like JTG Daugherty Racing was where we wanted to be. I feel really confident in who we have and what we're doing right now; and want to continue to grow that can keep that going. I don’t want to bounce around from team to team. I don’t think that does myself or anybody really any favors. So I want to build on what we've started.
Yeah, we haven't had consistently the runs that we want. But I think we've had a lot of shining moments, especially this year. We know those race tracks and we know where we struggle. Was I worried? I try not to worry too much about that. I feel like I have a really good relationship with our whole organization, especially Tad. He comes to every race track and I feel confident with everything that he does. He believes in me and like I said earlier, I think everybody at our company believes in each other. We go to battle together. So, I was never really worried. I felt really good about it.”
YOU HAD A STREAK OF FOUR TOP-10 FINISHES. DID THAT REALLY SEAL THE DEAL FOR YOUR CONTRACT TO BE RE-SIGNED WITH JTG DAUGHERTY RACING?
“I'm not sure – that would be a Tad question (laughs). Tad and myself have been chatting about this since the beginning of the season. Tad’s always working on getting funding for our car and working on things probably a little more important than my contract, as far as making the team go around. Tad does a great job with that.
Yeah, good runs never hurt. But I think that stretch of races we kind of had circled as race tracks that we felt like we could do exactly what we accomplished. I know a lot of people were kind of surprised that we were able to do that, but internally, we felt like we were capable of doing that. It was cool to feel that way and actually fulfill that thought process.”
YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THAT YOU HOPE THAT THE CAR IS AROUND FOR YEARS TO COME. HOW MUCH MORE SECURE WERE YOU IN SIGNING THIS DEAL WITH THE NEXT GEN THIS YEAR? DID THAT GIVE YOU A LOT MORE SECURITY IN KNOWING THIS IS A PLACE YOU COULD BE?
“Obviously I've been in the Cup Series for quite some time now. I felt like if you weren't spending a ton of money or had all this information coming in and trying to develop new parts and pieces, you really weren't going to catch-up when something's always evolving and always changing. And so, obviously when I first signed my contract at JTG Daugherty Racing, our second year we were supposed to have that car and that's what I was really looking forward to. Like hey, we might not be exactly where we want to be our first year, but this new car is coming in. We can learn it, more of the pieces are going to stay the same from season to season, and let's try and build on that. We had to wait an extra year for that. So, for me, I was very thankful that we were able to add another year to our contract to run this year with this race car. It definitely gave me the confidence running this car so far this year that I feel like being here, we can still do great things and contend for wins.”