YOU’RE COMING OFF A PRETTY BIG WIN. HOW WAS YOUR WEEK?
“Yeah, my week was good. I had some things actually scheduled before all of that, so it was a nice, busy week. Always good to come off a win and looking forward to this weekend. (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) has been a not so good place for us really since I started coming up here. Looking forward to another opportunity and try to get a little better up here.”
I SAW AN INSTAGRAM POST FROM A COUPLE DAYS AGO OUT ON THE SOFTBALL FIELD. IS TEHRE A LITTLE SOFTBALL LEAGUE IN DAWSONVILLE OR JUST OUT THERE PLAYING WITH SOME FRIENDS?
“Yeah, I’ve been playing the last four or five years every summer. I enjoy it, it’s fun.”
ARE YOU ANY GOOD?
A GOOD STRETCH FOR YOU LATELY.. THE FIRST DRIVER TO REACH THREE WINS IN THE NEXT GEN CAR. DOES THAT FEEL SIGNIFICANT?
“Wins in any car is good if it’s got the Cup Series logo on it, so that’s good. For us, I feel like we’ve just had a few good weeks. This is a sport that will humble you really fast, so when you come off of a good week, that doesn’t guarantee the next one is going to go that good again. I’ve been down that road and you just kind of ride the wave. It’s been a good wave and you want to try and ride it the best you can, and make it last as long as possible. It’s inevitable that it’s going to go the other direction at some point, so you just try to ride it whatever it brings. Try to stay middle of the road and make sure we’re still learning and putting ourselves in the best position possible for the final 10 (races). That, to me, is the key. Those playoff points and bonus points that you can accumulate to be ready for that is really the goal and that’s the most important piece of the puzzle. Anything we can do to better our chances and better our odds for those last 10 is really what’s top of mind for us and the best way to do that is compete for wins. We’ve been fortunate to do that for a few weeks and hopefully we can do that again up here. If not, we’ll fight for whatever the day can give us.”
IN TERMS OF SHIFTING, DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE SIMILAR AT ALL TO GATEWAY?
“I’m sure we’re going to be shifting. I don’t know whoever came up with the transaxle must have not realized that five was too many (laughs). I don’t know, but five is too many for us I’m afraid for most of these tracks that we go to.
It really doesn’t make a difference.. I just kind of think it’s unnecessary at a lot of these places. Does it really matter? No.. I don’t really care one way or another. I don’t think we should be at ovals, but we’ll definitely be shifting here at least one, probably twice in some scenarios.”
YOU WENT TO THE SHORT TRACK AND RAN A RACE THE OTHER NIGHT. BRAD KESELOWSKI WENT AND RAN THUNDER ROAD. TYLER REDDICK WENT TO RUN A SHORT TRACK RACE LAST NIGHT. WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT SAYS ABOUT RACING AS A WHOLE RIGHT NOW, WHERE YOU AND OTHER DRIVERS IN NASCAR ARE GOING BACK TO GRASSROOTS AND SUPPORTING THOSE LOCAL SHORT TRACKS?
“Yeah, I think it’s a good thing. To me, it’s just the will to want to race that I think is cool. I appreciate that and you want to see the health of short track racing continue to grow. I think anytime you can hop in there and make an impact is great. But to me, when I go do that stuff, I don’t go do it because I feel like I’m going to change it. I do it because I enjoy it; I respect the discipline; I want to learn the discipline; and I want to be better at whatever it is I’m going to run. And to me, that natural desire, will and interest to learn is what is going to fuel it. If we’re interested, then other people could be interested too. It’s not necessarily because you can make a difference, it’s just the respect of a discipline that I think is really cool about it. I think there’s a lot of respect for other disciplines in this garage right now.”
CONTINUING ON THAT NATURAL DESIRE TO LEARN.. EVEN IN YOUR PERIOD OF BEING IN CUP WITH HOW THE SCHEDULE HAS CHANGED AND NOW THE TALK OF A STREET COURSE RACE NEXT YEAR, HOW HAS THE DISCIPLINE OF BEING A DRIVER CHANGED AND HOW HAS THE SCHEDULE CHALLENGED YOU EVEN AS A CHAMPION DRIVER?
“It’s refreshing to go to different places. It’s refreshing to not do the same thing every year. Granted, there are dates that it is important to match up with on a certain calendar month due to the significance of it and I like that.. the Coca-Cola 600 in May, for example.
But I do think there are some events on our schedule that can certainly get stale and it’s nice to go somewhere different. It is challenging from a driver’s standpoint and from a team’s standpoint to tackle a new place, especially one you’ve never been to as you mentioned the street course. But it’s a good opportunity to have an event inside of a big city, like Chicago; potentially have a good crowd and introduce people to our sport that likely wouldn’t make the hour drive out to Chicagoland. To me, that’s the challenge with our sport. Most places we go, we’re 45 minutes to an hour and a half outside almost every big city. I think it is different and unique to potentially have one that’s not that, and that to me is where the focus should be in making it a good event, an exciting event. And one that fans will enjoy, want to come back to and genuinely have fun with.”
FROM A DRIVER’S POINT OF VIEW, HOW MUCH OF A CHALLENGE WOULD A STREET COURSE BE COMPARED TO A ROAD COURSE? WILL IT BE THAT SIGNIFICANT OF A LEARNING CURVE?
“It’s definitely going to be hard, for sure. I don’t necessarily think that just because it’s on the road of a street is going to be the biggest hurdle at first. The biggest hurdle of a new road course is literally learning what corner is coming next. Most places that we’ve been to, I feel like a lot of us have either watched on TV for a long time or have watched other series race at for a long time, so you already kind of have a general understanding of the layout. But when they’re going to create one out of thin air that no one knows or one you’ve never watched, that’s going to take some studying and take some time to recognize the layout; understand the unique pieces of it that can make you better than your competitors.”
THOSE WAVES THAT YOU MENTIONED EARLIER, HOW MUCH ARE YOU GUYS IN CONTROL THERE OR ARE YOU JUST ALONG FOR THE RIDE?
“I don’t want to put myself completely in charge of that because it’s very much a team effort. You can certainly create a lot of your own luck depending upon how well you prepare at the shop; the decisions you make in what setup you want to put underneath the car; how you execute when you get to the race track; the decisions I make on track throughout a race; how Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) calls a race. All of those factors can go into you creating whether or not you’re going to or not going to have a good day. If you make all of those right choices and you have some good fortunate on track and things go your way, likely you’re going to be in for a good afternoon.
To me, the important piece of all of that is just making sure we’re maximizing the things in our control. When you do that, you’re certainly bettering your odds. You’re not guaranteeing that the wave is going to go in your direction, but you’re bettering your odds. To me, that’s what this deal is all about.. just doing the best of things that are in your hands and the rest is what it is. But certainly those choices that you make are crucial to having a good weekend regardless.”
YOU MENTIONED THAT SINCE YOUR ROOKIE YEAR, YOU’VE STRUGGLED HERE AT NEW HAMPSHIRE. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS PLACE FOR YOU THAT’S MADE IT SUCH A CHALLENGE?
“Man, I don’t know. It’s not a short track, in my opinion. It’s still a mile, but just very flat. I didn’t race at a ton of super flat tracks as I was short track racing; and the ones I did race at, I was never very successful at. I don’t really know why.. just my habits and the things I look for in the car just don’t necessarily suit some of the things that you need I think to be really good here. So I’ve had to kind of readjust my approach; the things I want in the car and what is actually realistic and achievable in it; and what you’re just not going to get. I think, for me, for most of my trips here, I’ve probably chased after an unrealistic balance dream that just aren’t going to happen. I think at some point you have to recognize that. I think I’ve recognized that. I don’t know exactly know what the road is to success, but I understand that there are things that you’re just not going to get. It might be a little different with this car, but I would say generally the guys that are good up here are probably – if I had to bet – I would say are going to be good again. We’ll see.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE HAS BEEN ON THE SCHEDULE FOR AWHILE. OUTSIDE OF THE TRACK, ARE THERE ANY PLACES THAT YOU LIKE TO GO WHILE YOU’RE HERE?
“I do enjoy this area in the summer. I think it’s really nice. A long ways up here, but it’s nice weather-wise. I spent a little time in Boston. I’ve been to a couple concerts a few years ago and enjoyed the town; thought it was a neat city. I’ve always wanted to go to a Red Sox game, I wish they were in town. I saw Zac Brown was at Fenway last night after I already got to the track, so that was a bummer. I would have loved to have gone and see him.
But yeah, I enjoy the area. It’s not a place where I’ve spent a ton of time at, but I do like coming up here.”