HOW DO YOU LOOK AT DARLINGTON AND HOW DO YOU LOOK AT YOUR ENCOUNTER WITH THE WALL AT DARLINGTON?
“That’s a good question. I don’t feel like I’m one of the best yet at running the wall, but I’m working hard on it to be able to be better and to continue to improve. Personally, even though I’m not the best at running the wall, I feel like in Darlington I run pretty well. I’m really looking forward to the first race of the playoffs”
IS IT A TRACK WHERE YOU FEEL YOU KNOW HOW FAR YOU CAN GO UP TO THE WALL AND HOW MUCH THE CAR WILL HOLD UP?
“It depends how you hit; it can be very delicate or it can be very tough. But overall, we’re starting the playoffs at one of the toughest races of the year, and one of the longest races of the year. That’s going to be exciting. I’m really looking forward to it. The more difficult it can be, mentally and physically, I think the better it’s going to be, at least for myself. I’m really looking forward to it.”
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE HERE AT PLAYOFF MEDIA DAY, IN THE POST-SEASON, LOOKING AT THAT TROPHY?
“It feels nice, but honestly it feels normal. I believe that I belong here. When you have a team like the one I have, I feel like it’s more like a must to be in this position.
I think we’re in a great position. I have an amazing team behind me. Trackhouse Racing has done a tremendous job this year. We have to continue to evolve. We cannot sleep in the next 10 weeks. It’s the most important part of the season, of course. We have to continue to do the same thing that we’ve been doing and continue to get better.”
SO IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE YOU’RE SEEDED.. ANYONE CAN WIN IT FROM ANY WHERE?
“Yeah, I think so. If it was last year, I would tell you ‘this guy is going to win it or this guy is going to win it’ because the gaps were so big. With this car, if you’re telling me who is going to win Darlington and you get it right, I’ll give you a thousand dollars (laughs). I don’t think you’re going to get it right. There is not one guy.. anyone can be good. I love that about this car. It’s unpredictable. Everyone has an opportunity.”
WHAT ABOUT THE PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS VERSUS THOSE DRIVERS THAT ARE NEW TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP OR IN THEIR SECOND YEAR OF RUNNING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP?
“I feel like those guys are already champions, they already know the feeling. So the advantage that they have mostly is mental, not so much physically in the car. But they already know what it feels like. I’ve had this feeling in the Xfinity Series, which is different. But at the same time, it’s the same thing, just multiple it by three or four. I think if we can stay calm, relax and continue to do exactly the same thing that we’ve been doing the last few months, we’re going to be in good shape.”
WILLIAM BYRON SAID YOU’RE THE GUY TO WATCH OUT FOR. HE THINKS YOU’RE THE MOST DANGEROUS IN THE PLAYOFFS.
“He said I’m the most dangerous in the playoffs?”
DANGEROUS MEANING YOU COULD BE UNDER THE RADAR AND BE A THREAT. HE SAID YOU ARE SOMEONE THAT COULD REALLY SURPRISE A LOT OF PEOPLE.
“I get goosebumps by you saying that because I’ve been working really hard to do that. I’m the kind of guy where I like to do it that way. If you think about it – the year I won the (Xfinity) championship – not a lot of people would bet on me. I did.. and I won it. I like it that way. I like to be under the radar and not to make a lot of noise. Go out there and beat them, but quietly.”
YOU HAD A BIG SEASON BY GETTING YOUR FIRST CAREER CUP SERIES VICTORY. BUT WHEN IT COMES TO THE 10 RACE PLAYOFFS, DO YOU STILL EXPECT A LOT? YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY NOT SATISFIED, RIGHT?
“Somebody just asked me if I was happy and excited to be here, and honestly it feels normal to me. This is not a surprise. I think the fun part is about to begin. The winning was a lot of fun. I proved to myself that I can do it. I knew I could do it, but now everybody knows as well. They do know that I can do it and my team can do it, and we have everything that it takes to get it done. Now we have to do it on a consistent basis. In the last two months, we’ve been extremely consistent. Richmond was the only race that we were bad. Everywhere else, we’ve had top-fives and top-10s.
The playoffs are coming at a good time for the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet team and I’m excited for that.”
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE SUCCESS BOTH YOU AND ROSS (CHASTAIN) HAVE HAD THIS YEAR; WHAT’S IT LIKE TO BE AT TRACKHOUSE RIGHT NOW?
“It’s fun. The first time I heard about Trackhouse was on a piece of paper and that was exactly two years ago. When I signed with Trackhouse, they told me everything they wanted to do and they told me everything that they were going to allow me to build for myself; to be able to build a team that I wanted, to build a team that I was going to be able to win races and championships with. I said that was going to be the best opportunity that I’ve had in Cup. A lot of people told me I was crazy. A year and a half later, two years later; now they know what I saw back then. I knew the mission Justin (Marks) and Ty Norris had.
I’m in a very, very happy place right now. We have to continue to grow, continue to be better, but I feel like we’re heading in the right direction.”
HOW EASY WAS IT TO SEE THAT?
“Believe it or not, that year heading into 2021, I had an opportunity to go with a team that was winning races. I didn’t do that because it was a team that a very important person to me, with a lot of experience, told me that they were not in a very good situation. That’s why I choose Trackhouse. My father told me I was crazy. A few friends from Mexico told me ‘Daniel, I’m not sure you’re making the right call’. Eight months later, they told me ‘Man, I’m glad you made that call’. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut a little bit. Justin looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Man, you have to trust me on this, we’re going to build something great and I want to be able to give you the opportunity to build a team around you’. That’s something nobody else has allowed me to do before in the Cup Series. It makes a huge difference when you have a team for you.. not a team that was already there. I’m just very happy to be in this position. I’m very happy to that I crossed paths with Trackhouse and I feel like we have a great future ahead of us.”
AT ANY POINT LAST YEAR DID YOU THINK ONE YEAR FROM NOW, A TEAM JUST FRESHLY STARTING OUT, WOULD BE IN THIS POSITION NOW WHERE TRACKHOUSE HAS WON THREE RACES AND YOU’RE BOTH IN THE PLAYOFFS.
“Honestly, I did. I did because I believed that Trackhouse and the Next-Gen car was going to be the perfect combination to change the game, and here we are right now. If it wasn’t for this project, we wouldn’t be here right now. I’m very thankful for NASCAR to give an equal opportunity to every team out there.”