TALK TO US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR DESI9N TO DRIVE PROGRAM AND THE SPECIAL PAINT SCHEME YOU HAVE THIS WEEKEND.
“Yeah, for sure. I think most of you guys are versed on everything that’s going on. It’s an initiative that we’ve been doing for the past five years and has grown a lot. NAPA was nice enough last year to take this program to the next level and actually have a patient help design our car; help with auction items, grow the program and grow the initiative.
Dani (Gamel) Cuevas, who’s a patient at Children’s, designed our car. A young lady that’s going to be coming out with her family tomorrow and I’m looking forward to hosting them. I’m excited to see her imagination come to life this weekend on our car; and obviously it’s a big time of year with Playoff things starting and the final 10 races getting going.”
WHEN IT COMES TO THE PLAYOFFS, ARE YOU SOMEONE THAT MINIMIZES OUTSIDE DISTRACTIONS, WHETHER IT’S HANGING OUT WITH FAMILY OR FRIENDS, THAT KIND OF THING AND JUST FOCUS ON RACING; OR IS IT JUST BUSINESS AS NORMAL FOR YOU?
“I’m always focused on racing. Not a whole lot really changes for me.”
YOU’VE BEEN COMING HERE SINCE YOU WERE A KID, SO THIS PLACE MEANS A LOT TO YOU, WITH THE HISTORY OF THE SPORT, WATCHING YOUR DAD HERE AND NOW YOU RACING. WHAT’S IT LIKE COMING BACK TO SUCH AN OLD SCHOOL PLACE LIKE THIS?
“There are certain tracks that I remember going to more than others and this wasn’t really one of them. I don’t remember coming over here. I don’t have any memories at all being here prior to racing in 2014. I know I was, but nothing really stood out as a kid for whatever reason. Maybe I just didn’t spend much time here with the way the date was and how school worked. It could have been something as simple as that.
I’ve always enjoyed watching this race and I’ve always appreciated the Southern 500 for what it is, and being, I think, one of the iconic events on our schedule. I view it as one of those races that – I’m sure every driver is this way – when I get done racing or get told I’m done racing, I want to have this one on the list of race wins. It’s a big deal I think. Two of those events are in this round. I think the Bristol night race is one of those that everybody wants to have checked off, as well.
When people ask me about going to races, Bristol and Darlington are two of my top picks for them because I’ve enjoyed those races a lot as a fan. So I think because of that, it has extra – I don’t want to say significance because they’re all significant – but just a little different feel I guess for how cool the races are.”
HOW DOES THE NEXT GEN CAR CHANGE THE PLANNING OR STRATEGY THAT YOU GUYS DO COMPARED TO THE LAST TIME YOU WERE GOING INTO THE PLAYOFFS?
“I honestly don’t know that it does, really. I think that the year has changed a lot, just from the competition aspect. I know we’ve talked about it a lot this week at Media Day, but just how tight the field has gotten over the last six months is pretty significant. At the beginning of the year, obviously you had cars that were superior. If your car was driving pretty good, you could kind of drive your way up through the field. It seems like as the year has gone, everybody has just gotten closer to together, which is expected and we kind of saw that coming, and that’s going to continue as time goes. So now you’re getting to these final 10; everybody is driving a similar car and now a similar balanced car, in a lot of ways, and it’s difficult to be different. That’s a tough thing to do when we’re all driving the same thing. As time goes on, it’ll probably get more and more in that direction. And as that happens, you’re going to start to put more pressure on the little details to find an advantage, such as a pit stop advantage and qualifying well. Like all those little things are going to end up mattering more and I think we’ve arrived to that point of time. It makes it competitive, tough and can be fun in some ways too.”