HAVE YOU TALKED TO TYLER REDDICK AT ALL SINCE THE DRIVER ANNOUNCEMENT?
“Tyler’s a beast, man. He puts in a ton of work during the week. I know he’s super-focused on this race, just like myself. He does a really good job of tuning stuff out and just going to work. You can’t deny Tyler Reddick’s speed each and every weekend this year. I’m sure he’s going to fast today and he’ll be just fine. I talked to him. We were at the Catwalk for a Cause together so we had a little bit of fun there, and it was for a great cause. Now it’s time to qualify and practice. For us and the 3 team, we gotta gain as many points as possible this weekend to put us in a good position at the end of this race. So today’s very important when it comes to qualifying.”
YOUR GRANDFATHER SAID YOU WERE THE ONE WHO SUGGESTED YOU HIRE KYLE BUSCH. WHAT DID THAT CONVERSATION ENTAIL?
“After the Tyler announcement, it was about what’s the future of the RCR look and where to go from here. In my mind, there was one guy in free agency who anyone who would love to have when it comes to a driver standpoint. It’s something he can bring and elevate your competition side right off the bat. And he moves the needle when it comes to marketing. He really does. He has a huge fanbase. So for me, it was just talking to my grandfather and saying, ‘Hey, what do you think about Kyle?’ He came back with if he would want to drive for us. I was like, why not because we have fast cars and good equipment. Truthfully when it comes to Kyle, he wants to go fast and win races. So he said to let him think about it, and about 30 minutes later. So I texted Kyle and then gave him a call and we talked. It was the same kind of conversation with Kyle… ‘Do you really think he wants me to drive for him?’ And I was like, yeah that’s what I called. It’s a great opportunity for both of them. For me, especially as a teammate, I get to learn a lot from him. The people in our shop are really excited to have a guy with his kind of experience… a two-time champion with over 200 wins. It’s awesome and it’s great for RCR. In the end, that’s what makes me happy. We want to make the Welcome North Carolina race team compete at the top each week and be looked at as a competitor. We’re on an upward trajectory, so we need to keep that going.”
HAVE YOU REACHED A POINT WHERE YOU’RE EXPECTED TO HAVE MAJOR INPUT INTO DECISIONS LIKE THIS THAT CAN HELP RCR MOVE FORWARD?
“I was born across those railroad tracks, so I feel like it’s all I ever know. To me, everybody who works at RCR and all the faces that I see on a weekly basis… those decisions that my grandfather made for so many years, I’ve seen him have sleepless nights because he wants his people and his company to survive and do well. For me, it’s the same thing. I want the people at RCR to be happy and have jobs for a really long time. When it comes to helping him to make good decisions for the future, I think he takes my opinion. That’s cool, and I think I deserve that too from a competition standpoint, just being in this garage for a long time, seeing a lot and seeing how things work.”
THIS IS YOUR FIFTH APPEARANCE IN THE PLAYOFFS. IS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT THIS TIME?
“The biggest thing is that the first two races were races that we really could have really capitalized on. We haven’t had the pace we needed to do that, but we’ve survived. So for this race, I’m really hoping we unload right here in practice and have a strong car. I think we’ve done a good job of finishing the first two first races but we need to get some stage points and put ourselves in a little better position come Saturday. We’ve been in this survive-and-advance point, but this is the advance point. We have to step it up another notch than what we’ve had these first two races. I think we’re capable of that. I love that this is a long race, and a lot of things can happen during that timeframe. It would sure be nice to qualify up front, run up front and put the pressure on the guys that are around us.”
ALTHOUGH THE NEXT-GEN CAR HASN’T BEEN TO TEXAS, WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN AT THE MILE-AND-A-HALFS AND HOW THAT MAY TRANSLATE?
“The All-Star race was there earlier this season. It was surprisingly a pretty decent race. Texas has struggled a little bit from my standpoint since we’ve paved it. It seems like it’s getting a little bit better and getting a little racier. I saw some good racing since I was watching that one. I think every race we go to next year with this Next-Gen car, anything can happen. We’ve had 18 winners and that’s been special, so you might see a new winner.”
THIS IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT WITH THIS BEING THE FIRST RACE HERE WITH THE NEXT-GEN CAR. DO YOU BELIEVE IT’LL BE SUCH A DIFFERENT RACE THAT THINGS WILL GET SHAKEN UP?
“Bristol is a place where if your car does certain things well, you can make up ground and be a hero. It rewards you for being able to drive hard for a long period of time. If your car is bouncing all over the place and struggling, it’s a tough night and you kind of have to survive. I’m confident in the work that we’ve put in during the week that we can have a fast car this weekend. When we get it right, I’ve been good here before so I’m pretty confident when it comes to that.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THE RACE TO BE LIKE WITH PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING GIVEN THAT WE HAVE A NEW CAR, OR WILL YOU GUYS FIGURE IT OUT BY THEN?
“I really don’t know the practice will give us a tell-tale sign about what we’re going to have. I didn’t get to do the test. Speaking to some of guys about the test, the track is pretty rough from the removal of the dirt and it’s a little different. In the simulator, it’s not that bad. It’ll be interesting to see what the difference is when we get out there and move around.”
THEY ARE DIFFERENT SPORTS BUT ARE THERE THINGS YOU CAN CARRY OVER FROM THE MANAGEMENT VIEW OF RCR AND PBR?
“For sure. The adrenaline-junky side of the athlete from both sides is very similar. On the team aspect, you can relate it to the pit crews and keeping the pit crews together. That’s another part of that. I don’t know if we announced it, but we signed our pit crew on the 3 team to a five-year deal – all of our guys. So they’ve signed up for the next five years. That’s really cool. They’ve been one of the best-performing pit crews on pit road. I’ll give credit to our pit coach for being forward-thinking on the youth that we have on that team and helping Andy Petree and myself getting into the boss man. For him, that’s a new way of thinking. He was receptive of that, and it’s important. It’s a culture-builder. That’s what we want to do at RCR, and that’s build the culture up.”
YOU SAID TUESDAY THAT YOU TOLD KYLE THAT THERE WON’T BE ANOTHER TEAM WHO WILL FIGHT FOR YOU. DOES THAT START WITH RICHARD CHILDRESS OR IS THAT BECAUSE HE KNOWS THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO HIRE?
“It’s a little bit of the short-track mentality of bringing your friends to the track. In Welcome, we’re away from everyone in Mooresville by a bit. That makes us different because there is mostly a drive from people coming to Mooresville or that live around there. We’re kind of our team, and I like it down there. I feel like we’re in a different state than everyone else in Mooresville. I like it that way, and I think Kyle will too. He’s that type of guy that is a fiery competition, and I think that gets along with what RC has built.”
AS FAR AS THE POINTS SPREAD TOMORROW, HOW WILL THAT AFFECT THE WAY GUYS APPROACH THE RACE GIVEN THIS IS A SHORT TRACK?
“It’s just a rough grind of a track and race. You don’t know the performance of the tire, either. There are a lot of things that can happen here in a very short period of time. First thing’s first and that’s qualify; qualify up front, try and get stage points and try to win the race, but don’t take yourself out of the race. A lot of things are going to happen. It’s very easy with this car to take yourself out of the race because you’re on edge very often. It’s very easy to get a little too much and put yourself in a bad situation. The moment you take yourself out of the fight, you’re probably out when it comes to points.”