IS IT FAIR TO LOOK AT TEXAS AS A MUST WIN RACE GIVEN WHAT WE HAVE THE REST OF THIS ROUND?
“I don’t think so. I think plenty of people are going to point their way in. It is an uncomfortable round with Talladega being such an unknown and kind of a wild card. A lot of things can happen at the ROVAL and at this place, a lot of things can happen too. So definitely a tough grouping of race tracks as far as being able to control your own destiny or to work on your race car after you unload. I kind of feel like you have what you have here. So, its going to be interesting to see how it plays out, but I think we are in a really good place as a race team and can have a good round here.”
YOU TALKED ABOUT TALLADEGA AND THE ROVAL, BUT HOW DO YOU APPROACH HERE TO MAKE IT THROUGH THOSE TWO?
“I feel like statistically the ROVAL is good for me. That doesn’t make it any easier, but we have had good days there. I feel like we have had good days at Talladega, and we were really strong at Daytona a couple of weeks ago, so that’s good.
And I feel like at the Texas fall race, as a team, we have always performed really well. So, I think we are in a good spot. I don’t hate this round, it’s just not comfortable. Whereas going to places like Kansas; I feel like we are really good, always run well there and I feel like I was super confident. I feel like this place is not that race track for us, but it’s not a bad race track for us either.”
YOU SAID YOU AREN’T COMFORTABLE IN THIS ROUND, BUT WOULD A WIN OBVIOUSLY CHANGE THAT?
“A win is always going to change that, right? Lock you into the next round. I feel like we are capable of winning at all three of these race tracks. I feel like we are capable of winning at any race track we go to the rest of the year if we perform how we need to. So, yeah, I think a win right now would be great. That is everybody’s goal this weekend and we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t. So, we will do our best to make that happen.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE ONE OF THE PLAYOFF DRIVERS WILL FINALLY GET A WIN IN THE PLAYOFFS?
“Hard to say. I feel like track position is so key here. I feel like the playoff cars are probably going to qualify pretty well and will definitely have an emphasis on qualifying. It’s a really long race so yeah, I think we are plenty capable of winning. In my opinion, I feel like a playoff guy will win this race, but I think this is a place that we have seen non-playoff guys win here in the past. I think Kyle Busch was eliminated and won here a few years ago. So, we will have to wait and see how it plays out, but hopefully it’s us in victory lane.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE PLAYOFF DRIVERS WILL TRY AND BALANCE STAGE POINTS GIVEN THE DISASTER THAT COULD BE AT TALLADEGA?
“Honestly, stage points are the most important thing going right now. I feel like stage points got us through last week when we lost power steering and got caught in that crash. So, I feel like we are all going to be all in on stage points which could create some interesting situations.
In my opinion in going to Talladega - anytime I have gone there and focused on not crashing, I have crashed. I still tend to crash going for it, but I tend to crash later then. I haven’t figured out how to not crash and hopefully we can get that dialed in. I think you just have to race and be aggressive all day. There has never been a benefit to me to ride because you lose what your car is doing, you lose confidence, and those around you don’t know how your car is going to be. If you are up front racing all day, that is the place you need to be.”
DID YOU KNOW JUSTIN MARKS WELL THAT YEAR YOU GUYS RAN THE GANASSI CAR TOGETHER AND THEN AGAINST HIM LATER?
“A little bit.. not a ton. I had lunch with him and Josh Wise before he started his Cup team a long time ago. Kind of when it was just an idea because he was talking about it. It’s cool to see all the success because he is a really good dude.”
IS THERE ANY SURPRISE TO SEE THAT HE OWNS TWO CARS IN THE PLAYOFFS THIS YEAR?
“No.. I feel like anything he does, he does successfully. I think that is cool because he is super driven and super smart. The little bit that I have been around him, it doesn’t surprise me about the success that they have had. Obviously, it’s happened very quickly, but I think we are at a time in the sport where things like that can happen with a brand-new race car. He has good race car drivers and good people working on them and it’s cool to see their success.”
IS THERE A CHAMPIONSHIP FAVORITE RIGHT NOW OR ARE YOU SURPRISED ABOUT HOW MUCH EVERYONE IS STILL IN IT AT THIS POINT?
“I don’t feel like there is a favorite right now. There are a couple of guys that have been really consistent through the playoffs, but other than that I don’t think there is. Anyone can make it happen still and hopefully it’s us at the end of the year, but it’s cool. I think this car has created a lot of parity right now. Different teams have different strengths right now, which is pretty cool to see. I feel like our stuff is really fast; really fast on the short run. And some other teams - when it comes to long run stuff like we saw at Kansas - they are really good. So, it’s cool to see the differences and see what you are playing against. I think its really good and there is not a clear favorite.”
BEFORE YOU CAME IN HERE, KYLE LARSON SAID HE WOULD TEAR UP THIS PLACE AND TURN IT INTO A THREE-QUARTER MILE BRISTOL. IF YOU WERE GIVEN THE KEYS TO THE KINGDOM OF TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
“I think if you leave it up to the drivers, then you would have what Kyle (Larson) said.. a short track of some sort. If you leave it up to the fans, I have heard that some people want another Atlanta. I don’t think any of the drivers really want another Atlanta, but we are not here for us. We are here for the fans.
It will be interesting to see if anything does happen. There are a lot of rumors flying around. The race track that we have now has not produced what we want. So, there are a lot of smart people working on it and thinking about how to make it better. Got to do something.”