AST WEEK AFTER YOUR ACCIDENT, OBVIOUSLY YOUR CAR CAUGHT FIRE. DO YOU KNOW WHAT CAUSED IT? WE SAW WITH THE PREVIOUS CAR AFTER A BIG WRECK, YOU WOULD SEE A FIRE, TOO. BUT I’M CURIOUS WITH THIS CAR IF YOU’VE SEEN ANYTHING THAT CONCERNS YOU?
“I mean, yeah, it seems like it happens pretty easily. It’s hard to say. To your point, with the other car; you’d have wrecks and cars would catch on fire then, too. I’m not exactly sure what caused that. It obviously happened really fast and then it was on fire really quick. It had blown the brake line off of it because I didn’t have any brakes. So I assume it was probably pumping brake fluid in there. I don’t know if that was potentially making it worse as I was trying to get stopped.
I don’t know.. but it happened really quick and I’m not sure what the culprit really was.”
YOU SAID EARLIER THIS YEAR – AND YOU TWEETED AGAIN THIS WEEK – THAT WITH THE NEW CAR, WE SHOULD NEVER GO BACKWARDS IN ANY SENSE AND IN ANY AREA. GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES AND THE STATE OF THINGS NOW, AS DRIVERS, WHERE DO YOU WANT TO SEE THINGS GO FROM HERE?
“I don’t feel like we should have ever been in this position to begin with, to need to go forward. We should have gone forward with a new opportunity at a new car, in my opinion. You have all of these years of experience, knowledge, time of racing, crashing these cars and teams working on them and building them. It just blows me away that we can have something new in 2022 that offers all of this technology and all of this time and experience of so many super talented people in this sport and we allow it to go backwards, especially with safety. It’s just super surprising to me that we allow that to happen. But we did and now it’s just about how do we go forward from here; making sure we’re making the right choices to improve what we have and keep things like what happened to Alex (Bowman) this week from happening. And what happened to Kurt (Busch).. those types of incidents didn’t result in injuries in the past handful of years from just me watching. Obviously, I’m not doctor, but I’ve watched a lot of cars back into the wall and those guys be fine.
I just hate to see that. No one is immune to it. It could be me next week, or it could be any of my peers or fellow competitors. Nobody wants to see that no matter how much you like or dislike a guy, in my opinion. I just hate to see us go backwards and I’m afraid that we have in some of those areas. But look, it’s just about how do we come together and how do we go forward from here. I think there are a lot of really smart individuals to try and help make that happen, and I’m confident that we will. But it’s crucial that we do, in my opinion, because having guys out during the playoffs right now – or any time for that matter – shouldn’t be happening and I think it’s taking away from our product on Sunday. That should be the focus; who wins, who loses, how the race was, how a guy did driving his car and how his team executed a good or a bad race.”
DO YOU AND OTHER DRIVERS FEEL POWERLESS IN THIS KIND OF PROCESS? I ASK THAT BECAUSE YOU GUYS HAVE VOICED YOUR COMPLAINTS FOR AWHILE NOW ABOUT THIS CAR AND NOTHING HAS MOVED IN THE DIRECTION THAT YOU GUYS ARE HAPPY WITH.
“There’s probably more of a process and more of a group now to potentially voice some of those opinions and try to get them across.. probably more than there’s ever been. You can say and voice those thoughts and that’s really kind of the end of it. It’s not our sand box, so at the end of the day, we might have an opinion or might try to voice it and do it through the correct channels, but ultimately the final decision is not up to us. So from me personally, that’s kind of where you lead it and you can just hope for the best. Like I said, it’s not our sand box and there’s not really a whole lot we can do about it.”
NASCAR IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE A CRASH TEST IN OHIO NEXT WEEK. WHAT KIND OF COMMUNICATION ARE YOU DRIVERS GETTING ON THIS AND ARE YOU HOPEFUL THAT WILL LEAD TO SOMETHING?
“I haven’t heard any of the rumors and I haven’t heard much about that particular test. But heck, we had plenty of enough time to test this car, crash it and do all the things that we need to do to ensure that some of these things aren’t happening that are happening now. We had a ton of time to do that. And this car was delayed an entire calendar year, on top of that. You have to think, we got an extra year of time to work on it and we’re still in this position.
There’s no excuse for going backwards. We have too many smart people, too much technology, too many years of crashing and racing at all of these same race tracks to have some of these things going on, in my opinion. Test next week or no test next week; we should not be in the position that we’re in. When you come out with a new product, you should take steps forward; not stay the same or go backwards, especially in the safety category, in my opinion.
And look, don’t take me the wrong way.. we’re very fortunate and I’m very grateful to do what I do. This is my job and that’s crazy, right. I’m not ungrateful for what I have and the opportunities that have been presented to me. But you just hate to see something take steps the wrong way.”
OBVIOUSLY, A LOT OF FRUSTRATION AND WE’RE SENSING IT NOT JUST FROM YOU.. WHAT WOULD BE THE RIGHT THING RIGHT NOW?
“Obviously, last week was a bummer, for the sake of the entire race and all of the guys that wrecked, myself included. I didn’t really feel like we did anything wrong and unfortunately we were punished for it, along with a lot of other drivers and teams. But I don’t really know what you do today. From Texas last week to Talladega tomorrow, I’m not sure what is realistically feasible to have that quick of a fix. I’m just disappointed that we have put ourselves in this box to begin with. It’s not realistic to change something in six days. I just hate that we put ourselves in the position that we’re in. As an industry, we’re smarter than that and I know the men and women that work in the garage on these race teams are smarter than that because I work with them every day. I just think we’re better than that and we shouldn’t be where we’re at right now.”
WHEN YOU HAVE TWO DRIVERS GET HURT LIKE THEY HAVE IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS AND NOW YOU’RE AT A TRACK LIKE TALLADEGA WHERE YOU’RE PROBABLY GOING TO HAVE TO DO SOME RISKY MOVES.. HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THIS WEEKEND IN THE SENSE OF WHAT THE POTENTIAL IS AND WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING FROM A PERSONAL POINT-OF-VIEW?
“That’s a tough one and I’m not really sure what the right answer is. But you come off a week like we had at Texas and somebody getting injured and you’re coming into here, where odds are we’re probably all going to hit something at some point tomorrow and probably not lightly. Do you just not show up.. do you just not run? I don’t think that’s feasible to ask. There’s always an inherent risk in what we do and it’s always been that way. My frustration, as I’ve referenced here in the past few minutes, is I just hate that we put ourselves in the box that we’re in right now. It’s just disappointing that we’ve put ourselves here and we had the choice. We did this to ourselves as an industry and that just should have never been the case. We should not have put ourselves in the box that we’re in right now.
So my disappointment lies in that.. that we had years in time and opportunity to make this thing right before we put it on track and we didn’t. And now, we’re having to fix it and I just hate that we did that. Like I said, I think we’re smarter than that and I think there’s just a lot of men and women that work in this garage that know better and we shouldn’t have been here.
But as far as the race goes, unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it; you have to go and do your best to try and win and do all of the same things that you would do in the past to give yourself an opportunity to win the race. I don’t really see that you have a ton of choices, other than just try to trust in the process that things are going to get better and hope we’re taking steps in the right direction and we’re doing it in a timely manner.”
YOU KNOW THE HISTORY OF THE SPORT, SO YOU HAVE A LITTLE BIT MORE KNOWLEDGE THAN MAYBE SOME OTHERS. BUT YOU ARE PART OF A GENERATION OF DRIVERS THAT, FOR THE MOST PART, HAVEN’T HAD TO WORRY AS MUCH ABOUT SAFETY BECAUSE THE SPORT HAS HAD A VERY GOOD SAFETY RECORD FOR SO MANY YEARS. WHAT IS THIS PERIOD LIKE IN HAVING TO MAYBE ADDRESS OR LOOK AT THIS ISSUE MORE THAN YOU HAVE THROUGHOUT MUCH OF YOUR RACING CAREER?
“Obviously, things have gotten better over the years, for sure. There’s been a ton of gains in how the cars are built. I feel like, in the past, we always as an industry and even from the outside looking in before I was a part of it; if they weren’t on the forefront of something happening, they took those experiences that they had and they made it a lot better in a short period of time and that has been going on for years. Granted, there’s been some bad accidents and we’ve lost drivers over the years and nobody ever wanted to see that; but the safety aspect has improved and gotten better and better. I feel like NASCAR has been super on top of that in years past and that’s why I’m just so disappointed and shocked that we went backwards in what we did, especially in this day in age and all the things we have access to and whatnot.
That’s my point and I’m not going to say much more than that, other than I’m just disappointed that we put ourselves in the box that we’re in. We’re better than that. We shouldn’t be here. We had plenty of time to build this car the right way; to crash test it the right way, come out of the box and hit the ground running to put on a great show for the people that are watching. Let that be the story and put the best foot forward to keep drivers from getting injured. There’s always going to be risk and that’s part of it. We all accept that and we’re all very grateful to do what we do. I certainty am very lucky, whether we’re in the position that we’re in or not. So don’t take me the wrong way, but I just hate that we got ourselves in the box that we’re in because we shouldn’t be here.”
GIVEN EVERYTHING THAT YOU JUST SAID AND EMPHASIZED OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF MINUTES AND HOW THE INDUSTRY IS SMARTER THAN THIS.. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? HOW DID WE GET TO THIS POINT WHEN WE HAD ALL OF THIS TIME TO BUILD THIS CAR?
“I don’t know… you tell me. I don’t have a good answer for you on that. I really don’t. That is what baffles me. I have no idea how we got here.”