How has your offseason gone?
“I got a nice recharge and just getting acquainted with a team has been really easy and I’m just pumped for this year.”
What has that process been like?
“This one has been the easiest. I think the honesty and transparency in which Spire is led by and operated by has made it a really easy transition and easy for me to get focused in on what I needed to work on in the offseason instead of worrying on everything else, and just kind of refocusing my mind and my energies. I think every year is a new opportunity and I think the best part is I really enjoy the people I’m working with. I think that’s something that keeps you very positive.”
What does it mean to have guys from different disciplines of motorsport attempting to qualify along with the return of Jimmie Johnson?
“It’s definitely a pretty thick field that’s stacked with great talent from all different disciplines. It’s always the Daytona 500, it’s always good drivers in this. I think you look at the Cup Series in general, there’s no gaps anymore. It’s great cars and great drivers all the way through the field now and you better be prepared to go out and make the most of it.”
What are your expectations for 2023, going to a new team and seeing where things lay out?
“Our expectations are high. I think everything is there for me to have my best season in Cup, and getting acquainted with Spire Motorsports this offseason from the top down has been awesome. We have realistic, focused goals to go out and accomplish this year that will get us to where we want to be as a team and as a driver. I think it’s very realistic that we can be a team that people are quite surprised by by the end of the year and say ‘oh, they never fell off and were a team that contended all year and put themselves in a great position.’ Obviously, we’d like to go out and win races and championships and that’s going to be our goal every time we suit up on Sundays. The pure vision is to grow our team and be better than we were last year in all facets. Hopefully, I can be a vital cog to that.”
How much time have you spent with Corey LaJoie building that relationship?
“Corey and I have been pretty good friends, probably closer than most of the other drivers the past couple of years. We do quite a few things together. I’ve know Corey pretty well and just getting to work with him is just a bonus. We spent a lot of time together in the GM simulators, working with each other and already communicating those barriers of kind of meeting your new friend for the first time weren’t really there. We were able to jump into the work part of it and be honest with each other with how we drive and what we’re looking for. As far as the relationship, it’s been really fun to get going. We’re getting into the real thing and the real season and I’m looking forward to seeing how our relationship grows and we continue to ultimately make Spire Motorsports as a whole better.”
Any plans for truck or Xfinity this year?
“Right now, we have one nailed down for Xfinity to run the 3 at Darlington. There’s possibilities for more.”
You didn’t make the race in LA. Was that something you didn’t count on?
“If you look at our performance in LA from a 5,000-foot view, we didn’t make the race so obviously that wasn’t what we wanted. But from where we unloaded and where Spire was as a team last year at that race, we really closed in the box. By the time we got to the B Main, we were competitive enough that I think if we caught one more caution we would have had a really good shot at being in the race and being very competitive in the Main. For everybody out there that doesn’t get to see the whole story, we really closed in the box so that was really positive leaving LA. We’re going to have to do that throughout the year to get this program better. We’re going to have to close the box at some tracks to get better, make the most out of every performance. Coming here to Daytona, it’s an opportunity to go out and perform really well, get our year started off on the right foot and I think we’re going to do great things this year at Spire.”
How do you maximize every opportunity?
“You maximize every opportunity by your preparation and your efficiency and getting the most out of each day a day at a time. You can’t look too far ahead. For us, I think it’s about making the days that we might have a 25th-place car, making that the worst we finish is 25th and capitalizing on every opportunity we can. In our situation, we have to be efficient in every way we operate and when the other guys make mistakes we have to capitalize. That’s where I’ve thrived in my career. It’s won me races in all levels, so I’m confident in my ability to do that and I’m very confident in the guys working on my race car. We will grow race after race and it’s just staying consistent, not getting discouraged and kind of stay process-oriented so letting every race be a development to the place where we want to get and that’s winning races and being in the championship and not ever lose that mindset.”
Who’s that kind of that main person that keeps you moving forward?
“That’s where the team aspect comes into hand. Obviously as a driver you’re thrust into a leadership role, so there’s a lot that falls on me to stay positive and consistent as a person on and off with my work ethic and my communication. Then there’s going to be times when our crew chief is going to take that role and he’s going to have to pump us up. Our guys will lead us in times, too, as a group and keeping us moving. Everyone has to have that same focus so when one of us maybe has a weak day the other is bringing us all up. The whole team has to be on the same page. That’s the key to success.”
Are you going to have opportunities to run in the 7 truck this year?
“There’s opportunities. We have to find some sponsorship to do it. I’d love to run some truck races but nothing yet.”
Do you circle these spectacle races as your guy’s opportunity to really shine?
“Everybody says that. Obviously, there’s a chance, a great opportunity. Corey did really well at superspeedways. Landon had the best finish for Spire Motorsports last year at Daytona. The team has always been successful, which is always great. But I don’t like to set up your whole season as these are the only opportunities to win. I think we focus on every other track as opportunities to win as well. I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket. You have to go perform every single weekend and believe you have a shot at every racetrack. And I think we really do this year. This shouldn’t be a one and done approach to this race. We should really be looking at this race to get our season started on the right foot, not getting ourselves behind just by thinking this is all we have.”
What can you take from last year and all you have learned about this Next Gen car to Spire?
“A lot of laps, a lot of time in simulator and learning a lot of different things within the team last year helped to bring over knowledge. Just in conversation with the guys at Spire things that they hadn’t looked at yet. Just a different opinion and hopefully throughout the year I can continue to bring an added ingredient to what’s been a successful growth in the race team.”
Where do you find yourself right now?
“Really peaceful. I think a lot of that has come from strong leadership in Spire Motorsports. This offseason we had meetings about goals and expectations and we all sat in the same room together, so everything is very clear when you can sit and look eye to eye and say this is who we are, this is what we want to achieve and we’re all on the same page. When that doesn’t come down directly, and in past that hasn’t come directly in that same form, there creates doubt in confidence and then you start doubting yourself. This year honestly has probably been mentally one of my most refreshing. I’m probably the most excited and full of energy to go into a race season than I’ve ever been. Just because the transparency that we operate at Spire already and the belief that they’ve given in me, especially my teammates and my crew chief. So I know they believe in me, I believe in them and I’m really pumped. This has been my best offseason yet and hopefully it transforms into my best season yet.”
How much of a benefit is it to Spire to have you and Corey with all your experience?
“I think I’ve only run two more races than Corey so we both have over 200 race experiences. That’s not something to just shy away from. It’s a lot of experience and people should listen to drivers who have been around this long. Obviously, it takes some talent and skill and you’ve learned something. That’s what has been probably my most favorite thing about being at Spire is that they believe in me and they understand that me being the series isn’t a fluke and being here for 200 races there’s a lot to learn. They’ve given a lot of confidence in myself and Corey as well. We know they believe in us as drivers and that was a major thing for us.”