Your thoughts on the penalties this week and how you thought NASCAR handled things?
“Look, I can’t say the details of the penalty, of what goes on there. But certainly excited for the appeal and everything that comes with that. Just ready for this weekend. We’ve got more to prove and we’ll just keep going. It’s good to get two in a row the last couple of weeks. I feel like we’re on a good role. This is a really good race track for us; won here last year.
I was excited hearing Chad’s (Knaus) comments yesterday and all that was good, so looking forward to the appeal.”
Can you describe what the impact of the 100 points and 10 playoff points are? And also, what have you been doing this week to get acquainted to your interim crew chief?
“Yeah, certainly the points is something that we just adjust to. It’s early in the season. The cars are extremely fast. We obviously had the pace last week to win regardless, so I think that’s going to continue. I think with that pace, we’re just going to use that to our advantage to makeup points.
We didn’t intend on really relaxing after a win anyways this year. So I think going into the next however many weeks that we’ve got until the playoffs, we’re going to push really hard. I think we’re just going to give it everything, every week. We had a good week of preparation; lots of time in the sim, lots of time at the shop. Just excited for all of that to continue. That’s as far as the points go.
And then as far as the interim crew chief – Brian (Campe) is going to be great. I work with him a lot in the shop through our competition meetings and spend a lot of time with him, so excited to have him on top of the pit box. My engineer, Brandon McSwain, we’ve worked together since the JRM days in 2017. He was my engineer at JRM when we won the championship and he’ll be a bigger factor, bigger role, throughout the weekend. I’m excited for that because we know each other really well. We probably exchange texts about 10 times a week on the car, so excited to have him in a bigger role.”
William, you spoke last weekend that after back-to-back wins, you were really confident, really motivated. And then you guys get hit with a really big penalty, but you said a minute ago that you have more to prove. So when you get hit with a penalty like that, does it knock your confidence or knock you for a loop at all? Instead, it seems like you come here with more motivation.
“Absolutely. Look, I really get excited about coming to the race track right now. I was just excited in the off-season with the group I know we have. So yeah if anything, it just shows that we’re not there yet. We have more to prove and we have more to go out there and accomplish. I think that’s a dangerous thing, right? We’re going out there with a goal in mind; a specific goal to win every week. We’re going to keep pushing for that every single week. Really, it starts during the week. A lot of the weekend stuff is a result of what we do and our processes back at the shop and communicating with one another. I think that process started on Monday as soon as we got back from Phoenix (Raceway).. what could we have done better at Phoenix because that’s a really important race track. There were certainly things we could have done better there. I thought the No. 4 car (Kevin Harvick) was the best car. I thought we were second or third-best; kind of right there with the No. 5 (Kyle Larson). So I think there were things last week that we could have done better. We addressed all of that Monday and Tuesday, and Tuesday night turned the page to focus on Atlanta (Motor Speedway). Obviously this track has been good for us in the past, but July wasn’t quite as good. So we looked at a lot of the things that Chase (Elliott) and the No. 9 team were doing really well here in July and tried to apply that to this weekend for us.”
I’m curious on your thoughts about Josh Berry. How he has come in and his approach to jumping into this car; his growth over the last couple of weeks and what he’s brought to Hendrick Motorsports.
“I think Josh (Berry) has been great. It’s a very unique circumstance for him. Last weekend, we had 50 minutes of practice, but he doesn’t have the 10 test sessions that we all had last off-season to get comfortable with this car; learn what it needs and things like that. So he’s at a very big deficit, in terms of experience, with this car. I mean it’s not like anything else that you drive. When I go race a super late model and then go race the Xfinity car – those are in the same ballpark. When you go run the Cup car, you might as well go drive a Trans Am car or go drive a sportscar to adjust.
I think there are so many things he’s having to learn, and I think he’s doing a great job with it all. He’s brought a new perspective to the debriefs. Being such a clean slate, there are some things that he says that you don’t even realize that go on with this car and it’s cool to hear. Excited to have him.”
Here this weekend, obviously this is the third race on this surface. I’m curious how much things change from the first one last year to the second, and what you kind of expect for change-wise this weekend.
“Yeah, I mean it’s really hard to say. It’s really cold this weekend, so I don’t know how that’s going to factor into the way the race plays out. The groove is wide here because it’s drafting and you’re not at the edge of grip throughout the whole corner. There are certain parts of the corner that you can be on edge of grip and have to lift, which I think is what we all like about it. It does have some element of having to drive because you are out of the gas. So I think that’s what’s cool about the new Atlanta (Motor Speedway). But I don’t know if it’s going to be a similar race to the summer race because that’s obviously really hot and slick.
I’m not really sure what we’re going to see, but I’d say it would be maybe closer to the July race just because the track is starting to age. So curious how that will play a factor.”
Before you won your appeal on your penalty last year, you had a 25-point fine and $50,000 fine with the incident with (Denny) Hamlin at Texas Motor Speedway. Denny got the same thing this past week. Do you look at your incident with him – under caution, what happened there and what he did with Ross (Chastain) – as equal penalties?
“I don’t know if they’re equal. I don’t know how to answer that part, but I do think that it’s unfortunate. You’re going to have a game of poker, right? Because now guys aren’t going to be able to say what happened. There are a lot of guys that fake it in interviews and us drivers know that. So it’s unfortunate that those are the guys that get away with it.”
How do they get away with it then if the drivers know about it? You guys have the memories that stay with you, so it’s not like you guys forget. How is this not resolved because now guys can’t say anything?
“Yeah, I mean it will just be handled on the track. I think that’s the way it is. Things are always handled on the race track, but yeah I guess nobody else will know.”