KYLE, YOU JUST CAME IN WITH A GRAND ENTRANCE. WHAT DID YOU BRING EVERYONE?
“I brought some croissants for everyone from Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen. Awesome opportunity to have them on board with us here this weekend. They have a couple stores close nearby that they were able to get those fluffy, delicious-tasting croissants all ready to go for everybody in the media center today.
Welcome, go back there, grab you some and enjoy.”
TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TYPES OF CARS AND OF COURSE THE TRACK IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, BUT DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING THURSDAY NIGHT AT BULLS GAP THAT WILL APPLY HERE AT ALL THIS WEEKEND?
“(Laughs) No, not really. I guess just getting the gist of getting back on dirt and kind of feeling the sliding around; the nature of how to get cars to go on dirt. But completely different applications with the racecars and the way the vehicles are; how heavy they are, the tires they have, the way they are built, everything like that. Just fun to get over there and do something different. I enjoy the dirt racing stuff, whether it’s the micros or the dirt late models. I always try to get my hands behind one as much as I can. But really, that was the first time I’ve done it in two years since being here at Bristol dirt in Davenport’s car. I don’t get a chance a whole lot.”
NASCAR ANNOUNCED SOME CHANGES TO WHAT THE APPEALS COMMITTEE CAN DECIDE ON AN APPEAL, AND THEY ALSO SAY THEY’RE GOING TO START SHOWING PARTS AND PIECES THAT ARE TAKEN. WILL THAT HELP AT ALL WITH ANY TRANSPARENCY?
“No, I don’t believe so.
I’m actually kind of surprised on the whole Denny (Hamlin) deal. He did a really, really good job of explaining. I listened to his podcast from this week. I’ve been through some of those appeals before. You think you’ve done a good job selling your case and they actually kind of backdown on the other side. And so you think you have a really good shot of getting something reversed or overturned, and then it just completely sideswipes you that it doesn’t happen that way.
I have no clue how that is a penalty when in the rulebook - if you basically get into somebody or wreck somebody, then it can be a penalty of any sort that they want to enforce on you or infringe on you - so at the Clash, how come Joey Logano wasn’t penalized for wiping me out, you know what I mean? Every time somebody crashes from somebody else from car contact, it can be a penalty or it can be a fine, or whatever. Their rulebook contradicts itself quite a lot and all of us have a very, very hard understanding of exactly what’s what. It is what it is and we’ll keep going.”
DO YOU PLAN TO APPEAL THE TRUCK PENALITES THAT CAME OUT THIS WEEK?
“No, no point in appealing. We’ll lose. I don’t have enough money to afford lawyers, so we’ll let it go. That’s not in the budget.”
WHAT’S THE DYNAMIC BEEN FOR YOU WORKING WITH YOUR CREW CHIEF RANDALL BURNETT AS YOU WORK ON BUILDING ON THE SUCCESS FROM YOUR AUTO CLUB WIN?
“Working with Randall (Burnett) has been super good. We’ve had a great relationship thus far. And just the communication styles - his background, my background being from similar demographics if you will from racing in the short-track, late model, ranks.. things like that. We understand each other a lot. It’s just the nature of how do we apply what we’re doing to the race track better. I feel like that’s kind of our struggle and we’re continuing to work on that, and find the pieces of how we can further improve on our processes of how we go about building a setup and making it translate to be successful at the track.
California (Auto Club Speedway) was awesome. That was a lot based off what they did last year and it worked. Some of the other stuff that we’ve done this year we’ve based off of that, but we’ve also kind of gone towards something more similar to what I’ve been accustomed to driving; being a little bit on the snugger-side than what (Tyler) Reddick was always used to. Maybe we just need to forget anything that I tell him how to do and go more off of what they have always been doing.”
NASCAR HAS RACED AT A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT TRACKS. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR THE SERIES, OVERALL, TO DIVERSIFY ITS SCHEDULE?
“I believe it’s probably the most diverse, if not the most diverse, in any form of motorsports.. even in any form of sport, for that matter. Soccer, football, baseball – they all look the same. They all might not exactly feel the same, but they all look the same. And when we go to the race track, they don’t look anything close to each other. The Clash is entirely different looking than what Martinsville (Speedway) is, and those are probably the two most comparable race tracks that we have on the schedule. Having the opportunity to race at superspeedways like Daytona (International Speedway) and Talladega (Superspeedway); the short-tracks of Bristol (Motor Speedway), Bristol dirt, Martinsville Speedway; the Clash and even the 1.5-mile tracks that are somewhat cookie-cutter. A lot of them are very different.”
WE HAVE THE ALL-STAR RACE COMING UP. YOUR TEAMMATE GOT TO DO SOME TIRE TESTING THERE. WHAT KIND OF FEEDBACK DO YOU EXPECT FROM HIM AND WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS TOWARDS NORTH WILKESBORO?
“There’s not going to be a whole lot of grip there. I think the grip was gone probably back in the ‘80s and they haven’t touched it since. It almost would have been worth probably putting dirt on it before us going there so then you had dirt smeared into all the rocks and acted as an aggravate, and it would burn off and lose grip as you went. So that could have been interesting, but it didn’t get the dirt on it quite in time before they made the decisions for all of us to go out there.
I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be cool to just get back to a nostalgic venue. I enjoy all the NASCAR footage from stuff from the early 2000s and 1990s when I really kind of tuned in and started watching. I don’t know that you can go watch film of past races there and learn a whole lot; maybe a little bit. But I certainly do remember the times of Terry Labonte being there in the silver car, the iron man car, and then Jeff Gordon winning the last race there. Just the moments between Earnhardt and Bodine, Earnhardt and Rudd, and a lot of the other guys that kind of feuded a little bit there at North Wilkesboro. It’s a cool place.”
GOING BACK TO THE 2015 SEASON – WHEN YOU SEE SOMEBODY IN YOUR CAR AS YOUR REHABILITATING, HOW DOES THAT IMPACT YOU IN THE SENSE OF SEEING SOMEBODY IN THE CAR, BUT ALSO SEEING THE SPORT CONTINUE ON?
“Yeah, to me, there’s two ways – probably more – that you could go about it. But the two that I think about is that it shows you how small you are as a piece of the sport. It will be there with or without you. That was always Bill France Sr.’s line, I believe, years and years ago – that the show will go on, and we don’t need you, you need us.
But then the second nature to that is when you’re on the sidelines injured or whatever it might be and you see your racecar going out there, you miss it. You miss being in there and that I think goes to show your drive, determination, passion, fire, desire. Everything for what your passion is in being a racecar driver and being here in this sport. It gave me a new recognition to - could I retire and just walk away in the 2015 season, just be done and not worry about coming back. You kind of think through some of those. And then you go through a couple of weekends of watching the car go around the race track without you in it and you’re like – no, I don’t like this.. I don’t think I could do that. So you want to get back out there and I think that kind of re-lights that fire. It was good to have that for me.”
IN TERMS OF THE RULINGS AND AS YOU NOTE HOW THE RULEBOOK KIND OF CONFLICTS – DO YOU NEED CLARIFICATION FROM NASCAR.. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU SEEK? OR IN ONE SENSE ARE YOU ALMOST HOPING THAT NASCAR STARTS CALLING THINGS A LITTLE BIT MORE AGGRESSIVELY AND INSERTING THEMSELVES IN TOWARDS MAKING A DECISION?
“Well, I think where I agree a lot with Denny (Hamlin) is – if we’re supposed to be self-policing and have the opportunity to be able to go out there and do something if someone did something to us and us to be able to go back and retaliate, how are we supposed to do that? Tell me what is and isn’t OK. Apparently saying it two days after the fact is not OK. Saying it right after the fact when you’re still ‘hot and bothered’ is OK.
The nature of it is, to me, how do you clean this up? I think you can clean up a lot of it by doing what we’re all supposed to be doing at the local short-track ranks – penalizing those that are involved in the caution and sending them to the rear of the field. If there is a spin and you got punted by somebody and the caution is drawn, those two go to the back. The one spinning is already going to the back, but the one that caused the spin should have to go to the back. That’s not a fix, but that’s just a start to kind of help in the instance of what all goes down.
You want to bring up an example from COTA. You had the No. 1 that got into the No. 48 who go into the No. 99 – so who do you penalize between the No. 48 and the No. 1, right? All of them.. anybody that is involved in the caution, go to the back. That’s how we do it with the kids racing at seven years old (laughs). So if we can teach seven and eight year olds that’s not the way you’re supposed to do it and you need to race clean, then surely we should be able to teach 18 or 19 year olds to Harvick’s 46 or 47. We should be able to figure it out.”
DID YOU SEE IMPROVEMENTS AT RICHMOND (RACEWAY) WITH THE SHORT-TRACK PACKAGE THAT YOU THINK WILL HELP AT MARTINSVILLE (SPEEDWAY)?
“So far with the lower downforce package, I have been loose. We have not figured out how to get my back-end into the race track like I need it to be. That has definitely been our struggle. I don’t see the same struggle from some of the other guys. They’ve been able to figure it out a lot better than we have, so they’ve been faster. But as far as the aero-deficiencies that you see following other cars – yes, it’s better. On a one to 10 scale, if we were a seven bad before, I think we’re still probably a five. When I ran the Xfinity car at Phoenix (Raceway), I would say that it had one, one and a half, maybe a two at the worst moments of aero-deficiencies following people. So the way we used do things is better than the Next Gen way of doing things.”
REGARDING THE COCA-COLA 600, WHAT IS IT NOW AS FAR AS PHYSICALLY TAXING OR MENTALLY TAXING, IS IT BOTH?
“You’re kind of going based off of the man versus machine of that era. I would say that parts and pieces of the cars were a lot different back then, so you kind of had to drive them differently back then; taking care of your equipment, not using up your stuff and whatnot. The cars now are about bulletproof.. just run them as hard as you can all race long, all the time, and that wears on a driver, for sure. Just being on top of it every single lap and giving it everything all the time.
So yeah, it’s definitely physically demanding. I’ve had Coca-Cola 600’s where after the race is over, I’m fine.. I’m good. I have no issue. And then I’ve had Coca-Cola 600’s where I looked up at the scoreboard, it was mile marker 500 and I was like – OK, we should be done and I’m like ‘damn we still have 100 more to go.. this is going to be a night’. So I think it kind of depends on your routine, your workout, that sort of stuff. I’ve also had more superspeedway races probably where I felt more mental fatigue, just with all the decision-making processes that you have to think through, where the Coca-Cola 600 I don’t think is too terrible on that for me.”
ON MARTINSVILLE, NO MATTER WHAT THE PACKAGE IS, WERE YOU SURPRISED TO SEE A GUY LIKE WILLIAM BYRON GO OUT AND LEAD 490 AND SOME ODD LAPS AT MARTINSVILLE?
“Yeah, you would think at least coming to pit road and having a stumble on pit road or something like that would kind of shuffle up the order, at least once maybe twice, during a race. But it didn’t really do that.
Yeah, you are kind of surprised by that. We had a little bit of that with the old car, too. Martin Truex Jr., myself, at the Coca-Cola 600 actually – we led how many laps of that race. So it’s not always unprecedented. You see someone be able to run upfront and dominate a race, but with this Next Gen car last year, it was a lot easier to mess up peoples’ aero following you and make them suffer more than what you were out front. Hopefully that doesn’t happen this time around.”
LOOKING BACK ON THE WIN HERE LAST YEAR, THAT AS IT TURNED OUT, ALLOWED YOU TO KEEP YOUR STREAK AND THEN BROKE IT THIS YEAR TO SET THE RECORD. WOULD HAVE EVER THOUGHT GOING INTO IT THAT A WIN ON DIRT WOULD HAVE BEEN SO IMPORTANT TO THAT STREAK?
“No, no definitely not. It certainly shines a light of just how important every single race, every single week, is. And for the nature of us going to all these different venues and having the diversity that we do in the race tracks that we go to is fun to a point. I think this was a little bit more gimmicky.. just not a true race track that we’ve been accustomed to going to, and I don’t know that we’re really capturing the Cup Series allure here, just with these cars. Like dirt cars are dirt cars.. they’re fun on dirt. You can drive them way differently. You can drive them harder and whatnot. These things here, you’re literally trying to not spin out when you’re going around there on the race track. So how do you make a pass when you’re already past the limit of spinning out. It’s tough. It just makes for a tough race. Makes it for a little better track position race. No different than anything else that we really do. But that dirt race last year was certainly significant to my years of winning races and capitalizing on that when we did. Lucky for us.”
CHANDLER SMITH SAID EARLIER THIS WEEK ON A PODCAST THAT HE HAS THE UPMOST RESPECT FOR YOU AND STILL WANTS TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED AT PHOENIX (RACEWAY). DO YOU HAVE ANY INTEREST IN TALKING TO CHANDLER OR HAVE YOU ALREADY MOVED ON?
“I’ve pretty much already moved on. I think it will come at due time. But if you had the upmost respect for someone, you wouldn’t race them the way I got raced, so I’ll leave it at that.”