JEFF ANDREWS, PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS; BLAKE HARRIS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 ALLY CAMARO ZL1; JOSH BERRY, NO. 48 ALLY CAMARO ZL1 – Press Conference Transcript:
JEFF ANDREWS: “Obviously you know by now, Alex (Bowman) had an accident in his sprint car this week. INAUDIBLE… He has a fractured vertebrae and the timeline he’s been given is somewhere in the three to four week window before he’ll be ready return. That’s really all we know right now. Talked to him yesterday. He’s home and resting. Some pain – it comes and goes for him. But overall, he’s in good spirits and we look forward to getting him back as soon as he’s ready.”
JEFF, OBVIOUSLY THE SECOND TIME YOU’VE HAD A DRIVER INJURED THIS SEASON. I KNOW YOU SAID AT LAS VEGAS THAT DRIVERS NEED TO LIVE THEIR LIVES. BUT IS THE MOMENT WHERE THE TEAM NEEDS TO TAKE A DEEPER LOOK AT WHAT DRIVERS CAN AND CAN’T DO?
JEFF ANDREWS: “I think from that aspect, we always discuss with them and have conversations. There’s a process that we have in place when they do want to run racing events outside of the Cup Series. That’s still in place, that was in place. For this race, we were very aware of Alex’s schedule through the season for this sprint car. We look at Chase and Alex’s situation as two different situations. This is the first extracurricular racing accident that we’ve had that’s taken one of our drivers out here for three weeks. Chase’s situation was a snowboarding kind of recreational accident.
We’re always looking at it. I think our message is – you know, be careful. It’s difficult because that’s something Alex has a passion for. Something that he’s worked very hard to be better at and we feel like it helped him over here in the Cup Series this year. He’s obviously having the best year of his career in the Cup Series. This is a temporary setback and we look for him to come back strong. We’re always evaluating. We’re always knowledgeable in the conversations with our drivers about what they’re doing and where they’re racing outside of the Cup Series. Obviously it’s a topic of conversation for us. We’ve had discussions with our guys about it since Alex’s accident. We’ll continue to have those talks and as a group, we’ll make the best decisions.”
JOSH, IT’S YOUR SECOND OPPORTUNITY TO STEP-UP TO THE BIG LEAGUES. HOW ARE YOU FEELING RIGHT NOW, ESPECIALLY COMING INTO DOVER THIS WEEKEND?
JOSH BERRY: “Obviously, I hate the circumstances once again. Alex has been a friend to me. Like I said, it’s a difficult situation to step in again. I hate that for Alex. He’s been a friend to me over the last couple of years. You never want to see anyone injured like that. The reality of it is I feel a little bit more comfortable than where we were sitting in at Las Vegas; having a relationship with everyone at HMS and working through a handful of races with the No. 9. I’m ready to go today. We have a great opportunity in the Xfinity race today I feel like with the No. 8 car being the defending winners. We’re going to stay in the present; race these two races this weekend and see how it goes.”
THE NO. 48 CAR IS GOOD AT DOVER. JOSH, YOU’RE GOOD HERE IN XFINITY RACING. REALISTICALLY, WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT? AND BLAKE, PUTTING A DIFFERENT DRIVER IN THE CAR, CAN YOU CARRYOVER THE THINGS THAT ARE SO GOOD ABOUT THE NO. 48 AT DOVER?
BLAKE HARRIS: “Yeah, I think all of those things this weekend. This company has a great history of success here in the No. 48 car alone. Josh, we got him in the simulator Wednesday as soon as we knew something – I mean within two hours, I think, of him knowing he was able to hop in for us. Statistically, he’s probably the best guy here. He’s only had a handful of races, but I don’t know that he’s finished worse than second here. Certainly the easiest fit to plug in. He’s got a handful of Cup races and we’re going to take the approach this week to let him get comfortable and get up to speed. Fortunately we’re going to get practice and qualifying in today, so less nervous from the standpoint of having to throw him straight in the race.
Yeah, I think with his success and the history of the No. 48 and HMS all together, I think all of those things are the best situation we could be in with what we’ve got.”
JOSH, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS PARTICALLY RACE TRACK AND THE COMFORT YOU FEEL HERE IN THE NO. 48 CAR?
JOSH BERRY: “I can’t really decipher exactly why Dover has fit me pretty well. I remember how nervous I was coming here in 2021 for the first time in the Xfinity Series with no practice or anything. It’s been a good track for me. Obviously Hendrick Motorsports has been super strong this year and they build great cars each and every week. For me, it’s just going to be about getting comfortable. Kind of like Blake said, just taking it one step at a time. We get practice and qualifying, which will be different. I think I only practiced twice in the No. 9 out of the five races, so that will be nice to kind of get that under our belt and hopefully that will accelerate the process of kind of adapting to the Next Gen at Dover. I’m confident in Blake. He’s a racer like myself. Those guys have been off to a great start to the year, so I’m sure we can have a solid day tomorrow; limit our mistakes and see where we end up.”
JEFF, NO SECRET IN THE GARAGE THAT THERE ARE CUP TEAMS TALKING TO JOSH FOR NEXT YEAR AND SOME OF THEM AREN’T CHEVROLET TEAMS. WAS THERE ANY THOUGHT OF NOT USING JOSH BECAUSE HE MIGHT BE GOING TO ANOTHER MANUFACTURER NEXT YEAR?
JEFF ANDREWS: “I don’t have any knowledge or anything on that. But there was never a question in our mind of who the right person to put in the No. 48 car was while Alex is out.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY INSIGHT INTO ANYTHING YOU GUYS HAVE LEARNED ABOUT THE NO. 5 CAR FROM THEIR ACCIDENT LAST WEEK? IS THERE ANYTHING YOU FEEL LIKE NASCAR CAN DO SHORT TERM OR WHAT YOU’RE DOING SHORT TERM FROM WHAT YOU SAW IN THE NO. 5 CAR AFTER THE ACCIDENT LAST WEEK?
JEFF ANDREWS: “Yeah, so what I can tell you is that a group of us were there very early on Monday morning. That group included Kyle – he wanted to see the car and sit in the car. We went through kind of an initial evaluation of talking with NASCAR; discussing it and looking at it through the day and the days that followed that. The car went through somewhat of a disassembly process so more of it could be evaluated and looked at. Obviously you can see in the pictures there was quite a bit of damage to the door car area, specifically on the right-hand side, that’s moved significantly to the left in the vehicle. From this point, it’s just going to be the industry I think working together to really understand and figure out what we need to do to prevent things like that from happening. There certainly are things – there needs to be some short term discussions and some long term discussions, as well. NASCAR is very involved, very concerned. Had us over there multiple times and I’m sure there will be a lot more discussions in the coming weeks and months on what we do to prevent that going forward.”
DID YOU DO ANY CHANGES FOR THIS WEEK?
JEFF ANDREWS: “There are no changes.”
JOSH, HOW DO YOU LOOK BACK AT THE LAST THREE OR FOUR YEARS OF YOUR CAREER? YOU’RE A GUY FROM SHORT-TRACK RACING AND CERTAIN THINGS HAPPENED THERE THAT DIDN’T GO SO WELL. A TRAVEL AGENT WOULD NOT BOOK THIS KIND OF A TRIP, SO HOW DO YOU LOOK AT YOUR CAREER THE LAST THREE OR FOUR YEARS WHEN HERE YOU ARE RUNNING A CUP CAR?
JOSH BERRY: “I remember it being a lot better than you did, I feel like (laughs). I mean I would do that journey all over again if I had the opportunity. It was just a lot of fun racing short-tracks all over North Carolina and Virginia.
Yeah, just been very fortunate to have some great opportunities over the last couple of years and, in a way, make the most of those opportunities that’s got me here today. For me, just really thankful for everybody that’s had a part in getting me here. Looking forward to this weekend and seeing what we can do in these two races.”
DO YOU TAKE PRIDE IN THE FACT THAT YOU SEEM TO BE ABLE TO DELIVER WHEN YOU GET THOSE OPPORTUNITIES?
JOSH BERRY: “Yeah, I think so. You obviously look at the opportunity in the No. 8 a couple of years ago – it’s really what made my career. Winning at Martinsville and running well at places like here and Darlington is kind of what set me up for a full-time year I think. Ultimately, still have one full season in NASCAR in the top three series, so I still have a lot to learn and work through, but I feel like I’m proving myself that I can do this. I’m just ready for this weekend and we’re going to keep pushing forward after that.”
JOSH, YOU MADE YOUR CUP SERIES DEBUT AT DOVER A COUPLE YEARS AGO. WHAT’S MADE DOVER SPECIAL TO YOU OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS?
JOSH BERRY: “Yeah, like I said earlier, Dover has been a good track for me for whatever reason. I don’t really know why. I think it’s a combination of JR Motorsports being really strong here and Hendrick Motorsports will be really strong here this weekend. I think having great cars makes it a lot easier. But yeah, I don’t know – I just seem to fit the place and it seems to fit my style. Making my Cup debut here a couple years ago – I know it wasn’t the dreamy ending that everybody wanted, but it was a great opportunity. Same deal – last second, thrown in the car kind of deal.
Dover is always going to be special. I got a Monster sitting in my living room that I look at every day, so that’s always going to be pretty cool no matter what.”
BLAKE, WHAT DOES ALEX’S ABSENCE MEAN TO THIS NO. 48 TEAM RIGHT NOW? OBVIOUSLY YOU GUYS HAVE HAD A REALLY GREAT START, LEADING THE SERIES IN AVERAGE FINISHES. WITH HIM NOT BEING BEHIND THE WHEEL FOR THE NEXT THREE WEEKS AT LEAST, WHAT IMPACT DOES THAT HAVE ON THIS NO. 48 TEAM?
BLAKE HARRIS: “I think this year so far, we’ve done a god job of just reacting with whatever has been thrown at us. This will just be another thing that we look back on and we’ll react accordingly. We’ve got full support of Alex. We want him to get well. As soon as he’s healthy and ready to come back, we’ll plug him back in and keep digging. From the standpoint of all those things and the momentum that we’ve had, I don’t look at that as being any different than what we’ve had. We show up every week with the plan to win races. We’re going to have to win races to get in the Playoffs. If we were leading points, we’re planning on winning races. So when he gets back, we’ll have to win races and we’ll get ourselves in a good position to make a run at the title. I don’t see that we look at it as anything different than just another bump in the road here that we’ve got to get across. We’ll go do the best that we can here for Josh, the No. 48 team and Hendrick Motorsports the next few weeks, and when he’s back and ready, we’ll be ready too.”
THIS IS NOT YOUR FIRST TIME IN THE CUP CAR THIS YEAR, BUT IT WILL BE YOUR FIRST TIME WITH THE NO. 48 TEAM. OBVIOUSLY THERE WILL BE SOME DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE NO. 9 AND THE NO. 48. DO YOU FEEL LIKE ALL THE EXTRA RACES WILL COME HANDY OR IS IT GOING TO BE THAT LEARNING EXPERIENCE ALL OVER AGAIN WITH ADJUSTING TO A NEW TEAM?
JOSH BERRY: “No, I definitely feel like I’m in a lot better place going into this - having some experience in the Next Gen and having a relationship with everybody at Hendrick Motorsports from the opportunity with the No. 9.
The way I look at it is – ultimately, this is Alex’s race team and my job in this situation is to just try and keep these guys going, prepared, happy and just ready to rock n’ roll whenever Alex gets back. I think that was the mentality we took with the No. 9 and obviously they came back and hit the ground running. That to me, I think that shows a little bit of me in that moment of keeping the morale and everything up high. Obviously these guys are off to a great start of the season and they are going to be championship contenders throughout the year. My job is not come in here and win every race. My job is to adapt and do the best I can and just keep everything pulling in the right direction. I feel like we were able to do that with the No. 9. Had some good results along the way and hopefully we can do that again in the No. 48.”
JOSH, KNOWING WHAT YOU DID IN THE NO. 9 CAR, HOW DO YOUR OWN PERSONAL GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS CHANGE NOW THAT YOU HAVE ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY WITH THIS ORGANIZATION?
JOSH BERRY: “I think it’s hard to have too high of expectations when you step in this, right. Cup racing is hard. These guys are great; they’re the best of the best in the world racing here at these tracks. I don’t think it’s really fair for me to come in and have really high expectations. I think my expectations are of myself, which is to give the best effort I can each and every week to be prepared to drive the race car and do the best job I can in the race car to limit my mistakes and be there at the end of the race. It reminds me a lot of my opportunity in 2021 with no practice and qualifying. We kind of wouldn’t even worry about the first stage, really. We would just adapt to the car and try to use the second-half of the race to use strategy or whatever we could to get upfront and get the result that we wanted. I think it’s a similar aspect – learning this new car and a new team. These guys are great. That’s what I learned the first time around. These guys are amazing to work with and they’re super, super smart, so I think we can hold our own.”
JOSH, FROM THE FIRST TIME YOU RAN DOUBLE DUTY FROM WHEN YOU FILLED IN FOR CHASE TO NOW, HOW HAS YOUR WEEKLY PROCESS CHANGED IN TERMS OF WHERE YOU FOCUS YOUR TIME, YOUR EFFORT, YOUR MIND, TO ENSURE YOU DO YOUR BEST FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AND JR MOTORSPORTS ISN’T EFFECTED IN THAT PROCESS?
JOSH BERRY: “Yeah, you know obviously in the first go around a couple years back, it was COVID-related and kind of last second, so it was really little to no preparation. I remember back on these opportunities; I would say I was notified maybe a day before we left. No time to really prepare for much. Working through the last month – yeah, I mean it’s been a lot to manage. Obviously my primary focus is running for the Xfinity Series championship with my No. 8 team, but I tried to be present as much as I could with everything at Hendrick Motorsports and not leave anything on the table that I felt like I could have done to be better prepared and I think we did that. Really, you can only do so much in a week. It was definitely a challenge trying to manage all of that, but it’s been really important to me to be present with those guys, but also stay really present and involved with the No. 8 team and make sure those guys don’t feel like we’re leaving anything on the table there either.”
JEFF, HOW MUCH DOES THE FACT THAT THERE’S ONLY 20 MINUTES OF PRACTICE WEIGH INTO THE FACT OF LETTING DRIVERS DO OTHER THINGS – THE FACT THAT THEY’RE NOT ON THE TRACK AS MUCH AS THEY USED TO BE IN THE PAST, AND WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE THEY GET BY RACING EITHER SPRINT CARS, DIRT LATE MODELS OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT, THAT THEY CAN’T GET EITHER IN A SIMULATOR OR DOING SOMETHING ELSE?
JEFF ANDREWS: “I think, first of all, the relationship between the race track and a simulator – I’ve never sat in one, but I think any of our guys will tell you that it’s completely different. I mean the simulator is close, specific to this series and the cars they’re driving and the racing in general. Some of our guys just enjoy that involvement - that hand-eye coordination and those continued reps, whether it be in the off-season or through the regular season. They’ll tell you it’s something that helps them. From our perspective, I think we have to evaluate; we have to look at it and we have to understand what the right balance is. We certainly don’t want to tell them ‘no’ to something we feel like would help them here on Sunday. As a company, we’ll just continue to look at it, continue to talk to our guys and make sure we’re making the right decisions together. Make sure they’re in the right race cars, good race cars, safe race cars. From there, as I said before, our primary focus right now is on Alex. We miss him here this weekend. We want him to get well and get back here soon. We’re very fortunate to have someone like Josh – someone of his caliber – to be here to fill-in.”
CLARIFICATION ON SOMETHING YOU SAID EARLIER – WHEN YOU TALKED TO THE DRIVERS, WAS THERE A CONVERSATION THAT CLARIFIED HOW YOU ALL FEEL?
JEFF ANDREWS: “Whenever our drivers come forward with schedules for extracurricular racing and things that they’re going to do – whether it be the Chili Bowl in the off-season, William has been running a late model and of course Kyle with his sprint car series - those schedules are reviewed. The message from Mr. Hendrick is that – I don’t want to stop those things, but be careful. Understand what the most important thing is and the most important thing for Hendrick Motorsports is the results here on Sunday. So we’ll always keep that at the top of the list. Again, we may take a look at this. If this happens again, we’ll have to. But for right now, there’s not going to be any chances to our policy, other than just be aware. The most important thing is to results on Sunday in the Cup Series.”
WHEN THE SCHEDULE IS REVIEWED, DO YOU EVER SAY – WE WISH YOU WOULDN’T DO THAT ONE.. IT’S AT THAT TRACK AND IT’S TOO DANGEROUS? DO YOU EVER SAY ‘NO’ OR MAINLY YOU’RE ALLOWED TO DO THIS?
JEFF ANDREWS: “It goes through a review process if there’s something added - if we don’t have a knowledge of the track’s safety or things like that. It’s more we want to make sure the sponsors are OK with it. In Alex’s case, we want to make sure Blake and the team is OK with it; it fits the weekly schedule and it doesn’t interfere with something that’s going to effect the results here on Sunday.”