What are your expectations for the Chicago Street Course race this weekend?
“It’s kind of a new ballgame for all of us. I’ve never raced on a street course or anything like it. Of course with stock cars there hasn’t been a lot of that in general. We did a little iRacing on that course a few years ago. We’ve been doing some simulator work, trying to get some kind of feel for it. It’s going to be a big challenge. I feel like in my mind it’s going to be pretty difficult and bumpy. These cars aren’t great on bumpy tracks, so I think they are going to be a handful and hard to figure out. We won’t have much practice, so it could be a wild show for the fans. Hopefully it’s fun and we figure it out before anyone else and we have a great race with our Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD.”
What is the first thing that goes through your head when you think about heading to Chicago and the street-course race this weekend?
“Like I said, these cars don’t do well on bumpy surfaces and the big unknown is just how bumpy will it be? It has a chance to be really crazy. It’s going to be fun, though, to get to do something new. Every time they’ve brought in something new the last several years, we all have been apprehensive. Just saying, ‘I don’t know about this,’ and then we do it and it’s turned out to be pretty cool. Just trying to stay open-minded and just trying to look forward to the challenge. I know it’s going to be difficult, but that’s what makes it fun.”
Do you look at the Chicago Street Race sort of like the Roval, then, with you being apprehensive at first, but maybe had more fun once you did it a couple of times and knew what you needed to do?
“I think so. I can remember I was one of the first guys to test the Roval before there were any curves. It was just the infield road course with grass all around. I was thinking that was too small and narrow and how are we going to race on this thing? As it turned out, it was quite the show. Like I said, you have to be open-minded and embrace the challenges and try to do what you can with it.”
What do you think of the concept of going to Chicago, to the city, and exposing new fans to the sport?
“I think it’s a good idea, I’ve just never done street racing before. I’m optimistic that it’s going to be a good time and it’s going to go off well. I have no idea the logistics involved. I can’t even imagine what goes into it. It’s going to be interesting to see a street course with these cars, what the grip level might be in each corner. You just wonder what the difference is in each turn – that’s the competitor side of me thinking. On the race fan side, it seems like it’s going to be cool, so we will see how it goes. Hopefully it’s a good turnout and it goes off well. I enjoy tracks that are unique and challenging and it’s always a good challenge to learn a new place, and I can’t imagine what it’s like to the people of Chicago since I have no idea what they are going to be like.”
What type of track causes the most chaos in the Cup Series these days?
“The obvious answer to most is the superspeedways and how things happen and how it can take out a lot of cars quickly. However, road-course restarts have become the next-craziest part of what we do. Looking back at last year, we crashed on one of the restarts with guys going five- and six-wide and guys trying to make up eight to 10 spots in one corner. I think that’s the biggest change in our sport the last few years. You saw it again on those last restarts at COTA, we all went up into turn one and someone dive bombed and didn’t make the corner and it cost us and a few others a good finish. Sonoma is a completely different challenge since you don’t all feed down into a sharp turn like we do at COTA or Indy. We will have a lot of those turns this weekend, so it’s going to be interesting.”