YOU HAVE A SPECIAL PAINT SCHEME HONORING PEDIATRIC CANCER AWARENESS. WHY IS THAT CAUSE SPECIAL TO YOU?
“The paint scheme is the same, it’s just the number to gold foil number. The gold ribbon signifies Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month which is September. We were at a Pediatric Cancer center giving out some joy jars, so it was fun doing that, interacting with the kids and giving out some stickers. Passing out some smiles. That was good stuff. It actually helps me, too, keeping in perspective how much of a blessing it is to do to what I do each weekend. We’ve got families with kids that are fighting for their lives. It’s a nice perspective adjustment before rolling into the racetrack for a race weekend.”
LAST WEEK, YOU HAD YOUR 18TH LEAD LAP FINISH OF THE SEASON WHICH IS A NEW CAREER HIGH FOR YOU. NOT ONLY THAT, BUT YOU’VE BEEN RIGHT AT THE FINISH OF EVERY RACE THIS SEASON. THE WAY SPIRE IS GROWING, WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE STATUS OF THAT AS YOU APPROACH THE END OF THE SEASON?
“It’s certainly something I’m proud of, being the only car so far, knock on wood, sitting here at Bristol where anything can happen in a split second. That was our biggest objective in the offseason leading into this season, where we ran only eighty-three percent of laps last year. That’s part driver mistake, a lot mechanical issues with the new car trying to figure out the weak links there. The growth of the small team, there’s a lot of growing pains there we’ve ironed out. We’ve got the right people in the right positions to negate all of those mechanical failures we had. If we continue that, keep executing, not putting ourselves in bad spots, I feel like I’ve been as focused as I’ve ever been in my career and getting more experience. We’ve had some decent pace over the last six or seven weeks, and we just need to do a better job of executing when we do have pace. I think that starts this weekend. If, for us, to be the only car so far 28 weeks in, we’re certainly proud of that as a team."
“It’s certainly not all that we’re looking for. We’re looking for some better runs, better qualifying efforts. I feel like a normal day for us right now should be top-20. If we execute, we have the pace to generally to finish between 16th and 18th, and that’s a big step from where we were the last couple of years. If we continue that trend in that direction, there’s a lot of growth to be had within Spire Motorsports and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
THE NO. 77 HAS ALSO HAD SIGNIFICANT PACE THIS SEASON. HOW HAS THAT HELPED THE NO. 7 OUT?
“It’s something I realize more so than ever, when I was getting a cup of coffee over at Hendrick (Motorsports) driving the No. 9, all four of those teams, the engineers, drivers and crew chiefs are consistently setting a higher watermark. When you’re in an environment like that where every team is pushing the entire team forward, that’s where the biggest growth and biggest development happens. I feel like, for us, the business model that Spire has had to have with part-time guys on the No. 77, it kind of slowed our rate of how much we collected data. It’s been nice to have a veteran guy like Ty (Dillon) and refine our baseline setup. I think that having more points of data over the course of the week and the course of a 20-minute practice session, you have to collect data fast and be efficient with applying it in your race car. That’s nice to be able to see improvements over the last two months.”
YOU LOOK THROUGH A DIFFERENT LENSE BEING THE SON OF A CHAMPION. TALK ABOUT WHAT IT’S LIKE TO KNOW YOU’RE TRYING TO REACH A PINNACLE OF WHAT YOUR DAD REACHED. OR MAYBE NOT, MAYBE YOU JUST WANT TO BE COREY. CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THAT?
“It’s not like we’ve all sat around a campfire and sang Kumbaya and talked about it. But you look at certain guys, there are so many father and son relationships in this sport that have been prominent. The biggest one was Chase (Elliott) and the driver, son complex. I can relate somewhat, and even though Dad (Randy LaJoie) was voted in the top 75 greatest NASCAR drivers. Bill (Elliott) was known as 'Million Dollar Bill.' In my case, specifically in my opinion, no matter what I do in this sport, it’ll never be up to as good as my dad. My dad is my idol, my hero growing up. There’s a little bit of no matter what you achieve in this sport, you’re not going to be as good as your dad."
“I feel like that’s some of the things where Chase (Elliott) is the way he is, Ryan (Blaney) is the way he is. Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) has been pretty vocal about that as well of his dad (Dale Earnhardt). I think as much as you’re under a microscope growing up as the son of a famous racecar driver, you still put that as much pressure and expectations on yourself to try to live up to what people expect you do being the son of somebody who has an established career. I’d be interested in hearing what those guys have to say on it, if it affects their psyche or not, but I think whether or not they acknowledge it, it shapes who you are and what kind of career you have.”
THIS WEEKEND, EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM IS PAYING ATTENTION TO THE PLAYOFF AND THE CUTOFF POINTS AND SO FORTH. YOU’RE KIND OF IN A BATTLE FOR 25TH. THAT’S NOT AS SEXY AS OTHERS, AND YOU’D LIKE TO BE HIGHER. HOW DO YOU VIEW WHAT THAT MEANS?
“I don’t feel like our place is under any pressure. The guys we are in striking distance of shouldn’t be back there with us anyway. A lot of those guys get eaten up a spot, it’s more fire under their seat. I’ve challenged our team, even though we’re not in the top-16 and resetting those points for a championship, I challenge my guys to reset the points of those four or five guys in front of us and the couple behind us, and have our own little Playoff points structure and see if we can chip away at them with the time with 10 races left. I don’t know for certain, but there is a big monetary difference at the end of the year with points payoff between 25th and 26th. Our car, too, is in different spots as the No. 7 finished last at (World Wide Technology Raceway) when it broke a rotor, so it’s 20 points behind where I am in drivers’ points. So I naturally look at drivers’ points because that’s where I compare and see my name on it, but the one that pays is the one that I need to go get a little more effort and get 20 more spots throughout the year. There are certainly three cars in the crosshairs that I feel like, when we execute, we can beat each and every week and we’re going to have to, we can’t have any off weeks if we want to go get those guys.”
BRISTOL DIRT IS NOT COMING BACK. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
"I was at the Trackside Live stage earlier, and Alex Weaver mentioned that. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, but it was the first official announcement and there was a majority of fans were excited. I said ‘Guys, you guys have to come to the race or else they’ll put ice or gravel or some sort of funky substance to make it a flash in the pan. So the people who are clapping, you better be here in the spring with your butt in a seat so the race doesn’t move somewhere else or they don’t figure out some other substance to put (on the track).’”