Jimmie Johnson – #48 Chevy
Kyle Busch – #18 Toyota
Kyle Larson – #42 Chevy
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed the strategy and approach to road racing at Sonoma, the fact there is not a road course race in the Chase, the upcoming plate race at Daytona, and more. Full Transcript:
YOU ARE ONE OF 10 WINNERS HERE OVER THE LAST 11 RACES. DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT YEAR YOU WON?
“Not the year."
“Way too long ago, I know that much."
TALK ABOUT THAT A LITTLE BIT. THIS IS OBVIOUSLY A WILDCARD RACE. WHAT MAKES IT THAT WAY? WHAT MAKES IT CHALLENGING? HOW HAS IT SHAPED-UP OVER THE LAST DECADE?
“It is a wild card race, but I feel like, quickly going through my memory, whichever driver has won has had a dominating day and a strong performance throughout the day. It’s hard to repeat that; for whatever reason, I don’t exactly know. But, I think we’ve seen a real interesting shift in the last 10 years where the road course ringers have come in and they aren’t taking the trophies home; it’s really the NASCAR regulars. I think it shows the versatility we have as drivers and the teams as well, that set-up the car and make the car get around here. Strategy does play a role and I think that cost us the win last year. So, occasionally you have maybe a fuel mileage race that might mix it up a little bit, or strategy; and I think we just had a handful of laps left and decided to stay out and new tires got to us quickly last year.
But, its fun racing, I really enjoy it. I wish we did more. To have two road course races a year, you just kind of get into the swing of things and we leave the Glen and you put it on the shelf and wait eight months or something and then do it again."
YOU MENTIONED ROAD COURSE RINGERS. THERE’S HARDLY NONE ANYMORE. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT’S GONE AWAY?
“I think the team owners feel confident in their regular drivers. It’s obviously expensive for a team to put up a top notch effort to bring one Boris (Said) or one of the ringers out here, Scott Pruett or something. If you look at Ganassi, they have room to bring in a couple of cars if they wanted to, but I guess maybe expense has something to do with it? I’m not really sure. And then, the regulars are doing such a good job they don’t have that need I don’t think, as much, as in the past."
YOU HAVE KNOWN FOR A WHILE THAT YOU’RE PRETTY MUCH LOCKED INTO THE CHASE WITH A COUPLE WINS FAIRLY EARLY IN THE SEASON. OVER THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS YOU’VE HAD SOME NOT-SO-GOOD DAYS. HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS YOUR TEAM RIGHT NOW? ARE YOU TRYING THINGS? WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]“Yeah, we definitely have been trying some things. You need to advance. I wouldn’t say that we’re trying things because we’re locked-in; it’s just kind of the natural progression of the sport. And looking around the garage area and making some beliefs and thoughts about where you might be getting beat and what that might be. Yeah, we’ve been strong. I don’t think our results are representative of the strength of the team, especially the last two weeks. We had strong cars and crashes late that affected our finish. But we’re doing good. Obviously we have high expectations. So, we need to get back to our winning ways of leading laps and finishing in the top two or three because that momentum brings so much confidence within the race team with the decisions I make and that Chad (Knaus, crew chief) makes, the pit stops, and all of that. So, we need to get back into that. And I’m not happy with especially the way the last two races went and the results we had with strong days."
GIVEN THAT THE FINAL 11 RACES OF THE REGULAR SEASON, WITH ONLY ONE TRACK THAT’S ALSO IN THE CHASE (NEW HAMPSHIRE), IF YOU’RE A CASUAL FAN, HOW MUCH DO YOU RELATE TO IN WHAT HAPPENS BETWEEN NOW AND THE START OF THE CHASE? IS IT EASIER TO WRITE IT OFF THIS TIME OF YEAR?
“Yeah, I think so. I think our track record, especially in the Chase era, shows that a slow summer doesn’t prevent you from winning a championship. I guess there’s some stats to prove that. It’s not fun going through that. If you’re winning, it’s not hard to find the silver lining in all that, but if you’re off, you can find some silver lining and they’re not Chase tracks and so forth, and so on. We’ll make-up any angle we need to, to believe that, for starters (laughs). And then there are just unique tracks that are coming up. The Brickyard is exciting. I think everybody gets fired-up for that. So, I don’t know how much people should read into it. And then the other thing that makes me believe more in that is the elimination process and how it’s not over 10 races, essentially. We were knocked down in Dover with a part failure. So, it’s really hard to form an opinion of a champion in this format in general."
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE RESTRICTOR PLATE PACKAGE YOU’RE USING AND HAVE YOU TALKED TO NASCAR AT ALL SINCE TALLADEGA ABOUT ANY POTENTIAL CHANGES?
“Yeah, I think we had one Driver Council meeting since. I don’t remember spending a ton of time talking on it. I know following Talladega there were a lot of suggestions made. I certainly had some opinions of why passing was as difficult as it was and the energy that it created in the pack and the need to kind of bump-draft and slam-draft and then crash, like that whole process that took place. I know that they don’t want to over-react and we’re going to a different track in Daytona that works a little bit differently than Talladega does. So, I feel comfortable with it. I think, ideally, we would love to have the side draft be less impactful. We’d love to have a push from another car be more beneficial. And with the gear and horsepower reduction, I think that took away some of that offensive opportunity that existed. But, we’ll see how Daytona races and take it from there. I know that there’s another Driver Council meeting down in Daytona. It will probably be top of mind for everybody then."
THE PAST 7 SONOMA RACES YOU’VE HAD TOP 10 FINISHES. DO YOU AND YOUR TEAM LOOK AT NUMBERS LIKE THIS WHEN APPROACHING THIS WEEKEND?
“The results, yes; but (they are) maybe not as important as where we were running and how the car was performing. The pit strategy and fuel strategy are kind of the things that lead to a poor finish, which unfortunately are fresh in my mind from last year and dominating the race and then having new tires catch us with only a lap or two to go. And that’s what I’m hanging onto is how strong our car was. I know in the set-up and bringing the car here we are very focused on staying close to where we were just because we had such a good race car. So, a little bit; but mainly performance and kind of where you stood up against the field is more representative of the number in the finish column."
BECAUSE THERE ARE NO ROAD COURSE RACES IN THE CHASE, WHEN YOU COME TO THESE TWO TRACKS IS THERE A LOT MORE OF THAT ‘ALL-IN’ TYPE FEELING BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT EXPERIMENTING OR LOOKING AT ANYTHING THAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN AT ONE OF THE OVAL TRACK WHERE YOU MIGHT WANT TO PREPARE FOR IT?
“Yeah, I think that’s our strategy for sure. We’re all in. We have two races to fall back on for the Chase qualification, so that makes it easy. I’m trying to think throughout the years when we weren’t locked at this point. It’s such a unique track and raised an opportunity that we were all in. And I think in order to have a good result here, and especially a shot to win, you’ve got to push fuel strategy to the ninth degree; and now it seems like tires and restarts are far more important than in the past. So, we’re all in. But, I think if you do need to come here and be aware of points, it is a track that a lot can happen. And if you are smart and stay out of trouble and you’re around that 16th cutoff, you might be able to jump three or four spots. I’m fortunately not in that mindset, but from where I’m sitting it’s all about progression and trying to win."
WHEN PEOPLE THINK OF THE ROAD COURSES, WE TEND TO FOCUS ON ALL THE LEFT-RIGHT TURNS WITH GOOD REASON. BUT ARE THE ELEVATION CHANGES A BIG FACTOR AS WELL? IF SO, WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES THAT THEY CREATE?
“Yeah, the elevation changes are a key component here. As you’re coming around Turn 1, that long sweeping left-hander, you really don’t have to use the brakes much and that’s something different than the majority of the tracks we run at. You let the car kind of slide into the track, into the banking, into the hill; and it drags speed out and puts grip in the car so it’s a totally different sensation and technique. Turns 3 and 3A, especially being right out of 3A, if you get too much curb, or not enough, and end-up four or five inches wide on exit, you can’t see where the road is until you’re in the dirt and then it’s way too late. You’re in big trouble. Coming out of (Turn) 8 is a very similar sensation like that where you’re sliding up over the road and you can see where the track turns for Turn 9 way out in front of you, but where that edge is and where the dirt is, is pretty blind and it takes a couple of laps to get a feel for it. So, I enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun to have those kinds of off-camber nodulation of the track. It’s a lot of fun."
WOULD IT MEAN ANYTHING EXTRA TO WIN AGAIN IN CALIFORNIA AND MAYBE GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO TALK TRASH ABOUT WITH THE OTHER CALIFORNIA DRIVERS?
“Absolutely. First of all, there’s nothing quite like winning. Winning is very special and unique in our sport. And the road courses, I felt like coming into my Cup career, that with my off-road background I would just excel and takeoff on road courses. But coming in, I was good for a couple of laps and I’d melt the tires off the car and I really had to learn discipline and where to make time and where to save the tires. It’s a tough balance. I still have kind of a personal thing for me, coming here, The Glen, and Bristol. Those three tracks. With my driving style and my background, those should be my best tracks and they’re not. And it drives me crazy that they’re not. So, I come to Sonoma and Watkins Glen and Bristol with high expectations on myself and a win would be a big party."
NASCAR, YEAR OVER YEAR, HAS CONTINUED TO IMPROVE THE FAN EXPERIENCE. ONE THING I’VE ENJOYED IS THE RADIO-ACTIVE SERIES THAT’S ONLINE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHT ABOUT THAT SINCE IT GIVES THE AUDIENCE A SIDE OF YOU THAT NORMALLY THEY DON’T SEE IN TALKING WITH YOUR PIT CREW AND SOMETIMES SOME QUESTIONABLE LANGUAGE? HOW DO YOU FEEL THAT REFLECTS ON YOU AS A DRIVER?
“For me, it’s always been part of our sport since fans have had scanners. I guess now it’s being broadcasted and reaching far more ears and eyes than before. So, there is that element. It’s amazing though, when you’re in the car and you’re mad, you forget that children are listening or maybe even your own children. My wife has shared with me that she’ll never let our kids listen to me in a race. I said, ‘Really? I’m that bad?’ And she said, ‘When you are bad, you are that bad’. So, it’s just something you lose touch with and I guess we’re kind of familiar with it because there have always been public channels and stuff. I do understand why it’s entertaining and I cringe every once in a while when I hear the term radio-active and wonder what I did the week before and what people were thinking."
HOW DOES THAT RELATE HERE IN SONOMA? (INAUDIBLE)
“Yeah, I think (Turns) 7 and 11 definitely will provide plenty of opportunity for radio-active this week. I just hope I’m not one of the guys (laughs)."
REGARDING DAYTONA NEXT WEEK, AS THESE PACKAGES CHANGE, DOES ANYTHING CARRY OVER OR DO YOU HAVE TO JUST GO OUT THERE AND RE-LEARN WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO PASS AND TO BE SUCCESSFUL ON THESE RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES?
“They don’t change a ton. There’s some sensitivity change to the dynamics and how it works, but the package is still very similar. You just notice or feel like last time you could clear a car more easily, or I could get up and push somebody a little bit harder and give them a run around a car. So, it’s more subtle things that we notice. Certainly, when you’re in the car after 300 or 400 miles, you can’t complete a pass, the little bump turns into a nudge and into a slam and then we have chaos like we did at Talladega. So, I guess it if gets off to a slow start, you can probably bank on a wild finish."
WITH THIS BEING SUCH A PHYSICALLY DEMANDING RACE, HOW MUCH DOES AN OFF-WEEK AFFECT AS A DRIVER AND THE TEAM OVERALL?
“The off-week definitely takes away some of the sensitivity in the car. I think most of us probably don’t train and just checkout and try to charge the batteries; and hang out with your family and you’re out of the racing space. Certainly walking into the garage today and seeing my guys and the fans, there have been a few moments like okay, we’ve been away for 10 days and you have to zero back in and remember what this is all about. So, you lose a little bit, but within10 or 15 minutes in that first practice session, it all comes back."
HOW WILL THE SMALLER SPOILERS AND THE LOWER DOWNFORCE AFFECT THE CARS ON A ROAD COURSE AND THE WAY YOU DRIVE THEM? OR, DO YOU EVEN KNOW YET?
“I don’t know exactly. Outside of the obvious stuff, I think there will be more movement in the car. I think the grip level is just going to be down from braking to lateral. I don’t think the acceleration is going to change a ton because you’re coming from such a slow speed out of these corners. I don’t think drive-off will be a ton different. But, the high-speed corners you’ll notice more of an impact than anything; the high-speed braking zones. So, aero-related, I guess the first thing you just go through are the fastest points on the track for braking and turning will be where you’ll notice it the most. It will be least noticed in the slow corners."
DRIVERS TRAIN AT TRACKS LIKE NEW SMYRNA FOR THE CIRCLE TRACKS, BUT HOW DO YOU ALL TRAIN FOR A ROAD COURSE?
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]“We really don’t have an opportunity to anymore. The testing rules; the fact that we can’t go to test places. Teams would go to VIR, Kershaw, Road Atlanta prior to this race certain teams were all over those three tracks on multiple days just getting time in the car. But now we don’t. So, I’m assuming some of the young guys are probably playing video games. There are a few simulators out there. GM has one. Ford has one. Toyota has one. So there’s a little bit of simulator time. That’s really it. I’m glad I’m a veteran and have been here quite a few times and not a young guy coming in and trying to figure this place out."
THE TRACK TEMPERATURE WILL PROBABLY BE ONE OF THE HOTTEST IT’S BEEN IN MANY RACES. YOU ALREADY HAVE A SLICK TRACK WITHOUT A LOT OF TRACTION. AND NOW IT’S GOING TO GET SLICKER. HOW DO YOU APPROACH THAT?
“I think that’s awesome. More slipping and sliding to preserve your tires hopefully will take the fuel strategy play out of it and really let us really focus on speed and put tires on the car; and don’t worry about charging. I’m not very good with fuel mileage savings, so anything that leads into putting tires on the car and pitting more often fits my style. I’m not sure it will be the same for everybody, but hot and slick sounds good to me."
YESTERDAY THERE WAS CONVERSATION AT THE MEDIA LUNCHEON THAT DRIVERS START OUT REALLY CALM HERE AND THEN AT SOME POINT, LOSE THEIR HEADS. AT THE POINT THAT YOU DO LOSE IT, WHEN YOU ALREADY HAVE A WIN, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE. SO AT WHAT POINT DO YOU KIND OF LOSE YOUR MIND AND JUST GO FOR IT?
“I think nothing to lose means different things to different drivers, even if all things are equal and guys have a couple of wins and could lock-in. My approach is probably more on the conservative side. Others just dump you and go on about their way and worry about the consequences later. So, I think it means different things to different people. When I think of this race, the first thing that comes to mind is fuel strategy and saving every ounce of fuel and finding a nice slot to run on the track in the green flag runs and try to build a lap or two in so that we can two-stop the race. It doesn’t come to mind of knocking somebody out of the way down here. We’re just all wired differently. So, we’ll see which form plays out. And then I think the majority of the field is really focused on this unique track and this unique place. And the frustration does build. And as soon as you can just see energy in the field kind of build, I guess that’s what was being discussed yesterday. Once there’s a block or two and somebody gets knocked out of the way, the whole group notices and the slamming starts and it just gets wild."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s 75th Anniversary Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What sticks out in your mind when you look back on last year’s Sonoma victory?
“I guess winning, obviously. Just having a not so great car, but having the opportunity to have pit strategy and work our way and get ourselves up front and then to have a caution late in the race – really it was able to allow us to get tires on our car for the short run because we seemed to have decent speed on the short run and we were able to pass those guys in front of us on older tires and beat them and out race my brother there. Good effort for us last year here and it was really exciting to get that monkey off our back to get the win and get our season turned around heading in the right direction for really good things at the end of the season."
Does the off weekend affect your team’s strategy heading into a road course?
“It doesn’t affect you a whole lot besides the difference of what a road course is anyways. It actually is sort of a welcome break to have an off weekend when you come to a road course like this. The stresses and everything that is put on your body at this sort of race is a lot higher than it would be at any other track. Sonoma is a very demanding – physically, mentally and being able to hit your marks and have a fast car and doing a good job behind the wheel to make sure you can have speed yourself. Lots of different things happen here."
Did you think you had a shot at getting your first win after the injury at Sonoma last year?
“No, it was certainly a welcoming surprise to us for sure. It wasn’t that we circled it on the calendar thinking we’d have a shot to come back and be able to do that. We actually X’d this one out like we were just trying to survive and get out of here with a good day and a good points day. With the way the five races had gone before, coming here last year, the time I had just got back in the car, we weren’t running and finishing the way we needed to. We came here after a 43rd place finish at Michigan – oh look, we did it again this year. It would certainly be nice to turn some things around. Definitely, it seems like the May, June months just don’t go my way and aren’t really on our side."
Does it impact you at all having radio communications more public with the fans over the broadcasts?
“It certainly opens up our world that used to be private and makes it a lot more public than what it used to be. I’ve definitely changed over the years and holding back a heck of a lot more and not pressing the radio button as much. There’s still those times when you get an outburst here or there, which I think every driver kind of has. You have to be able to refocus and re-energize that energy to something positive that can take you on into a race. I’ve had times where we’ve had outbursts and we’ve had bad finishes and we’ve had outbursts and we’ve had good finishes and we’ve won races doing that. You just have to use it in the right way to help you, but definitely overall it keeps myself a heck of a lot more quiet over the radio."
Can you put into words what the win last year meant on your march to the championship?
“Coming here last year was really great to be able to score that victory. I think it really propelled us a little bit in giving us a lot of confidence that we can go out there and we can do it and we can win races each and every week. Have to let them come to you sometimes. You can force your hand and you can make mistakes and sometimes when you’re able to just kind of let it all out there and let it be what it is, you can win races that way too. It worked for us and that’s what got us to where we needed to be last year."
Were you hoping for changes to the package for Daytona?
“As far as rule changes in Daytona, I was certainly hoping that we would see something coming off the race that we saw at Talladega. It wasn’t probably, ‘A,’ very exciting racing and ‘B,’ pretty dangerous for all of us drivers in having three cars go airborne in that event and Danica Patrick having a heavy, heavy hit on the inside wall – real reminiscent to my hit at Daytona. No rule changes is not a welcoming site for me, but it is what it is. We’ll go and crash some more."
Based on first practice, who looks like your biggest competition?
“I would say Kurt Busch is really good. He’s always fast here, I don’t know what he does, but he’s always fast here, he’s got it figured out. Past him, I’d say that Kyle Larson looks pretty decent honestly and Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., he has a really fast car right now."
How will the heat the next two days impact you and the race car?
“It will be a hot one, that’s for sure. This is a place though that you can’t necessarily run 100 percent every lap. You’ve got to hold yourself back a little because the tire just won’t withstand running on it as hard as you can every single lap with the fall off. The better you can take care of those tires and the more you take care of yourself then the more you take care of your car. I’m sure there will be some hot tempers here on Sunday, there typically is at a short track and this to me is like a road course short track race and there’s going to be some beating and banging and moving some people out of the way for sure."
How tough of an adjustment is it to switch to a road course and can you get enough practice to be comfortable?
“I actually felt like I started off a little rusty, but then by the end of the practice sessions I felt like I was getting all I could get out of the race car. Whatever that was, an hour and a half is what it took in order to get really up and going. We’d had some decent speed, but we weren’t all that fast, as fast as we need to be right now so we’ve got some work to do. I enjoy road course racing, it’s just something different and it lends itself to a different fan base probably and a lot of fans that enjoy watching cars go left and go right. Maybe some IndyCar fans and some Formula 1 fans that just like road racing and what kind of goes on here with the NASCAR Cup cars."
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Sonoma Raceway and discussed the potential of winning a race at his home track, what he has done to prepare for this weekend’s race, why he loves road course racing, the improvement of his team over the past few months and many other topics. Full Transcript:
HOW COOL WOULD IT BE TO GET YOUR FIRST CAREER NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES WIN HERE?
“It would be awesome. We have been close a couple of times this year now. If I was able to get it in my home state here, close to home, that would be awesome. This is probably one of my best tracks too. I really enjoy road course racing, especially here with friends and family that will be here. Hopefully, we can stay out of trouble and qualify good. We normally qualify really well here. I think I had the track record here last year. I’m looking forward to it. I had a busy off weekend. I’m excited to be back in the Target Chevy and hopefully we can get to Victory Lane."
WHAT IS YOUR ROAD COURSE EXPERIENCE? WHY DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL HERE?
“I don’t have hardly any road course experience. My first road course race was Mid-Ohio or no, whatever it was in 2013 when I ran Xfinity full-time, I ran three races then. Then I have done the Rolex 24 now three times and then just the few road course races we get to run in the Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series. I’m getting more experience, but still I probably ran a little over 10 road course races in my life. But, I like them because you can feel the car kind of move around a lot more. You can feel the suspension, so it feels more similar to kind of a dirt track. I don’t know if it’s the dirt track, but just sprint cars and stuff the suspension moves around a lot and you can feel the balance of the car. On this stuff you can too. Where on the ovals our cars are so stiff and rigid you can’t really feel a whole lot with them. I think that is why I can feel the a little bit better and these tracks get really slick and you have to hit your marks every lap which is something I feel like I’m okay at."
“I don’t think it matters if it is 50 degrees outside or 100, this place is always slick. I don’t know. It’s fun. This place is good. Turn 7 is always really slick; down through the esses is a slick part. With it being hot it will just be a little bit slicker. It’s normally pretty hot here for the race anyways at least it has been the two years I’ve ran. I don’t know it doesn’t race too much different. It’s pretty fun."
ARE YOU FEELING ANY PRESSURE TO GET YOUR FIRST CUP SERIES WIN? YOUR PERFORMANCE HAS PICKED UP IN THE LAST MONTH OR SO WHAT WOULD YOU ATTRIBUTE THAT TO?
“Obviously, Chad (Johnston, crew chief) is new to our team this year. I haven’t had any experience with a new crew chief coming in before Chad. I haven’t been in the sport very long, so I think when somebody new like that comes in from an established or championship winning race team like that or any race team really. It’s hard for them to come in and make all the changes that they want right away. It’s kind of a process. It took some time, a couple of months and now we are building racecars the way Chad wants them built, the bodies all that stuff. It has made our level or speed in the racecars get quicker. I think that has been the main thing is Chad’s influence has been key the last couple of months and we have been building the cars how he wants them. I think Chad and Phil (Surgen) my engineer they have probably learned me now and the way I communicate and how big of an adjustment I need or small. I just think it takes a little bit of time to get working together right and now we seem to be clicking."
ARE YOU FEELING ANY PRESSURE TO GET YOUR FIRST WIN? NOT MAYBE JUST FROM CHIP (GANASSI), BUT AUSTIN (DILLON) AND CHASE (ELLIOTT) AND (RYAN) BLANEY ARE COMING ON STRONG AS WELL?
“I don’t know about pressure, but it would be nice to be the next new person to win at Cup Series race. It’s been a long time since a new person has won. There are a crop of us young guys in our early 20’s that would like to get a win. Chase (Elliott) is probably realistically got the best chance. He has been so close week after week now. Austin (Dillon) started the year out really strong, but I like road courses a lot. So, we will try and get it this week."
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY THE ODDS WERE THAT TWO GUYS OUT OF ELK GROVE, CALIFORNIA WOULD END UP IN THE SAME CUP RACE THIS WEEKEND? DO YOU KNOW DYLAN (LUPTON) VERY WELL?
“A little bit, yeah, I know he went to the same high school I went to. Well, I only went through my sophomore year and then I got homeschooled so I could go race. I have talked to him a couple of times, but that is cool that two kind of hometown guys are getting to run here this weekend."
IS THIS A RACING HOTBED NOW?
“It seems like California has always kind of been a racing hotbed. California is a really long state, but all the way from southern California to northern California there are a lot of people that make it in racing. In the Cup Series alone there are a lot of Californians. California had got the best food there is, so that is probably why."
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]HOW DIFFICULT IT IS IT TO KEEP YOUR COOL AT THIS TRACK?
“I don’t know. Everybody handles it differently. For sure, we run two road courses, here at Watkins Glen. This would be more similar to a short-track, where Watkins Glen to me is kind of like an intermediate, where you can move people out of the way a lot easier here. It is easy to get frustrated, but it is still a long race and you have to take care of your equipment as well. You can’t be doing payback that often. I don’t know everybody races differently, but just try and keep a cool head."
ARE YOU ONE OF THE GUYS THAT LIKES TO THROW A CAR AROUND REALLY HARD OR BE REALLY SMOOTH? WHY?
“I don’t think this is a place where you can throw it around. It’s got a pretty slow pace. The grip wears out on the tires really fast, so you are always trying to take care of your rear tires. I think you see the people that run well here are the ones that are smooth and can carry their car throughout a run. Keep their average speed consistent and I would say that is kind of what I have done. Where I think in the past here like short runs I’m not very good, but long runs I seem to be really god because I try and just overly take care of my rear tires and start inching my way back forward towards the end of the run. Watkins Glen though you can definitely manhandle the car a little bit more and get after it."
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR CHANCES ARE OF MAKING THE CHASE?
“Prior to our penalty, I thought it was, even if we didn’t win, and we could probably point our way in. Obviously, it makes it tougher now with losing those 15 points. Even if we weren’t to win, I still think we could even point our way in as long as a couple of people that aren’t really in a point’s position to make the Chase don’t get a win. I think in 2014, I was further back in points yet than I even am now of making the Chase and was I think 12th in points by the end of the regular season, but (AJ) Allmendinger and (Aric) Almirola and Kasey (Kahne) all three won a race and bumped us out of the Chase. Just got to be consistent, keep running up front and if we can run up front wins will happen. In our position you still have to make the most of your day and get the most points you can."
IS THERE PRESSURE TO KEEP YOUR MOMENTUM GOING?
“I don’t know. We all want to win so bad. We are all working hard to keep our cars fast and keep up with an ever changing garage area. So, I guess the pressure is there to get the win while we are running well. You look at Chip Ganassi in the past, they are probably that team you describe where we get so close and then we lose it and have to spend a year or half a season regrouping and getting back to where we need to be. Right now we are close to where, I don’t think you are ever where you want to be, but we are closer to getting wins now. We have made huge gains so far this season. We just have to stay on top of it and hope we get a win."
DOES CHIP’S BACKGROUND AND SUCCESS IN ROAD RACING DOES THAT HELP YOU AT ALL HERE OR IS IT MORE ABOUT THE DRIVER?
“I mean I don’t know if the success he has in all the other types of cars he owns that run on road courses has anything to do with the way we run at the two races we get to run. Jamie (McMurray) is just a really underrated really good road course racer. I feel like road courses to me are one of my best tracks. Our cars are always pretty good here too. I think driver plays probably the biggest role of the year is at the two road courses. Yeah, there are two races I circle on the calendar as ones I hope to win and do really good at. I don’t think him winning at Le Mans helps us for here, but it’s still pretty cool."
WHAT SPECIFIC CHALLENGES, WHAT TURNS DO YOU FIND PARTICULARLY CHALLENGING AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THEM?
“The most challenging corner to me is probably Turn 7. It is easy to wheel hop in that corner, but then also once you get turned and pointed straight, it’s hard to get traction to the ground and spin the tires extremely easy. That kind of dictates your whole esses really. That is where I try to work on some for myself and I feel like I’ve been really good through the esses here in the couple of times that I’ve ran. But, Turn 7 has been my worst. Hopefully, we will have a good tune up on it and be quick through there."
HOW MUCH TIME DID YOU USE IRACING OR ANY TYPE OF ONLINE SIMULATION TO GET BETTER PREPARED FOR THIS RACE WEEKEND?
“Zero. I had no time. I was in Ohio. I ran six days straight there in a sprint car. I tried to hook my computer up, but I couldn’t get my internet to work at my house. I couldn’t figure it out. I don’t know. We will see. We have a lot of practice today. This is my third year here, so, I feel like I have a good understanding of the small things that go on here. We will see though. Hopefully, we are quick in practice."