With last Sunday at Homestead having been the first intermediate track on the 2021 schedule, how much of what you learned there is applicable to this week’s race at Las Vegas?
“Homestead is always an interesting race, and this last one was no different. There’s always a lot of risk versus reward, especially early in the race. You know the top groove is going to be faster, but our cars aren’t like those Xfinity cars. You whack them against the wall once and they’re not the same, so you’ve just got to be really aware of what you have, where you are, and the risks that you take. There’s a lot to balance from the driver’s seat. Homestead is just a really unique racetrack as far as a mile-and-a half goes, so you can hold a little bit of merit in terms of results, but it’s a one-of-a-kind track that kind of stands alone as far as the setup and the things that you need.”
If you learned something Sunday at Homestead and you want to change up your racecar for Las Vegas, can you considering the relatively short turnaround time the haulers have to get back from Homestead and on the road to Las Vegas, or are the two tracks different enough that it doesn’t matter?
“Homestead is a very unique track, so you have to be careful on what information you take from there to Las Vegas. The two tracks are completely different, and with the short turnaround time, our team has already prepared the car for Las Vegas. Beside a few small tweaks maybe here and there, our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang is good to go.”
You’ve won at Las Vegas twice and haven’t finished outside the top-10 in your last four visits to the track. What do you need to be quick there?
“Las Vegas has a lot of tire fall off, so it’s important to have a good-handling racecar. It’s also a track where you’re constantly moving around trying to find the right grip.”
You obviously have a good team behind you, but you won a career-high nine races last year as a 44-year-old. Is that the best example of racing’s human element, where your experience allowed the No. 4 team to be good despite not having practice and qualifying?
“Experience always matters in racing, and being with these guys for eight years now has built a tremendous amount of continuity, and that showed last year with nine wins.”
NASCAR’s rulebook makes teams operate in a pretty small box. When it comes to a momentum track like Las Vegas, how important is Mobil 1’s technology in the overall efficiency of your racecar, specifically in regard to reducing friction, heat and rolling resistance?
“Mobil 1 technology is a true difference maker, especially this year. There’s a development freeze on all the parts and pieces that go into the racecar as we get ready for the NextGen car in 2022. That means we have to maximize what we’ve got. Efficiency equals speed. The less friction, the less rolling resistance, the faster you’ll go. From the synthetic oil in the engine to all the lubricants throughout the car, it all adds up to a more efficient racecar, and that shows up on the stopwatch.”