You’re welcoming back Autodesk as your sponsor this weekend and it’s your first time at Sonoma in a Cup Series car. What are your thoughts about this weekend?
“I’m really looking forward to it. I think the road courses have been something that’s always kind of a wild card and it’s always kind of an equalizer for the field. For us, it’s a great opportunity to have a solid run and hopefully find ourselves with a chance to win by the end of it. Sonoma is a really technical place that I enjoy. It’s a place I haven’t ran in the Cup Series, yet, so it’s going to be a little bit of learning, but it’s just one of those places where you have so much elevation change and that carousel. It’s just a fun racetrack to run and we have Autodesk on the car this week. It’s really cool. We last had them on the car at Texas last fall. I ran an Xfinity race and we won with them and, from there, it’s just been a great relationship and it’s been awesome having them on the car. We use their software a ton at the race shop, to be able to design parts and do different things, so they’re a huge part of what we do.”
This weekend takes you back to your home state to race for the first time since early last year at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. Any special thoughts on that?
“It’s still about 10 hours from my home because Northern California is so far from Southern California but, whenever I go back to California, it’s always special. I’m always trying to see family and it’s a homecoming. I always get to have In-N-Out (burger), so I look forward to that. But going to Sonoma I’ve run a few K&N races there and I’ve always loved it. It’s just one of those places where it’s fun to kind of slip and slide around and be able to go up and down the hills and hit the curbs. It’s just one of those places I think every driver loves to go to.”
What’s the toughest part of the track, and what are you doing to prepare?
“I would say, with how they’ve changed the course, one of the toughest turns now is that carousel. I think it’s just a really awkward corner and it doesn’t feel like a corner a racecar should be going through. It’s really tight, really downhill, off camber. It’s just a really tough corner and it’s something where you never go through there and feel like you did it right. It never feels natural, so it’s one of those things you just kind of have to hit your marks and make sure you don’t overdo it through there.”
Are there any things you can apply to this weekend that you learned during your previous visits to Sonoma in other series?
“Like I said, it’s just such a technical racetrack and it’s definitely nice to have some laps around there. There’s so much (tire) fall-off and so much you have to do to try and make it around those slick corners. It’s not an easy place to get around, so having those laps will definitely help, but I’m sure in the Cup car it’s going to be a little bit different trying to figure out, just a lot more horsepower, trying to figure out how you’re going to work it through those corners and be more patient, probably. So I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of learning pretty fast.”
Will previous experience negotiating the carousel be any advantage this weekend?
“Yeah, for sure – a little bit. Being able to kind of know what I’m looking for going through that corner, which leads into a great passing zone, I definitely think opens up some things. If you can get through the carousel pretty good, it opens up a lot of opportunities to pass. There are those cheap corners you’re always looking for to try and make sure you can pass and I think the carousel is definitely one of them.”
The series is heading to Sonoma with a different aero package than its last visit there. What are you studying along those lines for this weekend?
“That’s a tough one. I’ll probably go back to 2018, when it was the low-downforce package, and I’ll watch some of that, for sure. But obviously you’re going to miss a few corners with that, so in those corners you don’t have, you’re going to kind of guesstimate, to be honest. And you’re going use your simulator at Ford Performance, and we’re going to get an idea of where we need to be braking and where we need to be doing things in those few corners where the carousel is, and I think it’s turn seven after the carousel. It’s a matter of the Ford Performance simulator being a big part of determining where your lift point is going be and figuring out how you’re going to attack those corners going into the weekend.”