TYLER, YOU GUYS COMING OFF OF A REALLY, REALLY GREAT SHOWING AT DARLINGTON. FIRST TIME THERE FOR THE NEXT-GEN CAR, SURE YOU GUYS LEARNED A LOT. WHAT CAN YOU TAKE FROM THAT RACE LAST WEEK GOING HERE TO KANSAS?
“Certainly, just seeing where our pace is on some of the higher speed tracks. Darlington may be just a little bit shorter than a mile and a half, but you know you’re still carrying a good amount of speed around that place. Got the be comfortable with your car running up by the wall. That carries over into a place like Kansas. For me, it was good to have the speed there for Darlington. We did the tire test there and we did the tire test here at Kansas. Both times was pretty happy with what we had for pace out of our vehicles. We will see what happens later today. It’s a little bit warmer than when we did the tire test here, but I definitely feel good about where we left the tire test. Should be a challenging day trying to get everything that you can out of the qualifying lap with all of the different lines that I think are going to come into play.”
TYLER YOU WERE TELLING US EARLIER, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE PEDAL CAR?
“Well, I didn’t do much. My son, Beau, loves the thing. He is always trying to get in it and reach the pedals. He isn’t quite big enough to touch the pedals in it yet, but he always likes sitting it and playing around with it. It’s sitting in his room, so if I get another one hopefully me and him can maybe race each other in them. That’s the motivation today.”
A LOT OF PEOPLE COMPARE THIS TRACK TO VEGAS, BUT YOU COMPARE IT TO HOMESTEAD. IS THAT JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN RUN THE WALL HERE AND FIND THAT SIMILARITY?
“Well, I’ve compared it to Homestead at some point?”
“Well, the three tracks are kind of similar. Oh yes, I did say that. When he mentioned Vegas it kind of got me thinking, because yes you do need to be comfortable running high like at Homestead for this track. In a lot of ways with how much grip that this place has throughout the run and the lack of fall off, you need to be comfortable running the wall like you do at Homestead. I feel like you don’t have to be quite as close to the wall to still get some of the aero effects and be running a good lap and a good time. It is a lot like Vegas in some ways too. The temperatures are going to kind of warmer than we had at Vegas today. Who knows what happens Sunday, weather wise and everything like that? As it cools off, maybe more lanes open up and the bottom catches up and the middle catches up. Today will be really interesting to see who goes where in practice early and where the track state is at going into qualifying. I truly expect a few different strategies of running low, middle or high in qualifying and seeing how that plays out will be interesting today.”
SINCE YOU DID THE TIRE TEST, HOW WILL THIS TRACK RACE DIFFERENT THAN WHAT PEOPLE HAVE SEEN IN THE PAST?
“I don’t think it will be very different. I think it will be more of, I mean I think it will be somewhat comparable to like 2018 Cup racing a little bit and closer to the Xfinity racing. What we saw at Vegas for a race will be very similar in a lot of aspects of how the cars race around each other that we will see a little bit in practice today. It will be a lot like Vegas, but everyone is more comfortable with the cars now a little bit. We’ve learned a little bit more information about the cars, so I think there will be a little bit more aggressive side by side racing. I think a lot of the same trends will be there.”
THIS TRACK IS KNOWN FOR BEING WINDY. HOW DIFFERENT DOES THIS CAR REACT TO THE ELEMENTS LIKE THAT, THE WIND, COMPARED TO THE PREVIOUS CAR?
“You know, I don’t think I know yet. Certainly, the craziest wind related race that I’ve been a part of was this race here in the fall last year. It was, I don’t even know how to explain it. It was the craziest think I’ve ever done. You get to the middle of Turn 2 and you just get sideways and you think you’re going to crash. You get to the middle of 3 and 4 and it would take off plowing into the corners. It was really wild how much the wind affected that car last year. A little bit smaller spoiler, I think, will help that to some degree. I think the wind gusts could play a role. I don’t know. I didn’t think it was that windy when I was out there a minute ago, but this place the wind can pick up and get gusty, really get blowing. There’s not many places that we go to that the wind moves like it does here. Maybe Vegas a little bit, but the wind will certainly play a role in the balance of the car if it really gets going I feel like above 20 miles per hour or so.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE END OF THE MONTH AT CHARLOTTE. COMPARED TO ALL THE OTHER TRACKS ON THE SCHEDULE, GIVEN THE IMPORTANCE OF THAT TRACK AND THAT RACE TO NASCAR, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT THAT THAT RACE PUTS ON A GOOD SHOW WITH THIS CAR GIVEN THE RECENT HISTORY OF LACKLUSTER, NOT VERY COMPETITIVE RACES IN THE COKE 600?
“Well, the few that I’ve participated in you know the weather didn’t really help us much with cooler temperatures with that 550 package that we had with that last car. Just a lot of on throttle time and not really having to search around the racetrack for grip. I believe that the resin and compound has all been scrubbed away from the track. It was when we did our test in the fall and it really helped the track just widen out and we were running all over it pretty quickly in our test. I think the potential is certainly there, but you just never know. I’ve seen a lot of stand out performances by drivers just being on it more than their competition on nights and really putting out statement performances. I think with the length of the race, how challenging the car is to drive, a lot of character and bumps at Charlotte, I think you’re really going to have to really work at it all night long inside the car. It’ll be a challenging race. I think, based off of how the test went, it has the possibility to be a really good event.”
TYLER, A LOT OF GOOD RUNS THIS YEAR. ALSO, A LOT OF HEARTACHE ALONG THE WAY, BUT HOW CONFIDENT DO YOU FEEL THIS WEEKEND KNOWING THAT YOU’RE RUNNING SO GOOD THIS YEAR?
“Very confident. I also have confidence from doing well at this tire test and being very happy with where our car was. Finding out a few more things that we’ve been able to learn and pick up on that we think’s going to be better, so practice for us just like everybody is really important. Really excited to see what our on-track performance is like and how our car drives. Confidence and expectations are high, these types of tracks have been fun for me. They have been good for us as a team too. We are in a good place, we just going to see where we shake out here in that 15–20-minute practice session and go from there.”
WITH A LOT OF OTHER SPORTS IN PLAYOFFS RIGHT NOW AND SEEING SOME GAME SEVEN
SITUATIONS COMING UP, WHAT’S THE MOST PRESSURE THAT YOU’VE FELT RACING IN A CAR? I DON’T KNOW IF IT’S YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP RACES, OR IF IT IS SOMETHING EARLIER IN YOUR CAREER WHERE YOU KIND OF WONDERED HOW MUCH FURTHER YOU WERE GOING TO GET IN RACING.
“In regards to game seven type moments, getting to the final race and battling for a championship or those final restarts of a race kind of like what we had at the end of Darlington, I feel like those moments are almost the most calm and I guess easy to approach mentally and go do for me. It’s more of those maybe game five, game one, game two moments where I feel that real pressure of we really got to get up and go at it. By the time we get to the end of the race, the end of the season, like in the Xfinity championship runs by the time we got to Homestead it was just about getting there. We had the confidence, both teams, if we just got there we would be fine. That’s just a product of having a lot of great people around and all believing in one another. Everyone having the same goal, dream. Those moments for me, having been very stressful, they’ve almost been moments that I look very forward to and I have a lot of fun doing.”
DOES THAT SURPRISE YOU?
“That it is those earlier ones? Yeah, I don’t know. Even this year, you know in that first round of the playoffs, well last year, the first race was the most stressful. The second one didn’t go very well either, but it was more annoying than anything. By the time we got to Bristol all of the pressure really seemed to be off. We had one task and that was to try to go out there and win and run up front. It made it pretty easy, when you have so much in front of you still and those playoffs start in each round. That first race is just stressful because there’s so many unknowns. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Something could derail your comfortable point cushion you have, so I feel like those moments when there’s a lot of uncertainty after multiples races after those for me are where more of the stress comes from. By the time we get to that final objective it’s pretty straightforward.”
OBVIOUSLY, YOU ARE KNOWN FOR RUNNING THE TOP LINE AT A LOT OF TRACKS. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO RUN HERE AND WHAT WAS IT LIKE IN THE TEST AND HOW DIFFERENT WAS IT WITH THIS CAR?
“I think as we’ve gone down this path of learning about what this car can take, I actually feel like more now than before it’s even more important to not hit the wall. I mean, the steel body if you hit it with the 550 package it was a pretty big detriment. You would lose some downforce, some side force, but you could run the rest of the race. It wouldn’t end your day if you were able to get to pit road soon enough or didn’t hit it that hard. With this car, you don’t have to worry about the body in a lot of aspects of what happens on the racetrack. It’s the suspension underneath it and just if we put a lot of load on these toe links to begin with going through the corner so it doesn’t take a lot to cause them to bend or begin to fail. Some things have to bend right? If the toe link doesn’t bend and something else bends, then it’s better the toe link than something else. If you do bend it, you have that option to come to pit road and maybe lose a lap. If you’re lucky you’ll only lose a lap fixing it, replacing it. I think the risk versus reward is even higher now with the way this car is. I think that’s a good thing. I like that, because more times than not I can run up there and not hit the wall. So, it may seem like I am up there a lot, but I am not making a lot of the huge mistakes and knocking it down that often. It’s a comfortable place for me to be.”
NOT COUNTING ATLANTA, I THINK THIS IS ONLY THE SECOND NORMAL MILE AND A HALF TRACK WE’VE HIT THIS YEAR. YOU HAVE KANSAS THIS WEEK, TEXAS FOR THE ALL-STAR RACE NEXT WEEK AND THEN THE COKE 600. GIVEN THAT WE HAVE FOUR MILE AND A HALF RACES IN THE PLAYOFFS, HOW MUCH EXTRA IMPORTANCE DO YOU GUYS PLACE ON THESE NEXT THREE WEEKS?
“These next three weeks for a lot of reasons are extremely important. They kind of let you know what gains you have made from the west coast swing. Fontana in a lot of ways is a two-mile track, but it races a lot like a mile and a half with the speeds you carry through the corners. Seeing where we’re at and where everyone else has made gains or losses from that west coast swing to now and in this stretch is really important. We have a lot of races in the playoffs with these types of racetracks. It’s important to be good here. There was a time, certainly, where we would put importance on one track over the other and for us as we’ve needed to get better it’s been more about being consistent week in and week out. Not really picking favorites and not having tracks that we don’t look forward to going to, but certainly it’s easy to get motived and easy to get excited coming to a place like this. We do, generally, have a lot of fun racing on them.”