IS THERE ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE OR DO YOU GUYS HAVE TO TAKE THINGS INTO YOUR OWN HANDS? OR IS THAT JUST RACING WITH FOUR OR FIVES RACES LEFT TO GO BEFORE THE PLAYOFFS?
“I think it’s a little bit of just the way road courses have trended, it’s difficult to pass. If you get a late caution, with these cars, funneling down into a two-wide corner with six lanes on a straightaway is definitely a recipe for carnage. So it’s just the nature of kind of the way that braking zone is there. Our cars take so long to brake, number one. So under green, we’re braking at 700 I would say; and on a restart there, we’re braking at maybe the 400 or the 500.. still a lot of time to position yourself left or right. It’s just the nature of a late caution on a road course and that’s what it breeds, typically, with a wide braking zone like that. If you don’t do it, somebody is going to do it to you. You don’t want to get spun out, so you end up driving in deeper than you want to because of the guy behind you.”
HAVE YOU GOTTEN INTO PLAYOFF MODE YET? IF YOU HAVE, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU GUYS REALLY HAVE TO WORK ON?
“Yeah, I don’t try to get into any sort of mode. I just try to race. We try, at times, to simulate what a playoff race would be like or things like that, but it never seems to work too good. Just try to go out there and race. We’re going to try our best when the playoffs start and we’re trying our best this weekend. Hopefully this weekend goes as we want it to. The only thing right now represents are the strengths or weaknesses at certain tracks. I feel like we’ve gotten the road courses pretty good. We were a top-three or four car last weekend. Now, it’s just focusing on the 1.5-mile and 2-mile tracks.. how good are we at those at this point of the season. And next week with the short track at Richmond, it will kind of represent a Phoenix-type track.”
IT’S BEEN FIVE YEARS SINCE A CHEVROLET CAR WON THE CUP RACE HERE AT MICHIGAN. OUTSIDE OF GETTING THREE CHEVY’S IN THE TOP-FIVE LAST YEAR, IT’S BEEN REALLY HARD FOR YOU GUYS TO FINISH UP FRONT. WHAT HAS CHEVROLET BEEN MISSING AT MICHIGAN THE LAST FEW YEARS?
“I think we had the speed last year. Gosh, we had them covered.. not only us on the No. 24, but the No. 1 car with Kurt (Busch) and the No. 5 with Kyle (Larson). So it was the three of us that were top-three at the end, I think, to a certain extent. I think Denny (Hamlin) was pretty fast, too. Just got kind of jumbled up there at the end with a late restart. We had lane choice and whoever got push or the shove out to the lead was going to be able to control the race.
So it just didn’t quite go our way, but I thought we had a really good car. I don’t know what to expect this year, but all the Chevy’s have been fast at the other high-speed tracks.”
YOU’VE LED SOME LAPS IN THIS RECENT STRETCH, BUT THE TOP-10S HAVEN’T BEEN THERE. WHAT IS THE CONCERN? IS IT AS MUCH WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE RACE, OR IS QUALIFYING AND NOT BEING IN THE TOP-10 AS OFTEN AND PUTTING YOURSELF IN A GOOD POSITION TO START OFF WITH?
“I would be really concerned if we didn’t have the speed that we’ve had the last few weeks. New Hampshire was a good Saturday for us; first in practice and qualified pretty good. We just made some incorrect adjustments overnight and just kind of put ourselves out of position there.
But then the last two weeks – yeah Saturday’s haven’t been good, but Sunday at Pocono was really good. We were running fourth; had a pit road issue, had a tire get away and there was a penalty. Last week, probably could have handled the restart maybe a little different, but just unfortunately got caught up in a spin there and knocked the toe link out.
I would be concerned if the last two weeks hadn’t been what it is. But both incidents the last two weeks, we were in the top-five when we’ve had issues. I think we just have to continue that.”
JUSTIN HALEY WAS MENTIONING THAT YOU HAD TEXTED HIM FOR THE CONTACT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE AT INDIANAPOLIS. HE SAID WELL IT’S NOT HIS FAULT.. HE GOT HIT FROM FIVE CARS BEHIND. WHY DID YOU NEED TO SEND HIM A NOTE LIKE THAT BECAUSE OF THE CHAOS THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE RACE, BUT OBVIOUSLY WHAT HAPPENED AT THE START?
“It was just early in the race. I was starting way back, so I probably could have used a little bit of judgment there. Plus, Justin (Haley) is a good friend. We train together, so I think that’s part of it, too. I admire him and appreciate him as a person and a driver, so I wanted to reach out. He’s somebody that I like in the garage. That’s that deal.
But as far as the restarts go, like I talked about with Bob (Pockrass), it was kind of just hit or be hit.. kind of demo go-karts out there. I’ve been in a lot of races like that at GoPro. If you lift for somebody, then somebody runs over you from behind.”
USUALLY WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT A ROAD COURSE RACE THE WEEK AFTER, YOU THINK ABOUT PUTTING MONEY INTO REPAIRING CARS. I’M CURIOUS ABOUT THE HAULER SITUATION FROM LAST WEEK. WAS THAT SOMETHING THAT RICK HENDRICK WAS ABLE TO GET REPAIRED OR DID THEY HAVE TO GO WITH A WHOLE NEW HAULER FOR YOU?
“Yeah, so we have the test hauler we typically use. We’ve been to Watkins Glen with this hauler and a few different tests this year. We will use that for at least the time being; put a design on it, make it look nice and things like that. A little bit different rhythm for the guys I’m sure to kind of know where everything is, but for me it’s the same, really. I don’t use the hauler much. Most of my work is outside the hauler.”
SPEAKING OF SIM RACING, HOW WELL DO YOU THINK THAT IRACING OVERALL HAS BEEN ABLE TO INTEGRATE PARTICULARLY THIS TRACK, AS WELL AS THE NEXT GEN CAR? HOW COMFORTABLE DO YOU FEEL FROM GETTING EXPERIENCE FROM THAT AND CARRYING IT OVER TO REAL ON-TRACK RACING?
“Yeah, I know they’re working super hard on those things. I get on there every couple of months when I’m home; see where it is, see what’s different and what’s new. They’re always working on how realistic the tracks are and how realistic the tires are. The tire is the biggest factor in everything. Obviously we change the tire all of the time based on the track and it’s a lot to keep up with. I feel like they do a good job with all of that stuff. I really just enjoy the community on there, as well.”
YOU’RE SIGNED UP TO RUN THE LATE MODEL AT BERLIN ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT. YOU WON THERE EARLIER THIS SEASON AND YOU’VE BEEN DOING GREAT IN THE LATE MODEL. HOW DOES THAT HELP YOU ON SUNDAY? DOES IT HELP YOU ON SUNDAY?
“Yeah, it certainly helps me on Sunday I feel like. Number one, just enjoying racing. But the more racing I can do, the better I feel like I get as a driver.. how much better my feedback is and all those things. It gives confidence.
I raced the late model last week. Unfortunately didn’t win that one, but it was still a fun race with Erik (Jones). That was a good race track. IRP is awesome. We saw it in the truck race, it was really exciting. I enjoyed that and I’m excited for Berlin.
Berlin was a really hard track the first time I went there a couple months ago. I’m sure it will take something a little different this time with a little bit hotter temperatures and things like that. I’m looking forward to it.”
IN YOUR PREPARTION FOR THIS WEEKEND’S RACE, HOW MUCH OF WHAT YOU LEARNED AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY WITH THIS CAR DO YOU THINK WILL APPLY TO THIS WEEKEND AT MICHIGAN?
“I don’t know – I don’t think Auto Club is very similar now with the age of that surface compared to this one. I think just the speed is probably the biggest thing that’s similar, but there’s a lot more throttle time here.. a lot faster speeds. I don’t see a ton that will be transferable between the two, other than just the downforce, speed and grip are going to be your biggest factors in success.”
WHAT KIND OF RACE ARE WE GOING TO SEE TOMORROW? IS IT GOING TO BE STRESSFUL, NOT STRESSFUL?
“It’s always stressful this year. I don’t think I ever wake up before a race and know what to expect. Last week, I thought I was going to run 25th. The race started and I was up into like the top-five. So you really just roll the dice and just hope that everything works out in your favor. But there’s really not a lot of consistency, as we’ve seen, with performances. There’s not a lot to lean on, in terms of what to expect. Especially coming here for the first time, I don’t know. I hope we’re fast and hope it’s less chaotic at the front.”