What was your greatest race?
“I think the single best race has to be Homestead of 2014, just with the way everything went and the great call and the race at the end and everything that happened with coming to Stewart-Haas Racing that first year. All the adversity that we had at the beginning of the year, how fast the cars were, and then putting it all together in one day to win the championship, I think that single race is probably the one that I would circle just because of everything that happened and everything that it summarized and wound up, ultimately, with a championship at the end.”
Talk about that day, and the nerves and the preparation.
“If I could just show up and run the race and hang out with my team and do all the things that I want to do, it would’ve been fantastic. From the time I got off the driver intro stage and got in the car, once I got in the car it was fine. But the rest of it, I had to talk to myself throughout the day because it’s all stuff that you’d rather not do but you really have no choice, so you try to check the box and get to the point of actually doing what you actually like to do which, of course, is driving the car. From that standpoint, I knew what I was getting into. Tony (Stewart) kind of sat me down after we won Phoenix – actually he sat DeLana down – and said, ‘This is what he needs to do. This is what needs to happen this week. This is how it’s going to go. He’s going to be miserable all the way up until he gets into the racecar because he’s going to have to do stuff all week that he doesn’t want to do, so you just have to know that you’re getting into that and manage it.’ I just checked all the boxes and got in the car and it all worked out.”
What was the vibe like at Homestead back when it was the championship finale?
“I think a lot of that is, ‘Alright, this is the last one, finally we get to take a break.’ You know, it’s been a long year when you would get to that point and I think, as you go to Homestead now, it’s not in that same position, but it’s still a really meaningful race to be successful at.”
What are your expectations now when you race at Homestead?
“You better run the wall. That’s just going to be part of it. It’s the best way around Homestead. But I think as you look at this car, it’s a little more durable than what we’ve had with the old car as far as rubbing the wall and things like that, so you can be a little bit more aggressive with putting the car where it needs to be on the racetrack – at least I can in my thought process. I’m sure I’ll do something that won’t be right, but I think you have to be comfortable running up there.”
A lot of drivers call Homestead their favorite track. They like its layout, its banking and what they’re able to do with their racecar through the track’s corners. Are you one of those drivers who is pro-Homestead?
“I am. Homestead is a great racetrack because it’s just so different than all the other mile-and-a-half racetracks that we go to. It’s just got unique entries and exits to the corners that were designed for the flat track that it started as. The way that the asphalt has aged, the fast line for our Busch Light Ford Mustang is going to be right up against the wall, and to be able to carry that momentum through the corners as the tires wear out.”
Is it good to have Homestead a part of the playoffs, as it’s a unique track that helps diversify the playoffs?
“There are just certain tracks that have to be in the playoffs every year, maybe not in the same spot, and certain tracks that are good to host that championship race, and I think Homestead is one of those because it’s so different and so unique. It definitely needs to be in the playoffs and definitely needs to be in the conversation of racetracks that can host the championship race. It’s a great market for us, and who doesn’t like going to South Florida when it’s not way too hot. For me, I enjoy that and it’s definitely worthy of being in the playoffs.”
Can success at other intermediate tracks translate to Homestead, or is Homestead a track of its own?
“I think it’s its own thing. You have to have different things in your car to keep the tires on it, and you have to run in a different spot on the racetrack in order to make good lap times. So, it’s definitely a place that’s a little bit different than most.”