Transcript: Media Conference – James Small – Sonoma Raceway

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by crew chief James Small.

We’ll open it up for questions.

JOE GIBBS: Remember, James, it was all owner (smiling).

Q. Truex has been on the fence about retirement the last few years. Does running well kind of solve all ills or cure all ills? He seems so reinvigorated this year, Martin of old.

JAMES SMALL: Yeah, definitely running well definitely doesn’t hurt. He plays his cards pretty close to his chest, so who knows what the hell he’s thinking (smiling).

Definitely all pointing in the right direction if he wants to stick around.

Q. What is the difference between last year and this year?

JAMES SMALL: We make less mistakes. Nothing. We never changed our process. We never stopped believing. It’s just we’re executing.

To win a race, you have to be perfect, you have to execute. So many times last year we were so close, just things would go wrong, things like that.

To be fair, we’re doing a better job now as a team on pit road with the cars, everything. The guys back in the shop have been working really hard.

The way we ran here last year, we were terrible. It was embarrassing. You come to Sonoma with Martin Truex and you expect to win. Thankfully today we gave him a car and he was able to do that.

Q. With as bad as Toyota as a whole was last year, what have you noticed at JGR for your road course program this year to produce results?

JAMES SMALL: Just I think some of the changes with the aero package helped us. It fixed what potentially we thought were some of our weaknesses. We have a better understanding of the car on road courses now and what we need.

We were having to do things last year that were so out of the box to try and make the car do things in certain areas that we thought it needed to do. Now everything just makes more sense. We don’t seem so stupid any more.

Yeah, it’s nice from our end that we can go back to using logic.

Q. It seems with the trans-axle, these cars made for road courses, guys are making less mistakes. Knowing you had the dominant car, were you feeling more confident or hopeful that the race would just play out without any or many cautions?

JAMES SMALL: Yes, that was my hope. I said this morning, I just hope this race goes green because we’ll kill ’em.

We had those two cautions at not great times. Obviously trying to get stage points there at the end of the second stage, then at the end. Thankfully it all kind of worked out.

Even when you look back last year, there was a caution for an engine blowup and a wheel that fell off. We weren’t expecting many. We didn’t really get that many.

Q. Top seven in points, within 32. A lot of movement, 10 races left. As you talk about execution, what are these next 10 races going to be like for you and everybody else?

JAMES SMALL: Yeah, it’s just trying to make the most out of every day with the car you have. If you have a fifth-place car, you have to run fifth or better and try to score as many points as possible.

There’s a huge amount of Playoff points for first in points. That’s something I’m sure everybody’s got their eye on. But we’re working towards trying to achieve that.

Q. How much work have you done on Chicago?

JAMES SMALL: It’s starting to come up now. In all things that we live in simulation world, we’re waiting on track scans and things like that. Yeah, we’ll get to work on that this week. That’s going to be an interesting race, that’s for sure.

Q. You get the win the week before the off week, the only off week of the season, does that mean you get to celebrate an extra week or right back to work?

JAMES SMALL: I guess so. You’re only as good as your last weekend. We get to save it up for two. We’re not complaining.

Q. Do you have plans for the off week?

JAMES SMALL: I’ll go into work tomorrow and make sure I go and thank everyone at the company one by one. Yeah, I’m going to Colorado for a few days, so… Chill out for a week.

Q. Michael McDowell said with the Next Gen car, it’s to the point where the competition level is so even. How much confidence and how much does it make your job easier having Martin as your driver, especially at tracks like this?

JAMES SMALL: Yeah, definitely helps. He just knows every little single in and out, bump, curb, where you need to be everywhere on this track. He’s obvious got the most wins here, led the most laps.

It definitely makes my job easier working with him here, that’s for sure.

Q. On the caution at 51, what did it mean for Martin to get up there? What did you see out of what he was able to do?

JAMES SMALL: With this car, it’s so easy to do. When you get damage with it, it just kind of turns to shit.

He was methodical about how he got through there. By doing so, he also didn’t use up his tires too much so we could chase down Kyle.

All the restarts, that one and the end one, he just kept his head and was really smart.

THE MODERATOR: James, thank you for your time.