What’s the challenge of 500 miles at Darlington as opposed to other racetracks, and even the 400-mile race there?
“The challenge is that it’s a long race, a lot of pit stops and a lot of chances for things to go wrong. Track position is obviously really important. To go through 13 sets of tires or whatever it is, and track position, what it means there and to keep track position, it’s tough to stay up front and be consistently really strong. It’s tough to do there, and we hope we can do that on Sunday night with our Bass Pro Shops Camry TRD.”
How do you think the first round of the playoffs set up for you and your team?
“Obviously a high amount of confidence in Darlington, and Kansas, as well. Bristol has never been my greatest place. It’s been a bit of a challenge, but I feel we are competitive there so we aren’t going to knock ourselves out of the first round there. But you never know what can happen. Bonus points are going to be huge, and hopefully we can just be consistent and execute with what we are capable of. We should be able to go to the third race at Bristol and be in decent shape.”
What is it about Darlington that seems to lean toward the veteran drivers?
“I think it’s both driver and team, it’s a combination. You look at Kevin (Harvick) and Rodney (Childers), they’ve been together a long time. You look at myself, James (Small, crew chief), and Jazzy (Jeff Curtis, race engineer) – we’ve been together and working on things together for a long time, so it’s just part of it. It’s such a tough track and history plays a part in that, and having the confidence in how to drive the place and understand how to drive it with how they set the cars up. It’s just a combination of things that experience plays into. With that being said, this car is a lot different than it used to be and my team has just done a good job of giving me good cars there, and I always have enjoyed that place, it’s fun for me.”
Does it take a driver a long time to get used to how to drive Darlington and get used to its nuances?
“I think it just suits some guys, and others it doesn’t. For me, I feel like it’s about how I like to drive my car and the feel I need for the long run. It’s always going back to for as long as I remember, because I don’t really know what I do differently than everyone else, and I don’t know if my team does, either. It’s just the way that it happens. Even with all the technology today, sometimes you just can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that makes us good there. You can see the SMT and see exactly what a driver is doing, but there’s more to connecting that feel and those inputs than you can imagine. It just suits me, and I really enjoy it. Looking forward to this weekend with our Bass Pro Shops Camry.”
Some drivers say they love Darlington and others say they just can’t get a grasp on it. Is it just tires or much more to be good at Darlington?
“It’s very unique, I love it. It’s really hard on tires and hard to get your car working good. For me, I’ve had a lot of really good runs there and have won a bunch of races and have been really strong in the last four years, so I really enjoy it. I’ve had bad cars there years ago and I can see how that could be just miserable if you don’t have a good car. Fun track and a place I really like.”
How technical of a track is Darlington?
“It’s definitely really technical. It’s a track that is really fast but the two ends of the track are completely different, which makes the crew chiefs scratch their heads. It’s hard to get your car working right on both ends, so you have to compromise. It’s never going to be perfect. It’s never going to be comfortable, but you’ve got to figure out a way to be comfortable with it and that’s what I love about Darlington. You are on the ragged edge so much and the tires wear off the car so bad on the long run that you are just on ice. You are sliding and trying to keep the right rear from dragging against the wall, and you are just sliding everywhere. I just think it’s so much fun. It’s been a great track for me, I think just because I like it so much. Hoping we can have a great run there this weekend with our Bass Pro Shops Camry and pick up where we left off the last two races there with having such a strong car both times.”