Do you need to be lucky to be good at Talladega?
“With the way that superspeedway racing has evolved, especially with this particular car, you have to be aggressive because track position is so important. If you’re going to win the race, you need to maintain your track position all day. You can make up ground, but it’s definitely more difficult than it has been. All those pieces you can probably control, but the luck part is definitely a part of the equation. You have to be able to get lucky, miss some of the wrecks, and be in the right place at the right time to not get gathered up in the mess, because there are going to be some wrecks, there are going to be some situations, you’re going to have to be aggressive, you’re going to have to push, you’re going to have to shove, you’re going to have to do all of those things. You’re going to have to block in order to have a chance to keep yourself up front. But in the end, you’re going to have to have some luck.”
What’s a playoff race like at Talladega?
“It’s a lot like the regular-season finale at Daytona. You have a lot of different agendas. You have guys who really know that it’s their only opportunity to win. You have guys who know there’s going to be carnage and run at the back. There are guys who need stage points and try to run at the front. It’s a race of agendas and, as you look at that, it creates a lot of different aggression levels. But usually at that part of the season, there are people who just want to win and know that it’s one of those opportunities, and there’s a lot of pushing and shoving and wrecks. It’s usually how that works out, so survival is obviously the key, but you have to balance that with trying to score some sort of stage points and putting yourself toward the front for the first two stages.”
What are your expectations when it comes to racing Talladega?
“It’s one of those places where you want to race up front and race hard all day because you have to try to win stages. I believe you have better odds at the front of the pack when it comes to staying out of a wreck if you can keep that track position all day. You’re going to race in a pack – three-wide at times – and you’re going to get pushed and have to push at times. You just never know what’s going to happen because Talladega is its own animal. It’s hard to finish a race there. As we’ve seen over the past however many years, you try to put yourself in the right position and hope you have a little bit of luck on your side that particular day. I know our Busch Light Ford Mustang will be fast enough to contend for the win, but you just have to get to the finish.”
There are some physically demanding races on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Is Talladega mentally demanding?
“Superspeedway racing, in general, is just a mentally demanding situation because of the constant looking in the mirror and looking around and trying to keep the car going as fast as it can go and being aggressive and pushing and shoving and doing all the things it takes. There’s just a lot that you have to process from a mental standpoint.”
Describe the intensity of racing at Talladega.
“You have to be aggressive just for the fact that if you’re not aggressive, it always seems like you’re not going to be where you need to be. Nine times out of 10, the aggressor is going to be the guy who comes out on the good side of things just for the fact that you’re making things happen and you’re not waiting for something else to happen. When you wait for something else to happen, that’s usually when you get in trouble because it’s usually someone else’s mess. You can still get in trouble if you’re aggressive, but with the way things are, it’s best to stay aggressive and try to stay up front.”