This will be your 36th Cup Series start at Martinsville. What has made you so good there, especially during your time at Joe Gibbs Racing?
“Martinsville for a long time in my career was a really tough place to figure out. We eventually hit on some things and it’s been pretty good for a while. Then we went to the NextGen car last year and it was a struggle for us. I’m really optimistic going into this weekend because we ran third there in the spring. Martinsville looks so easy, it’s just a small, little half-mile track, but it’s so tricky with the concrete in the corners and, every time you go there, it’s different. It doesn’t make sense because the track is the same, but it does make it different depending on the temperature and the tire and everything that’s going on with these cars. Running third there in the spring, I think we learned a lot we can use going forward and, hopefully, we can find some of that old magic we had there a few years ago again this weekend with our Auto-Owners Insurance Camry.”
Seems like there’s a lot of emotion from drivers who win at Martinsville. Why is that?
“I think it’s because it’s difficult and it’s been a staple in our sport for so long. Really, the track has remained unchanged and we’ve been through years of different cars and so many different things. And it’s always put on a great race and it’s always been difficult to win there, that’s why it’s such a big deal. There’s always a potential for beating and banging there and for tempers flaring. We’ve been in the middle of that before, as well.”
What are the challenges of racing at Martinsville as far as navigating it lap to lap?
“The biggest thing is just the beating and banging that happens there and getting knocked out of the way, which there seems to be a bit less of that so far with this car. For me, I’ve really only had one issue there, which was getting taken out of the race at the end in 2018. It gets like that at Martinsville, it’s just a tough track. When it comes down to a few laps to go, you can go down there and blow the corner and run into somebody and get the spot. That’s where the frustration comes from there, from a lot of drivers (doing that) over the years.”
Will this weekend at Martinsville be more aggressive than normal?
“I doubt it. I think it’s going to be as aggressive as it’s been with this car. You can only beat and bang with this car so much, and then you can’t get to someone’s bumper to get them out of the way. Just the way it is.”