Transcript: Crew Chiefs Cliff Daniels and Jonathan Hassler – Press Conference – Phoenix Raceway

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined Cliff Daniels with the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Kyle Larson.

Cliff, if you could take us through quickly how you felt after today’s session.

CLIFF DANIELS: We had to work on our car a little bit. Hard to tell being in practice. I don’t know exactly what happened. I want to say from probably hitting the apron our diffuser fell down the first run, so the car was super unhooked the first run. Kind of spooked us, so we had to sit there and look things over and check it all out.

Then for the second run and beyond, we kind of had a normal race car. From what I could tell, everybody’s fighting. Rear grip on entry really both ends. Heard a lot of guys talking about that. Same is the case for us.

Certainly the track conditions are a bit different today than what we’ll see on Sunday. It’s going to be really hard for any of us to predict exactly how to pinpoint what that needs to be for our cars. We’ll keep working on it and give it our best shot for Sunday.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Did Kyle actually touch the wall, or did he just get close on that one run?

CLIFF DANIELS: We have a small paint mark, which I think happened on the straightaway. Didn’t even happen like going off a corner. That’s no big deal, thankfully.

Q. (No microphone.)

CLIFF DANIELS: I want to say there’s maybe been 10 times this year we’ve revinyled a right rear quarter panel. This is perfect. We will be revinyling our right rear quarter panel tomorrow morning. Right in line where we need to be (smiling).

Q. When you have a driver like Kyle who routinely pushing those limits and tries to find whatever those edges are, when he has the time to do so in a practice like this, are you okay with him finding that edge, or would you rather see him at 99%, not risk having to revinyl the car?

CLIFF DANIELS: I’ve got no problem with him pushing hard again. I genuinely think this happened on the straightaway. This isn’t exactly an overstepping the edge type of situation.

Yeah, he always pushes the car really hard, especially in practice, which is great for us, right? It lets us know what kind of speed he can extract out of it, what kind of adjustments we need to make. Today was certainly the case.

THE MODERATOR: I can also introduce Jonathan Hassler who is here with the No. 12 Penske Ford driven by Ryan Blaney.

Q. It will likely come down to pit stops Sunday. How confident are you both in your crews?

CLIFF DANIELS: Yeah, when you look at the yearly statistics of the Cup field of pit crews, A, it’s incredibly tight, and B, all of our teams right up there. It’s exactly what you want in a championship race, four great teams going for it. I’m sure it will be really, really tight if it does boil down did that.

JONATHAN HASSLER: I have a ton of confidence in our pit crew. Certainly a weakness of ours a year and a half ago. We’ve made some changes and continue to make changes through our company and continue to improve. We got a great crew.

Q. Jonathan, do you see parallels between your performance and what’s going on with the 12 car this year and the 22 last year?

JONATHAN HASSLER: There’s certainly some parallels, for sure. Certainly a lot of differences, as well. If you look at the season on a whole, as a company last year we had a lot more speed. Maybe not the wins, but we had a lot more speed throughout the year. We certainly had to work tooth and nail and grind it out to find speed here late in the year. Some similarities and some differences, as well.

Q. We were watching the times earlier. Ryan kind of dropped back a little bit early on, then went to the front. Where y’all working on a few things? Did you find something out there that would help you in the race?

JONATHAN HASSLER: Yeah, the conditions tonight were quite a bit different than what we’re going to have on Sunday. We really just wanted to focus on making a couple different changes, getting some longer runs in and learning some things about our car. The exact setup that we need tonight isn’t what we’re going to need for Sunday.

Just wanted to take the opportunity to continue to learn about our car.

Q. Can you take any stock in the fact that Ryan ran top two lap averages from lap five all the way to lap 25?

JONATHAN HASSLER: Yeah, I think the stock I’ll take into that is Ryan Blaney gets around Phoenix really, really well. There’s never been a time here that we haven’t had speed, at least short-run speed in our car. I think the challenge for us as a team is to put a car under him that will hang on through a long run.

Q. Jonathan, Ryan said yesterday that Phoenix is a type of track that suits what Team Penske does well, tracks that have different sized or shaped corners. How does that benefit what you guys do? He used Gateway as an example.

JONATHAN HASSLER: Yeah, I think we try to really focus a lot on compromises and trying to find something that works really well in a variety of different kind of conditions. So, like he said, that kind of suits the tracks that have some differences. This is one of them.

It’s really hard in these cars anymore to find pure, raw speed, raw performance. You really have to kind of get down and make the best consolations, I guess.

Q. (No microphone.)

JONATHAN HASSLER: Yeah, I think Ryan just gives us feedback on each and every thing we do. Certainly we take his feedback and try to learn from it and adjust our models and tools to reflect kind of what he’s saying and what we see.

Q. Now that we’re at the end of the season, we have a practice, is practice a good thing? Would you like to see that every weekend or no practice, or it doesn’t really matter?

JONATHAN HASSLER: Yeah, I think for me it doesn’t really matter a whole lot. We’re going to go race on Sunday regardless of the format and the rules. It certainly gives us some opportunities to get some data points. Certainly to have three different sets of tires for a session is something that, like I said, gives us a lot more data points to learn about our car.

At the end of the day, it’s even for everybody, and we’ll play by whatever rules we have.

THE MODERATOR: Jonathan, thanks for joining us. Good luck on Sunday.

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