Wrapping up some thoughts on the All-Star Race, what are your thought about going for the million?
“I’m not sure really. We’ve not run Charlotte yet with this rules package, and there are going to be a few tweaks to it for the All-Star race. I don’t know. It’s really up in the air. It’s always a fun weekend. The All-Star Race always has a great atmosphere, the Saturday night short-track feel. The short little stages are like heat races. It’s usually a lot of fun. You do not have to worry about points. It’s fun all the way up till its not. Last year, we had a lot of fun. We thought we could win it, and then we got caught up in wreck, and our night is over and then your frustrated. It’s exciting and it’s a big night for the sport.”
Coming off the big win in Dover, what would a another win, your second in five days, here in Kansas mean to you?
“It would be awesome. To be able to win here, with this package, would be something good for us. We have not been stellar with it yet. We did run second in Atlanta, and thought we had the best car at the end of the race. That place is a lot different than here, and Vegas, and some of the other places. It would be a big boost for our team to figure this package out. We had a rough day today, but I’m excited about racing here in Kansas. It has been good to us, so hopefully we can get it dialed in and get a few things figured out this afternoon and tonight and have a good run tomorrow.”
Can you talk about the incident in Happy Hour where Larson came across your nose?
“It was one of those moments. A oh-you-know-what moment. I saw him out of the corner of my eye. We were almost, but not quite, side-by-side. He got loose at the top. I’m staying wide open, and I can see him coming down the track. He was coming down this way and I’m staying wide open. He keeps on coming down and coming down. Then I’m like, you need to make a decision here. You either go wide open or try to slow down. At the last moment, I had to step on the brakes because he was coming down there on my right front. Luckily, he got it straight just in time, and I kind of got backed out of there just in time. I think we actually touched, barely. So we got pretty lucky there for sure.”
Can you talk about the balance? Is it really tricky to get it right here?
“The first practice we were bouncing so bad and were so loose that we were making two laps at a time. I was trying to fix it, and make big changes. It definitely has been difficult to hit this package exactly. It is so temperamental. You have to be wide open. The second you lift out of the gas, even a little bit, you lose a ton of time. There is just a fine line there of being good and not being good at all. The bouncing part of it, I think a lot of the field fought this year, even places where you think it is smooth. There are actually some little bumps in turn 1 and for whatever reason with this car this year when you start hitting the splitter, each time the splitter hits the track, it hits harder, harder and harder throughout the corner until you finally get straight. It literally how it is. It has been a big challenge for everybody. Honestly, I think, even at the bumpy tracks, it is probably no less challenging than the smoother tracks.”
What is the balance of the frustration that you feel with the package and your job as a driver?
“We have a job to do; we go out and do it. Like you mentioned, we only hear about it when it is someone who gets really frustrated. I could come in here right now and start complaining because I am very frustrated. We had a bad practice. At the end of the day, it is what it is. We have to deal with it. If it never changes, we really got to deal with it. We have a job to do and I try to focus on that more than anything. We can talk about it behind close doors as a team or drivers together inside of a team. It is what it is. They are not going to change it on my account. I just try to do the best job I can with it.”
Next week is Catwalk with a Cause. Can you talk about what we can expect next week?
“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a big week for us. It’s the 10th anniversary; it’s definitely a big deal. We have a lot of the heroes from years past coming back to be a part of the show. Cole Swindell is coming as an afterparty, Adam Sanders and my buddy, Taylor, is coming to open for him, so we have some good music at the end. But the show is going to be awesome. It sold out already. It’s a special event for us with a lot of great sponsors; Wells Fargo is a presenting sponsor. Toyota is a big part of it as always. Everybody does so much for us and for it; it’s a lot of fun to put it on. I know it is a lot of stress on everybody at the shop and our staff, but just really proud of what we have been able to do over the years and how much money we have been able to raise and the projects that we have going on right now with Novant in Charlotte and Huntersville. There are some big things happening now. We have been able to give away a lot of money, so it has been very special.”
How have you had to change the feedback you give the crew when you are in traffic?
“That’s the challenging part. There are so many approaches and options right now on how you want your car to be. The things you want to work on, how fast you want to be by yourself, how good can you be in traffic without sacrificing too much speed is basically what it boils down to. There is just a lot of different options when it comes to the cars on what you can do, so it is just trying to find that right combination for us has been a little bit tricky. I felt like we have been on both sides of the drag part of it and both sides of the handling part of it and we haven’t quite hit it yet. We are just searching a bit, but it is definitely tricky. Typically, you try to make the cars as fast as you can. That is how we always tried to do. You were always grip limited; when the car handled better it always paid off. Now that is not the case. Sometimes making your car handle better doesn’t pay off. And that’s difficult to get your arms around as a driver. It feels better, but it’s slower. In that mind, it does not make much sense but that is kind of the way it is. It’s a difficult balance.”
It seems like we have hit a part of the schedule that is so good for you. Do you feel like these tracks are good for you or do you hit your stride 10 races in?
“I think it is a little bit of both. I think we are still getting things going, but for sure as racetracks go, they are some of my favorite. We won a lot of races at Charlotte and Sonoma, and always have been places that I have been good at even in years that we were not the fastest. So yeah, a good stretch of tracks, no question. A good part of the season for our team; especially this season right now.”
Are pit crews more important than they ever were?
“No question. Pit stops, pit crews, time on pit road is more precious now than ever. You also have to look that cars are closer than they have ever been and that adds to that equation. There’s a lot of pressure on those guys every weekend.”
How do you feel your team is trending right now?
“I feel pretty good about where we are at. We are still trying to figure out this drafting package, not only for our team in general, but for me. It is so different from what I am used to. I am trying to figure out how I can adapt my style and get better at it. Drafting and superspeedways have never been my forte, and you have to add a little bit of that superspeedway element to these mile-and-a-halfs, which have always been pretty good to me. I am still trying to figure that out, but as far as everything is concerned and what we have been doing lately, everything is really good. Hopefully we can continue to improve week-by-week.”
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