2018 Media Tour - Chevy Notes - Wednesday
(CHARLOTTE, NC - JAN 24, 2018 - RIS) Here are the Chevy driver quotes from this year's NASCAR Media Tour:
AJ ALLMENDINGER, NO. 47 KROGER CAMARO ZL1 met with members of the media at the Charlotte Media Tour and discussed his outlook for 2018, having a teammate in Chris Buescher, running the Rolex 24, and more. Full Transcript:
(NO MICROPHONE) QUESTION REGARDING BUBBA WALLACE "If those four or five races that Bubba ran last year are any sign of what he's going to do, I think he's going to be really strong. Obviously they're making a switch to Chevrolet and the RCR alliance but I felt like Bubba probably exceeded a lot of people's expectations. He was smart on the race track. He finished every lap. He ran strong. In Kentucky he was really fast. I don't see, with more races, why that's going to be different."
WHAT AREAS DO YOU WANT TO IMPROVE THIS YEAR? "We got behind on the aero side of it last year and it was hard to catch up. But that's what Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) and (crew chief) Ernie Cope have really focused on is to go out there and just give us everything that we need. The Hendrick Motorsports alliance, for sure, is going to be a huge help in the sim-side (simulated) of it with what they're doing. We've been to the wind tunnel a lot this off-season, which is way more than we ever have. With what Kroger has done to step-up for our whole organization for myself and Chris (Buescher ). We've got a lot of great partners but to have Kroger on every race; I might be wrong, but I might be the only team that has that, right? The point being, they've been huge to kind of unite us as one team right now and make both of our race cars a lot faster. You want to be cautiously optimistic with what everything that's been done in the off-season, I think we're going to be a lot stronger."
(NO MICROPHONE) QUESTION REGARDING THE CHARLOTTE ROAD COURSE "The roval is going to be definitely a unique challenge. I'm looking forward to it. It's different. I think the infield is going to be slick. We're going to be beating and banging on each other. The oval side of it, with the chicane, will be interesting to see how that plays out. But, more than anything, at least it's something different for the playoffs and I think that's something that NASCAR needed and it's going to be a challenge. It's going to be a lot of fun. And we're going to be there racing anyway, so hopefully we're just a part of the playoffs doing it.
"I did the first test and they didn't have any of the chicanes there. I saw that they moved (turns) 7 and 8, so I think there's another test in July. When we get there, we'll worry about it."
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO GETTING USED TO HAVING A TEAMMATE AGAIN? HAS IT REALLY ADDED SOMETHING? "Yeah, I think it was added so late, the second car, so I don't know if that put us behind, but it was definitely tough to start the season. I couldn't have asked for a better teammate with Chris. He's got so much talent. I've learned a lot from him. But more importantly, he was just easy to work with. And we are able to bounce ideas off each other and feed info to figure out where we needed to get better. Having a full year under our belt, I think that's something that's going to allow us to really make both of these teams work together and be one big team and go out there. You always want to be faster than your teammate, for sure. But where we were running last year was not that good for either of us. So, that's the great thing about just working with him that there's no secrets. There's no nothing. We can just keep talking and as the season went on, I really built a great relationship with him. Like I said, I couldn't ask for a better teammate to have to go out there and make it stronger."
(NO MICROPHONE) QUESTION REGARDING THE ROLEX 24 "We're leaving for Rolex right after this. It's going to be different. I've always run the Prototype class and Shank's (Michael Shank Racing) first year last year with the GTD class and the Acura NSX's. They've really built a lot of speed. They won two races last year so the car's got a lot of speed in it. But it's a different way of racing, you know? Being a Prototype, you're the aggressor. You're the one making the moves. With the GT cars there's a challenge to allowing cars to get around you and not losing a lot of time and that's where the best GT drivers are so good at it. I got only about 30 laps probably at the Roar. ABS (system) brakes is way different than anything I've ever driven. It took me a while to learn. And I can't say I've really got a full understanding of it yet but I love that race. I love working with Mike Shank and that whole team. It's a little bit like ours you know. I hadn't seen them guys in two years and there's a lot of different people there, kind of like our race team now. Anytime you can go run well and possibly win the race, it's just a big confidence boost going into Speedweeks."
"At some point, I'm sure I'm going to have to give this up. I would love to. I love what IMSA is doing. There's going to be 20 brand new Prototypes, there's 21 or 22 cars in the Prototype class, which is bigger than any other Prototype class in the world. The GT class and our class, there's 21 or 22 cars as well. It's such a competitive field; I think the top 15 at the test were separated by 7 or 8 tenths. What they're doing is great. There's so many different manufacturers in there now. And I would love to do it, for sure."
AT THE FINAL FOUR MEDIA DAY LAST YEAR, TWO OF THE FOUR DRIVERS DESCRIBED THE SEASON AS LONG. WITH YOUR BACKGROUND, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE LENGTH OF THE NASCAR SEASON? "Oh, it's long. Don't you think it's long, too? You guys (media) have to do this with us every weekend. I came from a schedule that only had 15 races, which was too short. I think there's a happy medium in there somewhere. We also know that there's a lot that goes into just saying oh, we're taking away races or we're doing this. So, it is what it is. I can't control it. The summer months are for sure a stretch. You've got to really grind through that. But it's part of it. I have no say in the schedule, so you just deal with it."
(NO MICROPHONE) QUESTION ABOUT SCOTT PRUETT'S RETIREMENT "What Scott Pruett has done for the sport of just auto racing, not NASCAR or IMSA or anything like that; it's what he's done in general for the world of racing has been pretty special. He's done it all. He's raced everything (including) IndyCar, he's run sports cars, he's run NASCAR, and he's been fast in everything that he's done. More importantly, he's always been such a great promoter of the sport and great to go talk to if you needed to ask questions. A hard competitor. To see him go out on his own terms and to go our with the biggest race in their sport, I think we'd all like to be able to do that."
YOU'VE BEEN AROUND FEMALE DRIVERS. WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN FOR A WOMAN DRIVER TO REALLY SUCCEED IN NASCAR? CAN WE GET TO THAT POINT SOMETIME SOON? "It's a challenge for everybody, though. You look at where we're at right now; it's hard for young drivers to find sponsorship and things like that. I think that's really what it's based off of is funding and going out there and performing when you have the funding and making sure that you're recognized for what it is. But it's hard for me to say that because I'm not in that position. That's a different way to go about it and say oh, I know what it's like. You can't. But it's just a tough thing right now in our sport with sponsorship. You've just got to have that behind you."
HAS DANICA PATRICK CHANGED THE GAME FOR WOMEN MUCH? "I think she did. She brought a lot of new eyes. You look at the races, there are a lot of young girls at the race track only because she was there. I think it helped for young girls to go out and look at what NASCAR racing was all about that a girl could go out there and do it. And so it for sure helped. But, it still needs to come a long way, I'm sure."
HOW CHALLENGING IS IT GOING TO BE FOR DANICA PATRICK AT THE INDY 500 THIS YEAR? "She's so good at the 500. She gets in those things and it comes back naturally."
DO YOU THINK IT'S HARD TO TAKE THAT MANY YEARS OFF AND GET BACK IN ONE OF THOSE CARS AND COMPETE? "It is. But you get enough laps. She gets in a competitive car and she's always been so good around there in an IndyCar, so she'll be fine."
"I'm not going to lie. I saw Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon take a ride and that made me think about it. I've already lost one really close best friend in it. And it's racing. You always know there's a risk out there. But, already losing one friend and then watching that last year I was like, oh, IMSA is looking good (laughter)"
CHRIS BUESCHER, NO. 37 COTTONELLE CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at the Charlotte media tour and discussed his outlook for the season, his success on the dirt and thoughts about road courses.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2018? "I'm going to focus on making the final four at Homestead. If we can win races, compete for wins every week and make the final four at Homestead, that's a win for us. It's the same goal I had going into last year, and really as long as you're competitive and can capitalize on that and win some races, that sets you up for the year. That allows you to – if you win one race you're in the Chase and if you win multiple races you can start building on those points – get to Homestead a lot easier."
HAVE YOU GUYS TALKED ABOUT ANY EXTRACURRICULAR NASCAR STUFF? "With the Xfinity schedule, it's going to be a lot tougher to run as many races as I did last year. Last year I got to race a lot, but I will still be able to race some. I probably won't be making a dirt schedule, just because off-weekend see what's racing where, what rides I could get. I won't make a dirt schedule, but I'll still be able to run some dirt races. Last year, I think I ran 35 to 40 races. I won't do that many. I've already done Chili Bowl, Turkey Night, and will sprinkle in a few more during the year. I don't think I'll be doing any more dirt racing before Daytona. Once the season starts, we go pretty hard till the middle of March, which would be my next opportunity."
DO YOU KNOW HOW BUSY YOUR SCHEDULE IS GOING TO BE THAT YOU COULD RUN TRUCKS? "It's going to be different as the trucks have so many off weeks that you don't get multiple back-to-back weekends like you do in Xfinity. It's going to be a new lifestyle for me, but I'd rather race than sit at home waiting for the next one."
DOES IT SURPRISE YOU THAT PEOPLE SAY YOU'RE THE MAN TO BEAT FOR THE XFINITY CHAMPIONSHIP? "I just have to live up to it now. I have the equipment to do it. I have the crew chief to do it. So I just have to do it. To win a championship, especially with this format, is so hard to do. So you have to be good at Homestead. If you're not good at Homestead you have to write it off, so that's a key part of winning a championship. But to do that you have to win races during the year to put yourself in that position. We have a long road to go before winning a championship. We just need to focus on being competitive No. 1, qualifying good No. 2, and capitalizing on the speed that we should have and try to win races."
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A HOT STREAK CARRYING OVER? DOES THAT GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE? "Racing is a very head game sport, so confidence is really big. Whenever your confidence is up, racing is a lot easier to run good. I've been racing since I was 6 years old and you have these highs and lows, and it seemed like 2015 was a low and 2016 was a high. Unfortunately, at some point it's going to start tapering off, but I'm not going to let that be 2018."
ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED YOU WON'T GET AS MANY OTHER RACES? "I guess for my competitive edge, yes, because I had a competitive advantage when it came to Eldora. But that's not NASCAR racing. Everyone knows going into Eldora that it doesn't relate to anything you'll do going forward and it doesn't relate to anything throughout the rest of the year in the truck series."
WHAT RACES ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO? "I'm looking forward to Darlington and California. Those are two racetracks that I didn't get to go to on the truck schedule. Darlington, you need to run good against the wall, and I feel that's up my alley. California is really rough; they both wear out tires a lot. I'm looking forward to those races a lot."
DID YOU DO ANY XFINITY PLATES RACES LAST YEAR? WHEN YOU GET TO DAYTONA, HOW DO YOU EXPECT THAT TO BE DIFFERENT? "No. Plate racing has never been the one thing I look forward to after my Daytona incident a couple years ago. Just study film, and I have a lot of guys who have done this same path that I have. I'll rely on those guys telling me what I need going into Daytona. I'll learn as much as I can."
DO YOU THINK YOU COULD RUN THE TRUCK RACE AT ELDORA? "I would be really cool if I got the chance to run the truck race at Eldora. Eldora is my favorite racetrack and it's always fun when I get to go back there. Xfinity is not racing that day so there's hope. But I have to find a ride first."
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO IMPROVE? "I struggled at road course racing. I'll be doing a lot of homework because road course racing makes up a good portion of the schedule this year, especially with the Charlotte road course being part of the playoffs."
WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING FROM THE ROVAL? "I think the guys that are good at road courses love it and the guys who are not good at road courses hate it. When they announced they were going to do it I was excited because I thought I was going to be sitting on the couch at home watching it. Then I realized I was going to be driving and I was a lot more nervous. I have to get better at road courses; that's the bottom line for me."
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCES FOR YOU DRIVING THE XFINITY CAR FROM THE TRUCKS? "The biggest thing is just the aerodynamics. The have pretty much the same motor package, the tires are really similar. Everything is really similar until you start going 180 mph. The trucks, because they have so much downforce, you can run almost wide open at most mile and a half tracks. The trucks have so much dirty air, the dirty air effect is much worse than the Xfinity cars. You just have to know my limits with the lower downforce. That's something I didn't get a handle on last year. Just find my limits on how hard I can drive it."
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN TAKE FROM THE OVAL TO THE ROAD COURSE AND ANYTHING YOU CAN GET FROM THE ROAD COURSE THAT CAN HELP ON THE OVAL? "Honestly, for me, I think the road course relates to dirt racing because dirt racing there are so many things you can do to manipulate the car to benefit you throughout the race. Pavement oval racing there are not too many things. If you're fighting tight conditions, you're tight. If you're loose, you're loose. On road courses, if you're tight you can run over a curb and make it a little better and try a different angle into the corner. So there are a lot of things on road course racing to manipulate your car to make it driver better. So that's one thing I like about road course racing. I just have to figure out how to pick up speed on it. Each driver has their own tendencies from the racing style they grew up doing so pavement guys will bring their stuff over and dirt guys will bring their stuff over."
ARE YOU BUMMED THAT YOU'RE NOT RUNNING ANY TRUCK RACES THIS YEAR? "Yeah, I am bummed that I'm not running any truck races this year. Honestly, the thing that disappointed me the most was Eldora. That was something that Rudy really wanted to win. He gave me a truck that I could win in and I spun out. So I was hoping I would get to go back to Eldora with Rudy and maybe get another shovel for myself and get Rudy a shovel. Unfortunately, it's not going to happen. That place kid of kick-started my career in 2015. Rudy has won almost every truck race except Eldora and Martinsville, and Eldora is my strong suit so I was really bummed that I didn't get to win that for him."
KASEY KAHNE has experienced the highs and lows of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing in a career approaching its 15th season.
There weren't many highs – save for a win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year – in the late stages of Kahne's tenure at Hendrick Motorsports, so Kahne looks forward to the fresh opportunity presented to him by his new team, Leavine Family Racing.
Kahne discussed his new role as an underdog on Wednesday at the 36th annual NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway at the Charlotte Convention Center.
"I've had a lot of experience throughout the years, being with different teams and different manufacturers but this year, every single person is new," Kahne said. "It's a fresh start. For me, it's something that I feel like I can contribute to. … My whole mindset is about the relationships and doing things together.
"It's a small group compared to what I've had the last six years and it's a group of people who want to go in the same direction. I feel like if we do that and we work together to make the No. 95 the best car it can be, we'll have some success."
Kahne's crew chief, Travis Mack, left his role as Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car chief at Hendrick to run the pit crew at LFR.
"He works hard," Kahne said of Mack. "He's really into Cup cars and being a crew chief. I think that having a young guy who's super excited and enthusiastic will be good for our team the whole season."
CHRIS BUESCHER, NO. 37 CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at the Charlotte media tour and discussed his outlook for the season, and his relationship with JTG. Full transcript:
DID YOU ENJOY WORKING WITH AJ (ALLMENDINGER)? "I really enjoyed working with AJ. I had a blast last season and getting to know each other with fresh people. I think only two or three of our guys had worked with any of the others before. It was a tough start. Everybody has meshed really well. We have a good team and we've kept almost everybody in the off-season. We're really excited about getting 2018 started with that group and I feel like we don't have to go through the relationship building early on like we did last season. Overall, I think last season went decent. A little bit of a slow start. We had a lot of really good races, but we had a lot in between that was not something to brag about. I think the goal would be to get to a level where we could run what our good weeks were last year, make that our every week."
WAS THE SLOW START BECAUSE YOU GUYS STARTED SO LATE? "The slow start was a lot of being able to … a lot was non-compete stuff. Nobody could really start after Homestead; they had to start January. A lot of that is waiting for everybody to get back from vacations and get started. That was a month behind basically to start out. There's always a period of getting to know each other. Trent being a new crew chief to me was trying to figure out how to adjust through the weekend. There's always a matter of tuning that in, and I think we have a good understanding of that, too. When you put new personnel together, you have to work though things. Until you do that, you won't be able to perform at your full potential. That's out of the way for this season and we feel like some of the other changes that have happened through the off-season will not take near the amount of time to dial in."
DID YOU GET IN THE CAMARO AT TEXAS? "I did not. I'm running the Vegas test next week. I have not been in a car yet but looking forward to it. Everything that we see looks really good. The competitive nature of that Camaro body is very good; way closer to the direction that we need to be in. Excited to have the ZL1 Camaro in the Cup series. It's big to have a muscle car back in the premier series. We'll see how Vegas goes. A little bit of a learning curve there. It's really nice to use a test instead of Atlanta basically. Daytona you're not going to learn a whole lot. We can get this initial stuff out of the way and show up to Atlanta ready to go."
HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE SHOP IN THE OFF-SEASON? "Yeah, I just came from there this morning early. We've been trying to get some of the changes dialed in with just some new chassis components and trying to make sure everything is in place. Honestly, the heavy fab area is really busy getting everything built right now. Up in the finish fab is starting to gear up. It's been a little quiet in half of the shop earlier. It's getting to the point where we're starting to feel the pressure of the 2018 season coming up and everyone is hustling to get a competitive car on the track for JTG this season."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CAMARO? "The Chevrolet body was due for an update. Looking back, the other manufacturers have had full updates or revisions done several years after the last Chevrolet one, so I think this is a complete redesign. A body that looks way closer to what we were competing against last season and at the same time maintains its own identity and carries over much of the characteristics of the actual production Camaro. That was the intention while at the same time making it competitive, and I think they accomplished everything that they set out to do. Now it's a matter of fine-tuning everything. We're starting fresh. Wind tunnel will only tell you so much. Until you get on a racetrack around other cars, we don't know exactly where we need to be working. But we've ballparked everything in as close as we can and we'll fine-tune from there. I think a lot of the wheel force testing and tire testing will be used to build a database for some of the simulation. I'm not sure how much of the wind tunnel data is able to apply to the simulation already or how that will affect the beginning of the season for all the Chevrolet teams. I'm sure there will be a constant learning period throughout the year. We're always going to be learning something."
DOES THE NEW CAR BODY RAISE EXCITEMENT AND EXPECTATIONS FOR THE SEASON? "Absolutely. There was a big release. We had all the Chevy drivers to witness it and look at it for the first time. I feel like the only thing left to do is get it on track and be competitive. Everything we have to go off of and everything we have seen and done to this point in the year says that there are a lot of good things that are going to translate over to more competitive race cars."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO HAVE A TEAMMATE AT THIS POINT IN YOUR CAREER? "Teammates in racing is always something that's very important. It's hard to be a single car with no information to lay out in front of you. I hope AJ feels the same way of going to two cars and having information to pass back and forth and verify some things that you change. It gives you a much more solid direction. It's crucial at this level. You have to have that help."
NASCAR IS SHARING DATA WITH ALL THE TEAMS. YOUR THOUGHTS? "I didn't get to vote on that. I think that's what was so beneficial about having a teammate. For single-car teams and teams that don't have all the telemetry, that's bound to help. We were able to look at a lot of that stuff already and compare between Team Chevrolet drivers or within the team. It will be interesting to see how much will be shared and when and if it will be more of a live data or something after a weekend. They surprise us all the time."
YOUR CAR WILL CHANGE SPONSORS OFTEN THIS YEAR. "We have a ton of returning sponsors along with Kroger stepping up. We will have a lot of our one-to-three race deals covering all over the suit. We're excited about the Kroger Quick List relationship and what we think that will build up and excited to have a lot of our key partners back on board."
AS A CHAMPION OF THE XFINITY SERIES IS IT FRUSTRATING THAT YOU'RE NOT WITH A POWERHOUSE IN THE CUP SERIES? "I feel like we're making really good progress in the off-season with JTG. We've been in a place where we've made our alliance with Hendrick on the simulation and some of the aero development very promising. There's a lot coming that will say we'll get to that point. At times last season we didn't have the performance that we wanted and that's frustrating and where you want to be and when you win races in a different series. At the same time, I had the same idea going from ARCA to Xfinity that we should be run top five and win races right away and that's just not the case. At the top level, there are people that are here and deserve to be all for very good reasons. It's competitive but we feel like we've come a long way through 2017 and the off-season."
YOU'RE SIGNED THROUGH NEXT YEAR? "Yes, so we'll be with JTG for a little while."
DID YOU DO ANYTHING FUN IN THE OFF-SEASON? "No. I had a boring off-season. We've been moving, planning a wedding and that's where it all went. We didn't do a whole lot. We hung around the house a lot trying to get situated. We went on a four-wheeling trip Thanksgiving weekend and that was about the last of it. I've just been working; more through the off-season than during the season. Moving is awful. The wedding planning I don't have to make nearly as many decisions and it is not near the legwork."
ARE YOU GOING TO BE MORE INVOLVED IN THE TEAM NOW THAT YOU'LL BE AROUND FOR A FEW YEARS? "It was open book from the start. I was fully involved the entire year, and I don't feel like that's going to change any. We're going to keep doing whatever we can to be as competitive we can each weekend. It's great knowing that we have some security and things are in place. That gives us a chance to go out and focus on what's important."
ARE YOU CONTENT WITH THE WAY THINGS HAVE GONE WITH JTG? "As things evolve, coming into the Cup series and having a good ride has gotten extremely hard right now and we've lost several very talented race car drivers just because there's not a whole lot available. I've enjoyed every bit of it. AJ is a blast to be around and a great teammate. We're just trying to get better each weekend, and we think we can do a lot of that this season. I'm excited about the roval. That's not a track that three-quarters of the field has been to eight times when I'm going for the second time, so that evens out things. Then again, AJ is on track and we'll have to chase him."
WHAT HAS MADE JTG SUCH A GOOD FIT? "From the beginning, it's just been a family environment. We got invited to the Christmas party before we even finalized everything. It was nice to be welcomed in. They love racing and want to build this up."
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 95 PROCORE CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at the Charlotte Media Tour and discussed being his expectations of being with a new team, winning at the Brickyard last year, his World of Outlaws team, and more. Full Transcript:
(NO MICROPHONE) QUESTION ON THE OFF-SEASON "It was pretty normal but it was a little different. I didn't go to Australia this off-season, which I have for the last couple of years. I had (his son) Tanner a ton. We went to Washington. We did a lot of stuff together and I really enjoyed that. And just starting over with a new fresh start with the team and a group of people learning that. But, it's been a little different. But, it's still two months kind of off, which in our racing season for 15 years, it's all pretty similar. Those two months are usually pretty similar."
WHAT DOES TANNER UNDERSTAND OR NOT UNDERSTAND ABOUT YOUR JOB? "He understands that I race cars. He understands whenever I drop him off with his mom; he thinks I'm flying to a race track. Like, no matter what. Even if I'm coming here today, he's like Daddy's flying. He thinks I fly on airplanes all the time. I fly a lot but not as many as he thinks. And he loves airplanes. That's his favorite thing, by far, are airplanes and helicopters. He sleeps with them. He's with them all the time. He thinks that because I race cars that I fly on airplanes all the time. So, that's his big thing."
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE IN BEING A PART OF A 600-EMPLOYEE GROUP AND THEN MOVING TO A SMALLER TEAM WHERE YOU'RE THE GUY? IS IT A LOT TO GET USED TO? "I don't think it's a lot to get used to, but it's definitely a different way. Our work is going to be different; like the way we look at things and the way we prepare. My whole mindset is the relationships and doing it together, and the chemistry of the group that we have. It's a small group compared to what I've had the last six year and it's a group of people who all want to go in the same direction. And I feel like if we do that, and work together, no matter what it is, to make the No. 95 the best car that it can be, we're going to have success. And the guys all feel the same way. That's our plan. They're working really hard to get the new Camaro ZL1's ready and we're going to have our first one ready for this test coming up in Vegas next week and we'll get going from there." WHAT WOULD DEFINE SUCCESS? "To me, kind of what I was saying about the people and building those relationships and working in the right direction. If we can do that and keep that morale and that communication all season long, our success is going to be that we're going to have opportunities to win races and we're going to have an opportunity to make the Chase. We're going to run in the top 10 more often than what I have in the last few years. And I think if we can do all those things, it's going to be a very successful season."
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CREW CHIEF TRAVIS MACK SO FAR? WHAT DOES HE BRING TO THE TABLE? "It's been good. I've always known the name Travis Mack, but I never knew the guy really, until something like three months ago. Now we know each other much better. He has a great family and he works hard. He's really into racing and Cup cars and being a crew chief. He's learned a lot over the years, so he brings a lot to the table from his knowledge. And also, just having a young guy who is super excited and enthusiastic and things like that will be really good for our whole team throughout the whole season."
DOES HE SEEM LIKE THE WORKAHOLIC MENTALITY? "Yeah, he's definitely got that on whatever needs to be done. He's not starting now as a crew chief. He's had that ever since he has been the sport. That's just who he is. If a car needs extra work and he's got to be the guy to do it, he'll stay as long as he needs to and that's kind of always been his way. So, that'll be really good for him as a Cup crew chief because there's a lot of time that goes into it."
WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE SPORT, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU BRING TO THE TEAM THAT WILL HELP THEIR PERFORMANCE? "Just the experience. From the highs and lows, I've lived both of them a lot over the years. The cars and understanding what, as a driver, you need, and understanding the things that can hurt you and can help you from people to the way a car is driving. I've learned a lot of that stuff over the years and put it away and I think as long as we can all be open with each other and work in their directions, my directions, and combine it all, it's going to be really successful."
ON THE CHILI BOWL "The Chili Bowl was great. It always is. It's kind of an exciting week. It's a fun event and it feels like it keeps growing and it's a building. So, how does it keep growing inside that building when it's always had tons of cars and people? But, to me it just keeps growing and gets bigger and bigger. It's fun to see Lee Spencer, Bob Pockrass, Jeff Gluck, like these guys that we see at the Cup track all the time, at the Chili Bowl as well. They enjoy it to and it's not like oh, I've got to be here. It actually seems like they really enjoy it when I talk to them. I feel like it's a breath of fresh air because we've got a couple of months off and you want to get back in a race car and that's the perfect spot to start the year."
TALK ABOUT WHAT RACING YOU ARE GOING TO BE DOING OUTSIDE OF THE CUP SERIES THIS YEAR "I've always had the two World of Outlaw teams we've raced, and I love that stuff. It's that type of racing that I came from and learned. I have Daryn Pittman and Brad Sweet doing that full time. I plan on racing 20 to 30 races. I'm going to do the first five in Florida, as long as it fits. We'll start there but the No. 95 is priority for me. I make sure that's all priority and then from there, I build my schedule as I go and I hope to get 20 to 30 races depending on how they all fit in at the right times of the year."
IS IT MORE ENJOYABLE ON SOME LEVEL TO RACE FOR A SMALLER TEAM THAN ONE OF THE MEGA TEAMS? "The last time I raced for a smaller team was Red Bull and I loved it there. It was one of maybe my favorite years I've had in the Cup series. The other years would have to be with Ray Evernham. But, that Red Bull year was awesome. I enjoyed it a ton. This year it would be great if it could feel something like that where we start together and we work together and we keep building it up. I felt like about half way through that season, we got to where we were very competitive and one of the best cars from that point on. We'll see how this year goes, but those are things that we want to shoot for, for sure."
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BEAT THOSE WORLD OF OUTLAWS GUYS ON A YEAR-LONG SCHEDULE THAT RUNS 90-PLUS RACES? "Consistency and winning more races. As a group, last year, my brother was on the No. 49. His car with Brad Sweet, they were super consistent and so strong the entire season, but they didn't win quite enough races. So, keeping that consistency and being really prepared, which KKR does a great job of, and then winning more races and winning more of the bigger races. That's something we need to do. If we can do that, it changes the whole way it all plays out. It's tough because Donny (Schatz) wins so much. And then if he's not winning, he's second or third. It's tough to beat the guy but we're not going to give up. We're going to keep trying."
(NO MICROPHONE) QUESTION REGARDING SPONSORSHIP "We lost Great Clips and I was committed to Daryn Pittman and told him that he had a two-year deal with me and this year was part of that. So, we went into this year with zero sponsors for his car and I was running them regardless because I made that commitment to him. And to get I-omni on his car now, for I think 40 races, is awesome. We're excited. The car looks great. They're excited and Daryn is in a great place. Hopefully we can build something from here. The NAPA deal with Brad is unreal to have that and know that they're going to be with us for a couple more years. That's such a neat deal. They race all over the United States in a lot of places that NASCAR and NHRA don't go to, so that helps a lot of their stores and the guys that come to North Dakota or South Dakota and these different race tracks that they normally wouldn't get to see racing. So, the NAPA side is great. And my car is always Bargain Outlet. We've been great friends with Mark Butler for a long time. I opened up a lot of all these grand openings. Those stores are growing like crazy and I'm looking forward to running the yellow paint scheme all year."
YOU WON THE BRICKYARD LAST YEAR. HOW BIG WAS THAT? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE DATE CHANGE THIS YEAR AND IT BEING THE LAST QUALIFYING RACE BEFORE THE PLAYOFFS? "To win Indy was nice. I'd been close there since I came into the sport, for whatever reason. The first year in '04, we were as fast as Jeff Gordon, who won it. We just had to go to the back towards the end. Every year we've been in the mix. So, to finally win it was a great feeling. I'll carry that win forever because that will be one of my biggest wins I get in racing. I was barely alive after that race. I was so worn out. It's because of how hot it is. The cars were hot. It was so hot and humid outside. And to sit in the grandstands has to be probably worse. So, to move it and hopefully give some of these fans and people that are actually attending and trying to watch a NASCAR race an opportunity to maybe enjoy it, I think is a good thing."
WAS THAT THE MOST EXHAUSTED YOU'VE EVER BEEN AFTER AN INDY RACE? "Yeah, yeah it was. I've ben pretty bad after some races, but not at that level. That stuck with me through like Wednesday and Thursday before I started feeling (better). Thursday was the first day I started feeling really good again. It was tough. I don't think I've ever been that dehydrated, for sure."
WITH THE NEW DATE BEING THE LAST RACE BEFORE THE PLAYOFFS, AND A LOT ON THE LINE FOR MANY TEAMS, ISN'T THAT A TOUGH PLACE TO HAVE IT? "Yeah, what's our normal last race? Richmond was our final race. I feel like Richmond is similar to that. You're going to have certain guys and certain cars that run good at Richmond all the time. Indy will be that same similar way. I bet Indy could have more of a wild card than Richmond even, really, I would think. I won it last year."
(NO MICROPHONE) QUESTION ON COMING FROM WASHINGTON AND HIS FIRST RIDE WITH ROBERT YATES "That was kind of my first go in stock cars. Ford was pushing that pretty hard at the time. So that kind of forced Robert into doing a 16-race schedule with me. We just went from there. It started in a small little building in a small shop with little lighting and everything and a group of guys working hard to get cars ready for Daytona. It ended as part of Rensi Racing up the road, which helped us a good bit by the end of that year just with some speed and things. So it was cool to get to know Robert and Doug and Dale Jarrett at the time…..Ricky Rudd, Elliott Sadler….it was a great experience. I wouldn't change it."
DID YOU KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU CAME EAST? "Yeah, I was really excited. I wanted to race stock cars and see what it was like. So yeah, to get started there I was really excited. There were a lot of growing pains that first year in trying to figure it out. So, I still raced my Sprint Car a lot and I could win in the Sprint Car every time I went and raced. We had a shot at winning and that was really cool because it would give me a boost when I came back to the Stock Car and it kept me going there. But, we didn't run that great that year. But the next year when I got into the Akins Motorsports car and that was more of a team that had been racing and we instantly were fast right of the bat with that car."
CHANGING TEAMS BUT STAYING WITHIN THE CHEVROLET CAMP, WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THE NEW CAMARO ZL1? HOW IS THE TEAM ADJUSTING? "I'm excited to drive the Camaro next week. I know there has been a ton of work put into it through Chevrolet, through Ganassi, through Hendrick, and through RCR all together working to give us the best car that we can possibly have when we unload at Daytona. You know it's going to be better than what we had and we'll see how all that plays out. You don't really know for sure until you get behind cars and get in the pack. And that changes. But I know that the work that's gone into it by so many people has been a huge push and I think it's going to be good. It's going to be really good."
NASCAR TURNS 70 THIS NEXT MONTH. WHAT DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE OVERALL HEALTH OF THE SPORT? "Seventy years is a long time. Sixty years at Daytona this year I think I heard, too. To me, the sport, for me growing up as a kid and loving to watch it every Sunday because I wanted to be a race car driver. I wanted to be part of this or Sprint Car racing or whatever it may be; you just want to be a race car driver. I remember it clear as day watching races with my dad. It was always at 9 o'clock in the morning there because they must have started at noon here, I don't know. We'd wake up and make breakfast and we'd watch the NASCAR race and that was our Sunday. It was awesome. I feel like today there have to be kids out there still doing that same type of tying and just wanting to be part of the sport because it's a great form of auto racing. There is so much it offers to so many different people. I love every break that I've had in this sport and the opportunities that I've had to be part of it for so long. And again this year, it's the same thing. I have a great opportunity. Yeah, I think NASCAR is awesome and I'm glad that I'm part of it."
IS IT AS VIBRANT AS YOU WANT IT TO BE? "When I first came into it, you go to any race track and the grandstands are packed. I thought that was just unbelievable to see that many people. Whether it was Bristol with maybe 165,000 people, Daytona was packed and Daytona is still packed today. We don't have as many of those anymore. There are certain tracks now that we have full houses and other than that, it's not as many people. I wish there were more people at the race that were involved and intrigued by it and wanted to be part of it. I wish we could get back to that for the excitement level, but I still think the racing is very good. It's super competitive. As a driver, every week I'm thinking how can I get better, how can I help my team, and how can we be more competitive? That's because of the sport. That brings you back. You want to win. You want to win at this level and it's because of the previous 70 years is why you want it so badly. I think there's a lot of good things about it but I'd love to see more people in the stands."
"I don't think that has anything to do with it. To me, the smaller group is good. I feel like it's just more like how do we focus on this group of people and the people that surround me? Like, how do we focus on making us better? The bigger teams, you have so many people pulling in different directions. You don't always get to test at the right tracks. You don't get to maybe have this or change that. It just takes time. Being a smaller team, anything that will ever be done is to make that car better. And I'm the driver of that car. So, to me it's going to work really well for myself. I like that side of it. I like being hands-on and being able to really be involved with the team."
DARRELL "BUBBA" WALLACE JR., NO. 43 CLICK N' CLOSE CAMARO ZL1 met with members of the media and discussed how he feels about competing at the Cup level, moving their shop to the RCR campus, his performance expectations for 2018, the aura of Richard Petty, and more. Full Transcript:
Q. What about 2018, are you excited? BUBBA WALLACE: I'm beyond excited. I might not show it, but man, this is it. We're here. We're at the Cup level. I'm one of the Cup guys walking around today on media day. I'm not an XFINITY guy, like oh, where's such‑and‑such, he's in the Cup Series. I'm there now, so it's good. I'm ready to go. We've got a lot of stuff that has obviously changed over the off‑season, switching over to Chevrolet, the new Camaro ZL1 is awesome looking, looks great, especially with our colors on there, that Petty blue touch to it. Moving up camp to RCR, being on campus with them, so I'm adjusting to it all, and it's all coming together pretty good.
Q. In 2017 you had an opportunity to run some races; talk about your comfort and how you see your responsibility? BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, going into those four races last year, it was like, okay, this isn't my car, this isn't my ride, no need to throw that extra little bit out there. Let's just get through, and we ended up having some of the best races. We were on the cusp of fighting for a top 10 there at Kentucky. Just got edged out by my good friend Blaney there, so that was ‑‑ it was good to learn in that whole process. I just wish there was that one more that year to see what we could have done at Loudon. Coming back into this year, it's been so nice to walk into the shop and be like, hey, man, good to see you again. No restarting over. Maybe just learning names of the people that I didn't meet from behind the scenes, front office people, parts room, stuff like that. That's a new process for me. It's one of those deals like, okay, we've got a good thing going here, so I'm excited about that. We're ready to get to Vegas is our first on‑track test coming up here in two weeks, and then Daytona.
Q. Aric Almirola was asked yesterday, any advice for Bubba taking over the ride; he said, "Just don't make the King mad." BUBBA WALLACE: No, it's funny that Aric wants to give advice. I still have the text he sent me before my debut, which wasn't advice. But no, I haven't seen that side yet of the King. Working with the King is special, like I've said over in TV, I've worked with a lot of cool bosses and owners, and there's no one like Richard Petty. I mean, he has just this aura around him. When he walks in the room, it's like, that's Richard Petty right there, and you still get star struck. I don't care if I've been around him for three days doing production shoots, I'm still like, here we go, what's he going to say today. I'm enjoying it. He wants to see the 43 back to its winning ways. He wants it to be a more competitive car, and at the same time, we all know realistically that it's going to take a little bit. It's not going to happen overnight with the things we've got going on, like I said, switching over everything, we've got some pieces of the puzzle that ‑‑ how are we going to be. That's how I'm going into it; how are we going to run it once we get to Atlanta and Phoenix, what's our package going to be like.
"I think Vegas will give a little bit of somewhat direction that we need, and Daytona is Daytona, and then we can go into the season and see what we've got.
BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, I'll tell you, it's different, walking through the RCR shop where they're building our cars, and a couple of RCR employees were pushing a car around, just bare skin, body on it, and on the back glass it had a "Wallace," and I'm like, that's cool. That's mine right there. I got my crew chief to send a picture over yesterday of my name on the door now, so it's the real deal. It's here. We've got a couple weeks out before we're actually on track, but it feels like Daytona is tomorrow, Vegas is tomorrow. I'm just so excited about the opportunity and so thankful, and I think I've put in my efforts and the time is now, and try to go out and capitalize.
Q. Any expectations performance‑wise in 2018? BUBBA WALLACE: No. I mean, this team knows how to win. They've done it before. I want to win. I lost track of how to do that over the last years until I went to Michigan in the truck, and I was like, all right, I've still got it a little bit.
"But I don't think there's any unrealistic goals. Our realistic goal is to win a championship. I wouldn't be here today if I didn't say that. And so I know what it takes to ‑‑ I have an idea of what it takes to win a championship, and we have to capitalize and minimize mistakes and capitalize on our good days and try to get the most out of that.
"We'll see what happens, man. We're just along for the ride. I've learned a lot from those four starts that I've had, to not let the emotions get too high, and just take everything lap by lap.
Q. How do you balance your expectations but also trying to be Bubba and that aura of Richard Petty? BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, it's a fine line you have to walk a little bit, but you look back in time, things are so much different from when they were racing to how the schedule is now. Those guys were running 60 races a year, so that's a little bit different, so I for sure believe that that 200 number will never be reached, and that's something special that he'll always have with him. But for me to share a little bit of his history and his past and all of his accomplishments, you know, in my rookie season, it's like, this is like, who would have ever thought this story would happen. I'm just looking at it as don't mess up, don't be a hero like he told me before climbing in the car at Pocono. There's no need to be a hero, just go out there and do what I can do.
Q. How well established is the new shop, and are you spending a lot of time there? BUBBA WALLACE: I'll tell you, we're turning in a lot more gas receipts. A lot farther drive. But no, we're coming together. Right before the holidays, we were moved in. We had stuff in the shop. It was here, there, everywhere. Come back after the new year and stuff was organized. We just started getting cars on the floor to be able to assemble and build last week, two weeks ago, so it's all coming together in a timely manner. But we also know that it's also crunch time, and we have to really get moving.
Q. What's the thing that stands out the most about Michigan that day? BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, I'm always going back and watching footage from that race or from a lot of races, even the ones I haven't won, just races that we ran good at. It's like, wow, we did that. We were there on that day, and looking back, it's like, holy cow, that's five years ago. It's been a long journey. It's been a tough road, tough hill to climb. But it's all part of it. It shapes who you are.
"That day will always be one that sticks out the most, just getting that first truck win, getting established in the sport, getting that grandfather clock. I've just looked back, and I just can't wait to go to Martinsville again.
Q. What was your reaction to Kyle Busch's comments yesterday about the marketing of young drivers? BUBBA WALLACE: You've got video of this? That was so dumb. So stupid. I know Kyle, and I've raced with him, and I know how he is. I don't care ‑‑ it's just like ‑‑ I don't know how old he is, 30 something, right? 32? Damn, he's that old? Getting up there, bud. He was in the same kind of spot we were. I mean, they had, what, the Gillette Young Guns back then. He's still got the baby face now. Not sure what he's trying to say, but he had kind of some of the same treatment we're going through, and I will say when certain drivers ‑‑ you guys can ‑‑ if I ever get to this level, pinch me and try to bring me back home, but when they get to this certain level, they stop doing stuff. We get requests all the time, some stuff we turn down, some stuff it's like, okay, how does this help me, does it help, good, let's do it. It's kind of pulling teeth when you get well‑established in the Cup Series, and a lot of us are like that. It's one of those things where I look at how is it going to promote my brand, promote the sport, promote the youth movement, and if I'm promoting the sport, that means I'm promoting everybody in this room, right? We're all part of the sport together. So it's actually like you're welcome for doing the dirty work. And I wouldn't really call it dirty work because some of it's fun. We get to go to LA and hang out and be on Nickelodeon and doing all this stuff, and we like doing that. I don't have the M&M's sponsor to carry me full‑time. I have 13 races, so I have to put myself out there. I have to sell myself. And if NASCAR is going to do that and I don't have to pay for it, hell yeah, sign me up. There's my take.
BUBBA WALLACE: See him getting slammed? I would have loved to have seen that, but Truex got that.
Q. The off‑season, do you want to rest? What's the balance? Do you want to stay at home, play video games? BUBBA WALLACE: It's tough. I'll tell you, I've been busy ‑‑ January 4th is when off‑season for me was over with, and it's been nonstop ever since. And it's been okay. I'll get some days where I'm stressed out to the max, and I'm probably a jerk and don't want to do anything, but then I sit back and reality kicks in, and it's like, dude, you could be a lot worse. Your video games will come later ‑‑ I sound like my mom right now, it's weird. Video games will get there when you get home. But it's like, okay, I've got a little bit of time to do this, go back to sleep, and it's like, oh, we've got to be up at 7:30 in the morning to do this all over again. It's like, geez, it's one of those things I was used to, and then once you get everything pulled away from you and you're on the sidelines, you lose track of being in a routine, doing all that stuff over and over again. It's like, yeah, this is cool, but as soon as you stop for months at a time, you lose track.
"It's something that it's good to get back in that routine, good to get back going. Those early alarms are getting up, and it's not getting old anymore. It's starting to become second nature. I still cuss a lot when the 7:30 alarm goes off, but whatever, I do that every day. But it's good to get the juices flowing, especially for this rookie year. I mean, there's a lot on the line for it.
BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, he was blown away by a lot of things in the race shop. He jumped on the simulator to go racing Daytona, and he spent about five, six laps, which he thought he had run 50 by that time, and he set a time, and in my mind, I'm like, all right, I'll blow this out of the water in one lap. It took me two laps to beat his time, and I was only barely a tenth faster than him, like man, that's pretty good. Then we went to Martinsville, and I kind of had him by two seconds. But that's part of it.
Q. Is it neat when you see guys in other sports (indiscernible)? BUBBA WALLACE: Absolutely. I mean, there's ‑‑ I don't know their schedule, but I know what they go through. It looks like what they go through is very hectic, being on the road training every day, in the gym, shooting around or on the fields throwing passes, catching passes, tackling people, to have a little bit of time to come out and see what our world is like is pretty neat.
Q. For fans looking for a driver, what would be your sales pitch? BUBBA WALLACE: That deal I just talked about, Kyle Busch. That should sell them right there, right? I love Kyle to death, but damn, dude, come on. For me, I'm just different, man. We're sitting up here, and this is a big moment, and I just like cutting up and having fun with you guys, but also trying to get the message out there and the points I need to say in the right way. Talking about Richard Petty, talking about our new sponsors. Click n' Close, you never seen them on a race car before, never seen them in the sport, and they're on my car for my rookie season, so I can't thank them enough, and our Camaro ZL1 looks great with those colors on there, so we're excited to hit the track. But aside from that, you know, hell yeah, it's race season again. I'm in a car. I'm driving again. I'm going out there to put it all on the line, and I don't take to take any flak from any drivers. I know you have to earn the respect to get the respect, but it'll be a fun process to see how that works out. I mean, sorry in advance if I piss you off, but I'm trying to win a race, too.
Q. I think you mentioned the number, 13 races you said earlier; is sponsorship still a concern? The King pretty much seems committed to running the whole season. Is there any concern? BUBBA WALLACE: No, we're running the full season. I know that for sure. That was one of the selling points of signing that contract to make sure we're running the full season. We don't know about the other races who's going to be on the car. Some races might see my pretty face on the hood of that thing. Hopefully they don't charge me. But it's a tough process, tough sport. The economy has changed so much over the last couple years, and it's hard to get that multimillion-dollar sponsorship. I'm trying to do everything under the sun to land that, whether it's going to the meetings, making the phone calls, going out to LA, doing fun stuff like Nickelodeon and creating those new relationships and partnerships and becoming brand ambassadors of certain outlets. I'm trying to do all that to sell myself.
Q. Earlier you mentioned a text message from Aric. Could you elaborate on that? BUBBA WALLACE: We'll save that for a later date.
Q. You just talked about all the fun stuff you've got to do. What's been the most fun thing away from the track? BUBBA WALLACE: The most fun we had, we went on a cruise, Blaney and I, Amanda, my girlfriend. We went on a cruise with a couple of our other friends. There was like eight of us, nine of us. His sisters went. I think there was nine. We had a blast there. But ever since then, it was Christmas, and then it was New Year, and then it's been busy ever since. It was a fun off‑season. It was short. I knew once this January rolled around it was a little bit different. Preseason doesn't really start for me until this day, but with all the production days and all that stuff, it started a little bit earlier, so it was good to get back in the flow of things.
Q. Is performance going to be crucial in finding sponsors? BUBBA WALLACE: Oh, for sure. We're out there. It's not a tryout, but we're trying to sell ourselves, too. RPM had this image painted about them for the last couple years of just a mid‑pack car, and they've gotten their wins at superspeedways and stuff, and they've shown potential at certain races last year that it was good to see. It was good to look at, okay, man, they ran really good at Phoenix, had some good races at other places, and you text Drew, and it's like, all right, cool, let's build off that. So we got a lot of good stuff to work with. Drew feels like with what they were lacking last year versus what we have this year from equipment‑wise to just data sharing and everything, we'll be a lot better.
Q. When you were on the sidelines, did you ever have serious thoughts that your NASCAR racing career might not continue, and when you found out that this opportunity was going to be presented, did it in any way kind of reinforce or show you how much you really wanted to do this? BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, that was a stressful time. I've been stressed out before, but nothing like that. Not sleeping, not eating, not being my normal self, just because it was always what in the heck am I going to do. I didn't know ‑‑ I had no idea what I was going to do. I was like, I hated school. I didn't want to go back. But I didn't go to college, so I'd have to go back. It was a year of uncertainty. Spell that out, change 2017 to uncertainty for me because that's what it was, just ‑‑ I did not know what was going to happen. So going through those races and trying to balance that, I don't know how in the hell I did it. A balance of no ride to one ride here and there, win Michigan, run really well at Chicago, and be like, okay, now you have a ride for 2018. I never would have thought it. It's just what you go through in life. Life is tough, a tough world, and it'll chew you up and spit you out in heartbeat, and you have to be ready for it, and I wasn't ready for it at the time, but if this ever happens again, then I'll try not to get as stressed, but I'll just have to go out and win another race, I guess.
TY DILLON, NO. 13 GEICO CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at the Charlotte media tour and discussed his outlook for the season, the life changes that come with being a father and how he plans to engage fans. Full transcript:
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT BRISTOL? "Bristol has been a good track for me. In all my careers, I probably have one of the bets average finishes at that racetrack. I look forward going back. The second race in the Cup series wasn't really strong for us but look forward to capitalizing on it as it is one of my favorite tracks to go to."
WHAT HAS YOU SO EXCITED? "Having my little girl in the off-season helped put some things in perspective in my life and I have been trying to change my approach on some things. I let the sport get me a little down, which sounds ridiculous in your rookie season because I never really struggled in any of my previous rookies seasons, whether it was trucks, Xfinity. I won races in my rookie season in both those series and was battling for championships all the way down to the end. Last year that wasn't really the case. We had a couple of close calls to win a race. I feel relieved that at the end of my rookie season I really learned some things that are going to help me this year. Also, kind of changed my outlook. Everything is an opportunity."
IS THAT HOW YOU SAW GOING TO GERMAIN AS AN OPPORTUNITY? "I think the fact that I have my own identity at Germain Racing and the more we grow as a team, the more I grow as a driver, the more I grow as a person we feel comfortable."
WHAT IS BUBBA WALLACE GOING TO FACE COMING INTO HIS ROOKIE YEAR IN THE CUP SERIES? "Patience, and I didn't realize in my rookie season how much I needed to soak in and evaluate every weekend the process of what I was doing wrong and right. It took me to this off-season to download all the information that I learned. Not that you're not going to give it everything you've got every weekend, but once you download all that information you can really put it to good use."
WHAT HAS BOB GERMAIN'S COMMITMENT TO YOU MEANT? "The more that I grow and my family grows, I think you realize the opportunity just to drive a race car and I want to make the most of it and better myself. I think I learned to enjoy to loss of last year – not always finishing good – and I'm starting to enjoy the process of making myself better."
WHAT ROLE DID YOU DAD'S RACING CAREER HAVE IN YOU DECIDING TO PURSUE THIS CAREER? "I was so young during that time, but just sort of hearing his friends reminiscing about what he was so good at and hearing what he thought he was good at was cool. But I didn't really get to download or learn some of the things he did in his career because I was so young. But now to talk to him and know what he's gone through in his career and kind of bouncing those things off of each other is kind of nice to have a father and a brother and a grandfather who have gone through that."
ARE THERE ANY PRE-RACE RITUALS THAT YOU DO TO KIND OF GET YOUR MIND RIGHT? "Not really. We're doing so much until the last five minutes of the race day, whether it's a meet and greet two minutes before you put your helmet on, so it's hard to get into a rhythm of doing that. When I put my helmet on is when my switch flips and that's when I go into my zone."
WAS IT EVER A CONSIDERATION FOR YOU GOING TO RCR OR DID YOU WANT AN OPPORTUNITY LIKE THIS TO MAKE YOUR OWN NAME AWAY FROM RCR? "I think there was something inside of me that wanted to break out of that a little bit. As much as I love having a brother in the sport and my family in the sport and my grandfather is an owner and how much I would love to win races and championships for him, I think I needed to break out of that grandson-brother shadow that I had. Not that it was a negative shadow. I just want people to see me for me. Austin and I can do some great things together, and we do on and off the racetrack, but for me to grow as a person off the racetrack is just as important. So Bo taking the opportunity on me and Geico to bring me in, I can't wait to make the most of this opportunity and grow with both of them."
WHERE YOU DO SEE YOU NEED IMPROVEMENT? "I think my patience. I get pissed when I'm not in the top 10 and that affected me a lot this past season. The last couple of races I just let that go and in practice let that emotion go and just focus on getting the race car to do what I need it to do and that's go win races. When I put all my focus on just getting that race car driving right, I know I can get the job done. It took me the final two races to realize what I needed to do going into this next year that's going to help me for sure."
ARE THERE BAD HABITS THAT YOU PICK UP DIRT RACING THAT YOU BRING OVER HERE? "I'm sure there is. If you do anything for too long on the way up to the NASCAR series, if that's your goal, you can get a little torn into certain ways. I still to this day want to do more dirt races when I have time to get back in a dirt car and that skill because it's so unique. I think the quickest of the whole weekend, whether it's four-lap hot lap sessions, one-lap qualifying sessions, six-lap heat race and a 20-lap feature what you take out of that is you process things a lot quicker. So when you get to a NASCAR race it's an hourlong practice and two more hourlong practices and a four-hour race, you're thinking at such a higher level when you come out of a dirt car to a Cup car. That really helps."
IS THERE A POSSIBILITY OF YOU FINDING A DIRT CAR TO JUMP IN? "I'm sure I could if I wanted to do it the right way. But it's also a work-life balance thing, too. I did 68 races last year and not one dirt race, and that was just NASCAR stuff. That was a little much. I think I need to back myself down a little bit and I'm looking forward to finding that happy medium. Maybe after this year I'll find that I have time to do some dirt rac
Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.