|What has it meant to have stability in your career from year to year?
“It’s obviously a really, really good thing – myself and Coach Gibbs (team owner), we’ve developed a really good relationship over the course of those years and we’ve learned about each other and what our quirks are and things like that. You’ve got great sponsors like Interstate Batteries, who have been with the team since the start of JGR. That’s just (the kind of) consistency you rarely see anymore and something to be proud of. Obviously also for myself, being with the same team, I’ve had a lot of the same guys on my team and around me for my entire time of being at the 18 car, and having Adam Stevens (crew chief) come on board just three years ago, it’s kind of a newer relationship in the driver-crew chief realm, but we’ve certainly really stuck together well and worked well together.”
Is it all about winning the opening race in the playoff rounds?
“You strive to go out there and win every single time you’re on the racetrack but, if you put yourself in a bad spot or try or push too hard or something like that and you get yourself out of whack and crashed or something like that, obviously that’s going to be way worse for yourself. So you have to be mindful of those situations and you have to pick and choose your battles. If we are in a position to try and win one on Sunday with our Interstate Batteries Toyota, we’ll try and take advantage of it, for sure.”
What does it take to be successful at Dover?
“Dover, being a concrete track, is challenging. They’re all a challenge, but Dover is especially so, just because of the way you have to run around that place. The way tires sometimes wear out. The way the rubber gets put down there. You’ve got to be fast through the corner. Two-thirds of your lap time is through the turns rather than down the straightaway, so you definitely have to make sure you have a good-handling racecar – one that’s good in the beginning of the run on low air pressures and one that’s good at the end of the run on high air pressures, and even through traffic, too. Some of the most challenging times are when you’re trying to get through traffic with guys.”
Do you enjoy racing at Dover?
“It’s definitely a fast racetrack. It’s a fun racetrack, too. It makes it interesting when you get to traffic, when you have to pass guys, when you’re kind of falling down into the hole and jumping back up out of the hole to the straightaways. It’s a good place to race. It’s a competitive racetrack and, when the rubber gets laid down, it definitely changes the whole atmosphere and the whole way you run around that place.”
Does going from concrete to asphalt change the way the car handles?
“We don’t run on an asphalt racetrack that’s banked like that or shaped like that. The mile tracks we go to that are asphalt are Phoenix and Loudon, and they are relatively flat. The concrete just changes the feel a little bit, of course, and changes the way you approach the racetrack, too.”
You have two Cup wins and a competitive history at Dover. What is your outlook with your history there?
“I love that place. It’s fun to race there and it’s a place I’m looking forward to going to with our Interstate Batteries Camry. I went there when I was 18 to race in the Xfinity Series for my first time. It will scare you the first time you race there. You carry so much speed at that racetrack and, for it to be a mile in length and for it to be concrete – concrete surfaces that we race on, anyway, are a little bit slick. It’s definitely a roller-coaster ride and you need to treat it like it’s fun and not to be scared of the place, I think, because you can get so much out of that place. There are two ways about it – you can probably be really, really good there, or really, really bad there. Some days you’re going to be better than others, obviously, with how you can get your car set up compared to the competition.”