|What does it mean to win at Texas and take some of the pressure off before Homestead? Can that be a detriment, as well?
“Certainly there’s some opportunity there to mess up or over-think things, but I believe any time you’re under pressure or under the amount of stress as what this round is to get yourself into the final four for Homestead, any time you can kind of take a step back and have a clear head is a good time, in my opinion. The pressure that sets in over these next two weeks if you’re behind the cutoff line and trying to get in or whatever, or if you’re right on the cusp of the cutoff line and trying to stay in, that can certainly wear on your team during the week. You try to have other things to do to kind of take your mind off of it a little bit but, overall, this is what we live, eat, breath, sleep, everything. It’s always on our mind.”
What are your thoughts heading into Texas this weekend with the recent repave?
“I wouldn’t say it poses any tougher problems. That place has always been fast and it’s always been one groovish around the bottom and, so far, it’s kind of what we’ve got with the repave. Obviously, you hope that with time and age and the asphalt surface that it gets better and more racey. Not sure we’re really there, yet, especially the time of year we go there now being in November and as chilly as it is. It’s pretty cool so there’s going to be more urgency to run the bottom all the time. That’s tough and it’s always tough for raceability of the track. It was a good place for us before the repave and now, since the repave, I think it’s been a pretty good place for us, as well. We’ve run well there, we won there this spring and hopefully, we can continue that sort of momentum there with our M&M’S Camry this weekend.”
Do you have extra confidence knowing you’ve made it to the Championship 4 the last three years?
“I believe every year is a new year, but you certainly can’t forget what you’ve done and what’s gotten you to that point of being in the Championship 4. I do feel like the experience we’ve had and the times that we’ve been there, we can lean on some of that and some of those bullet points that have given us that success to be able to get to the final four and rely on that information over again. Some of these guys who haven’t made it there have made it to the Round of 8 but haven’t been able to transfer through. They’ve certainly learned some of the things of what not to do, but I feel like we just have to continue doing the things we know to do and hopefully that all comes to fruition. Anything can happen, you just have to be smart and figure it all out and kind of let it play out and come to you as it will.”
What’s it like trying to get back to the Championship 4 if you don’t win a championship the prior year?
“It’s a long time from championship to championship. It’s 365 days and it feels like an eternity when you look at it in a driver’s mind but, also from traveling so much, as much as we all do, it feels like a short time. We were just in Daytona, it feels like. When you’re as good as you are and how the JGR cars were the best last year, arguably the Furniture Row car was the best car last year and he did a great job and was able to bring it all home. This year, the JGR cars are good again, but the SHR cars are probably a tick faster. It’s going to be a dogfight down to the end on whose able to bring it home and who’s able to get it at Homestead. It’s going to be an interesting battle for sure, but I’d like to think we can fight them out all the way to the end, even though they have the upper hand.”