|What did it mean to win at yet another track for the first time in the Cup Series when you were able to cross Kansas off the list last year?
“Until recently, I’ve not had very many opportunities to win at Kansas and hopefully get into victory lane there again this weekend with our M&M’S Red Nose Day Toyota. I’m excited about that opportunity and working with this team of guys and (crew chief) Adam Stevens and everybody he has assembled. It’s so much fun. As you’ve seen so far this year, there are certain circumstances that can go against you, and you just have to persevere and keep fighting until the checkered flag falls. When you run well, those wins will eventually come, as frustrating as it’s been so far this season.”
You won at Kansas last May after all the trouble and so many close calls and so much bad luck. Does it help the confidence at all for you guys going in there and knowing that you finally hit on something there?
“It certainly did. We have had some good teammates to lean on and we used (Matt) Kenseth’s notes prior to last year to help us a bit, and that’s really made a difference there. Normally, in years past, I probably wouldn’t say those words but, you know, it’s actually not been a bad place for us there, recently. We’ve had a good string of top-fives so, hopefully, we can go there and have another good, solid run, have a good finish, and the biggest thing for us is to just don’t beat ourselves right now. Don’t make the mistakes that some of these other guys did, try to keep our nose clean. And, if there’s a win, great, get it, and if not, get what you can get – third, fourth, fifth, whatever it can be.”
Kansas had been a frustrating place for you during your career, but have you and your team turned the corner there with four top-five finishes in a row there?
“I think so. We ran third there in the fall of 2014. I wasn’t there in the spring race of 2015 since that was the last race I was recovering from my injury, but (Erik) Jones ran up front until he ended up wrecking. Last fall, Adam (Stevens) and the M&M’S guys did an awesome job and we ran top-five again. The last few races there, the track really has started to change and the groove is starting to spread out, and it makes me more comfortable when a track gets worn in. Adam and the guys have been bringing really good racecars to the track every weekend and, when you have great cars and run up front, good things are going to happen.”
Are you doing anything different in the racecar now, compared to earlier in your career?
“I wouldn’t say necessarily that I’m doing anything different. Certainly, I think that circumstances are going our way maybe a little bit more. Why? I’m not sure. I’ve just had some really fast racecars. The guys have been doing a great job at Joe Gibbs Racing, both on the Xfinity side and the Cup side. Overall, I think there are some things still for me to learn over the years that maybe I’m not quite as good at that I could be better at, just different racetracks and being able to run well at different times or different aspects. Charlotte for instance – haven’t won there – Pocono, and places like that, I feel like we can go each and every week and have a legitimate chance to win each and every week. We just would like to finish one of these off this year and get to victory lane.”