|The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race on the NASCAR schedule. Do you notice those last 100 miles?
“The Coca-Cola 600 is obviously our longest race, but it very much depends on how the car feels. If the car feels good and you’re racing hard and trying to have a great finish at the end of the night, that’s one thing. I’ve also been in some where there’s crash damage and you just can’t get out of the way fast enough and those last 100 miles seem like 400. So, it very much depends on the state of your race. Hopefully, it feels like it just (snaps fingers) whizzes right by this year.”
What are your overall thoughts about racing at Charlotte?
“I like Charlotte. It’s really nice for the crews because it’s a home race for them. They get to sleep in their own bed and a lot of their family and friends are there. So, you want to give them a good performance. It’s fun for me at Charlotte because a lot of the crews have young kids, so it’s fun to meet them and see them around the hauler during the race weekend. It’s just a bit of a different experience than a lot of the tracks we go to.”
How much do you pay attention to the goings-on with the Indianapolis 500, even though it’s a few hours before you have to go racing yourself?
“I definitely set up my race day for the Coca-Cola 600 to accommodate the Indy 500. I like to watch the beginning and, of course, I like to watch the end, so usually I’ll pop on out for a couple meet-and-greets during the middle of the race, but I do really like to watch it all. I have such great memories of the Indy 500 and that’s why I also like going back to Indy in a stock car.”
Do you have any desire to go back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy car to compete in the Indy 500?
“I feel so lucky to have competed in the event with great teams and some luck every now and again that I almost won the Indy 500 a couple of times and was always very competitive. I don’t want to do anything to take away from that just to participate. I don’t race to just participate, so if I felt like I had an opportunity to win, you never know. But I’m not necessarily seeking that out, so it would just have to kind of fall in my lap, I think.”
Last year and again this year, there is a real reason to more than just tune in to the F1 race in Monaco. Your team owner Gene Haas will again be a part of the event with Haas F1 Team. How much do you pay attention to Monaco before you switch gears to Indy, and then finally switch gears to the Coke 600?
“Usually Monaco comes on at home when I’m making breakfast in the morning because we’re racing in Charlotte, and since we all pretty much live here, you end up watching that at home during breakfast. Then you go to the track and have lunch and watch the Indy 500 and then you have a quick bite before you go out for the Coca-Cola 600. We watch them all. We might not catch every lap, of course, but we watch them all.”
Looking at Memorial Day, what’s that day like for you as you prepare for the Coca-Cola 600?
“For race day, I like to carve out as much time as I can to watch the Indy 500. It’s an amazing event. I can still put myself there and feel it when I watch the race. I like to watch and see how the drivers I know are doing. It’s a great race. It’s just part of tradition. I do have to do meet-and-greets and stuff like that on race day, but I usually try to schedule them early, or during the middle of the race, so I can watch the end, for sure.”
How challenging is the Coca-Cola 600?
“A lot is made about the Coca-Cola 600 being another 100 miles longer and it being a long race. We have a lot of races that are already 500 miles long and we have a lot of races that go from day to night, so it’s really not unfamiliar territory. It can make a bad day worse if the race is even longer. If the car is good, then the day is easy. It never feels all that long and, hopefully, it’s not super-hot out. Other than that, it’s just another race, honestly. But, it is a big event that you want to do well at.”