|You’ve come close to winning at Pocono the last several years. Have you improved there over the years?
“I think I’ve been a bit inconsistent or streaky there over the years. Started off early in my career with some top-five finishes and then went through a stretch where we weren’t very good. Lately, we’ve certainly been better there and I’ve had some second-place finishes and third-place finishes, so I feel like I’ve figured it out better there lately. With the way our cars at JGR have been overall and how well we ran there in June, I’m very optimistic that we will have a shot to win on Sunday in our M&M’S Caramel Camry. That scheme seemed to be good luck at the All-Star Race and we’re hoping it might bring us some good fortune this weekend, as well. We just have to try to be as mistake-free as possible and hope things fall our way, finally. ”
Do you feel like this year is the opposite of last year with Joe Gibbs Racing fighting for playoff spots?
“I wouldn’t say we’ve struggled. We’ve led plenty of laps this year. We’ve been in plenty of positions to win. We don’t have the win numbers to show for that but, as far as it goes, I mean, I’d like to say that the answer is yes – that we’re just not showing all of our cards or the luck bank isn’t showing us all of our luck, yet. I don’t know what it is but, if that’s what the swing is going to be, is that they’re going to punish you in the beginning part of the year or you can win races there in order to reward you at the end to the year, I would certainly take that. We just have to see how it plays out. We’ll keep working hard like we’ve been and we feel like eventually good things will happen.”
Pocono is the most unique track on the circuit with three distinct corners. What’s the most difficult part of the track for you?
“The hardest part of the track, for me, is probably turn one, and then turn two is the second-hardest, and then turn three is the third-hardest – turn three, last year, because of the patch they laid down. We couldn’t go down low and get underneath somebody and get a run on them because, when you come off the corner, you’re 8 to 10 mph slower than the guy on your outside and they’re just going to blow right by you going down the straightaway.”
With you running out of fuel in July 2015, does that enter your mind as you head back to Pocono?
“I think when you run well there and have a shot to win and you run out of fuel or strategy with tires and cautions just don’t work out for you, when you head back there, you still have the same mindset that you have a shot to win there just like before. I would definitely like to win a race there and, last year having such a good car, I certainly have figured out how to drive the track, so eventually I think we’ll get that win there when you keep bringing back good cars like the M&M’S Caramel guys have been.”
Since the track is unique, where is the best place to make a pass at Pocono?
“Most of your passing is going to be done probably through turn one and off of turn one and getting into turn two, and if somebody can get a good run off of turn two, get back up high and get in line to get on that patch, getting into turn three. Besides that, in turn one, we just can’t get the cars to turn down there because there’s so much load on the bump stops from going 210 mph down the front straightaway and then trying to slow it down to about a ‘buck-40’ (140 mph). Turn two is kind of bumpy and kind of rough. There are different areas where you’ve got to maneuver through the tunnel turn to get your car right. If you miss it just by a little bit, you tend to knock the wall down off the corner, so it’s tight.”