|What does it mean to advance to the Round of 12, which starts this weekend?
“We had a really solid first round. I could not be more proud of the guys on this Interstate Batteries team. We added more bonus points in the first round, so hopefully we can have a good, solid next three races and keep advancing. Charlotte has always been a good place for me and, with the way we ran there in May, it should give us some confidence going into this weekend.”
You added some bonus points with wins the last two weeks. Do you think the bonus points are going to be a bigger help to you in the early rounds?
“I think the Talladega round obviously is going to be the biggest one, right? Right now, that’s where (Martin) Truex (Jr.) got knocked out last year. I think that’s kind of the biggest change from last year, that would have probably allowed him to go through where he’s at this year, and how well they ran last year, too. They would have accumulated the same if not maybe a tick fewer stage points. Got to race it out. It’s circumstantial. You’ve got to play it out, see what happens.”
How many championships do you hope to instill for your legacy in this sport?
“For me, I don’t care about my legacy. It’s more important than winning one, it’s more important than winning two, three or four. I’d feel happy if I were able to get five. I feel like that’s a challenging goal, yet one that probably is achievable. Why wouldn’t I say seven or eight? I feel like I’m too far along. If I was going to say I’d get to seven or eight, I should have had three by now. It’s just tough in this business. It’s hard in this sport. I mean, you could go rattle off five in a row – we’ve seen that done before. But, realistically, how easy is that? It’s not. I always try to look at the ‘realistic-ness’ of it and being able to see what’s truly achievable.”
You’ve always said that Charlotte is your favorite track. Is there any particular reason why?
“Charlotte is my favorite racetrack for a lot of reasons. Just growing up watching races on TV, I loved watching the All-Star Race under the lights and the 600 with all the sparks flying and all the guys going after hard-fought, hard-racing wins. The Xfinity Series has been good to me there. The Truck Series has been pretty good to me there, too. In Cup, I’ve had a lot of good finishes, but haven’t won one until the All-Star Race in May, but hoping that’s the beginning of good things for me there.”
You’ve won at every other Cup track, but you still haven’t won at Charlotte. Would you consider winning the October race at Charlotte to also be a huge feather in your cap?
“Winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway, since it’s one of my favorite tracks, would be really special since I’ve been able to win there in other series and have been close a lot in the Cup car. It seems like the month of May at Charlotte just hasn’t liked me too much. We got to win in the Truck Series there in the spring, so I’m hoping we can change that this weekend and get a fall Cup win. There are plenty of other tracks we need to win at, too, but there’s no doubt a Charlotte win would be big with our Interstate Batteries Toyota.”