|What kind of race are you expecting at Atlanta this year?
“The racetrack has aged really nicely, where it’s probably aged too much, and why they will have to pave it at some point soon. It’s a place where you can run the bottom all the way from the white line to the wall and anywhere in-between. You have to have a good car there, but it’s a neat racetrack with the way you can race around and move around and not get too comfortable running one lane. Our guys have brought good cars there in the past and I’m hoping we can go for the win with our SNICKERS Almond Camry.”
Are your expectations high going to Atlanta since JGR has won several races there over the years?
“Atlanta is one of those places where anything can happen and we’ll definitely have to be on our toes there this weekend with our first race at a 1.5-mile oval this season. We didn’t fare well in this race last year, so I’m hoping we have a better race this time around. You have to have good grip there, you have to have good (tire) fall-off – you have to be fast to start a run, yet you don’t want to fall off more than anybody else – so you have to take care of your stuff and bide your time a little bit. That lends itself to options by the driver to either push hard early or save a little and be there late.”
Is Atlanta like a tuneup for other upcoming mile-and-a-half tracks?
“Every weekend is a test of what you try, what you want to do differently, and see if you can find anything else that works for you. Atlanta is a lot different than most of the other mile-and-halves just because of the asphalt and the way the grip is and the way the tire is. You don’t necessarily see the same sorts of things at the other mile-and-a-halves that you will at Atlanta.”
What are your memories of racing at Atlanta?
“I’ve won a few Truck Series races there. That was fun. I won for the first time in an Xfinity race there two years ago and again last year, so that was very cool. I finished second three or four times, so it had been an Achilles heel for me, I guess. The Cup races there, I’ve either been really good or really bad, it seems. There have been times where I’ve been really good throughout the event. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t seem to keep the grip in my car for the long haul, as long as you need to throughout a run.”
What does it take to be successful at Atlanta?
“It takes a lot of things. You have to have a lot of grip, you have to have a lot of downforce, you have to have tire management, a great engine, and fuel mileage, too. There are a lot of circumstances it can come down to at the end and what it will boil down to.”
What did you think of the speed at Atlanta the first time you raced there?
“My first time there was 2003 in an Xfinity Series car and it was definitely fast. It’s all relative. You run the same speed around everybody and it really doesn’t feel that fast, so it feels like you do anywhere else, whether you’re at Las Vegas or Chicago or Kansas or any of those places.”