|How do you feel the potential of the JGR cars is at Phoenix?
“We still have work to do there, but I definitely think we were headed in the right direction there last year in both races. We had a good enough position that we were able to finish well and transfer through to Homestead there last fall, with (Matt) Kenseth and Denny (Hamlin) having good cars there, as well. I’m looking forward to getting back out there and making some laps and hopefully having a good racecar with our Skittles Sweet Heat Camry. I’m excited to have Skittles Sweet Heat back on the car again. Just trying them, they are a cool balance between the usual sweet you get with Skittles, and the heat on the new product.”
How have you adjusted to the transition of the JGR team dynamic now that you’re one of the veterans on the team?
“Yeah, obviously it’s a unique opportunity for me being one of the elder statesmen, if you will, of the sport, let alone at Joe Gibbs Racing, and being able to kind of lead our younger guys, if you will, Erik and Daniel. Those guys have come through Kyle Busch Motorsports, so it’s been fun to watch them progress through the years with the Truck Series, the Xfinity Series, and now being in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. I’m looking forward to working with them and continuing to see their progress, but also hopefully being able to continue to be one of the leadership guys at our team and being able to race on for championships for years to come.”
What does it take to be successful at Phoenix?
“You’ve got to have a good car, but you’ve got to have good brakes. You’ve got to have a good-turning car, and you’ve got to have a good car that can accelerate off of turn two and go fast down the backstretch. There’s a lot involved at Phoenix, but heading there with our Skittles Sweet Heat Toyota Camry will be interesting to see how the race plays out and if it’s changed at all since last year.”
In addition to 10 Xfinity Series wins at Phoenix, you also won in your second Cup Series start at the mile oval and came close last fall, as well. Do you enjoy racing at Phoenix?
“Phoenix is a pretty neat place, even though they made some changes with the repave. The track has worn in with racing and the sun, so it’s getting back to a fun place again. It will be interesting to see starting in the fall how the place races with the change in where the start-finish line is and how that changes the racing, if at all. For some reason, I’ve always run well there. I don’t know if it’s that I’m comfortable being back close to home on the West Coast, or what. I always have a little more fan support out there, as well. As for the track itself, you have two distinctly different corners at Phoenix, which makes it fun and challenging all at the same time.”