HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE IN SECOND PLACE IN THE POINTS?
“It sucks. I don't want to be there. Every year feels different and it does feel different being here this late in the game. We all know how special a run we've been on and how rare it is in sports, period. In my mind as the years have gone by, I have really tried not to get used to it.
"I've always tried to be fearful of not being there and I don't know if it's just getting myself prepared for the day there's a really big challenge or what, but I'm not as panicked as people may think. I think a lot of it boils down to the fact that I know how good my race team is. I know how good we're going to do here and in Homestead and I'm just trying not to over think it and just go out there and do my job.”
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS THE UNDERDOG?
“Hell, I don't know. I don't care. I'm not sure where I see myself. I know I'm down and I need to get back on top."
CAN YOU KEEP THE BLINDERS ON TO OTHER COMMENTS?
“I am personally, because as you guys know, especially when we're in the Chase, I don't follow the coverage. It's just so easy to be distracted from what really is important and what's on your mind that I just don't get engaged. I'm not involved with that stuff. I'm very involved with my team. I know where Chad (Knaus, crew chief) is mentally, I know where my guys are and that's my reality. That's what I need to worry about and focus on. We are in a great place and we're ready for these next two races.”WHAT DO YOU THINK OF CHEVROLET GOING BACK TO INDY CAR RACING?
“Wasn't aware of it, but very excited. I've again been completely disconnected from things here in recent times, but just happy to hear that the bowtie will be back. Maybe that will give me a chance to go race there [Indianapolis] someday.”
WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF RACING AT PHOENIX AND WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SET UP A FAST CAR HERE?
“I would say one of the most difficult things is the sun setting toward the end of the race when the sun is going down, it is really difficult to see where you're going into Turn 1. Then from a setup standpoint, it really is a track of compromises. The radius of the turns in 1 and 2 is a lot tighter and there's a lot more banking than what you have in 3 and 4. There's less banking and a larger radius and you can't get the car perfect and you really have to play those compromises against one another.”
HOW DO YOU CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS IN THE CAR?
“From the emotion side of it, I think years of racing has helped me be where I am today and to manage my emotions through the course of a race. I don't do a good job of it all the time and I can look at some examples through the summer where frustration got to me and I made mistakes inside the car. We talked about that – when the Chase started that seemed to be a popular question. A lot of discussion about it. I have good days, I have bad days just like anyone, but I think it's just something I've learned over a period of time and it's also fitting to say that my personality fits into that as well.
DID 2005 HELP TEACH YOU HOW TO MANAGE THE CHASE?
“Yeah, and I maybe haven't felt like that moment in '05 helped me with the last four years, but it's in my mind this year that anything can happen in Homestead – and you can't assume people are just going to have great days.
"We went down there assuming the 20 (Tony Stewart) was going to have a great day, had some discussion over the radio about the tire going down and if it was soft or not, what was really going on. Because we thought the 20 was going to lead all the laps and win the race, we were out of character and we tried to limp around on a bad tire and caused a problem.
"I guess all that together makes me think – yes, statistics show certain things, but until you go run the race, it doesn't matter. It's about what happens now and the performance you have now. If there is trouble like had in 2005, you have to get the car fixed and get back on track – anything can happen. Then the part that I really focus in on is that if we would have stayed on track and if we would have played our game right and put the pressure on the 20 like we needed to, I think there could have been a different outcome.
"We blew that opportunity. I don't want to blow an opportunity going into Homestead or during Homestead. I don't want to blow an opportunity this weekend, so it all goes back on the character of the race team and myself and what got us into this position and to not change what we're doing and who we are. That's a lesson we learned in '05 and we are using a lot this year.”