With the multiple attempts at the double-file restarts, how have they changed your strategy over the last few weeks?
“It's really made finishes less predictable. At times when you would be convinced that four tires wouldn't work, it has worked. Two tires used to be the call at that moment and it still does work out, but it [double-file restarts] has opened the door for four-tire pit stops in the closing laps. It has really changed strategy, and I don't know if there really even is a strategy now. It's more what the masses do. If you're on two and there are a lot of guys that stay out on two, then you're probably in good shape. If there isn't and you took two when a lot of guys took four, then you're a sitting duck.”
How does that change your thinking process through the weekend? Texas Motor Speedway is a place with a lot of long runs, so you're probably set up more thinking about the long run. Obviously with the possibility of these late restarts and green-white-checker finishes, a long-run setup isn't going to help you at the end. How does that change your thinking compared to what it would have been a year ago?
“I think the teams during the race will be able to see if your car is performing well on the short run and form some opinions. You really get one shot at the end to raise the tire pressure, or make some different changes to the car chassis wise, and hope that it works. I know Chad [Knaus] asks me a lot more during the race, ‘How's your car on the short run, or what issues did you have?' We're still in the middle of the race working on the long run, but I think in his mind he's working on what changes he can make to give me everything I need for a green-white-checkered finish.”
You talked about the track widening out here at Texas, and that's obviously a result of the aging of the asphalt. How does the extra race this weekend, the extra cars on the track, and potentially the extra rubber going down from ARCA series, and the potential threat of rain factor into your setup for this weekend? Is that in your thought process?
“You have two different conditions there, really. With the ARCA cars they're on a different tire, it's a good thing, just like the track aging is a good thing. The more slick the bottom groove is, or the preferred line on the race track the quicker we're going to look for other lanes. For The overall good of the race, having the ARCA cars here and putting more rubber down – a different type of rubber – will help widen the track sooner. Maybe we'll have guys running top-to-bottom in the Nationwide race, which would be really cool to see. I think we had that last time, especially with the sun being out, it kind of went that way.
“If it rains, then it just starts over. It washes all the rubber off the racetrack and it's as if we pulled in for the first time, and we have to start putting rubber down. It's really abrasive on the tire. It's fast getting started, but a big swing in the balance of the car from a green racetrack to a rubbered-up track. We'll just have to look at our circumstances as they come along. Rain is the big question mark that will really shake up the bag for a while. Once we get running and get to our second or third pit stop, then the track will come in and be more consistent at the point."
Rick Hendrick said that you were lobbying him to go after Kasey Kahne. What's your side of the story and what you think about the whole thing?
“When the question came from Rick about my opinion of Kasey, I told him that I think he will be an amazing teammate. He's a great guy and is very, very focused on his job and his sport. He represents his sponsors well, is a team player; these are all the things that I've noticed from afar and from being friends with him. I really feel like he will be a great fit at Hendrick Motorsports. When the question came to me, I gave two thumbs-up and told him that I think we should move forward with it – and here we are today.”