During a race like this, are they more your teammates early on? Does it change your mindset later in the race if you're running 1-2 with a teammate?
“Not really. For the most part, our teammates and myself are respectful to each other on the racetrack and we always know where each other is and the spotters communicate well. You do what you have to do in the position that you're in to try and make sure that everybody is in a good spot and working together as well as they can.”
Are logistics the main reason that you don't want to do the full Nationwide Series schedule, and are you reconsidering based on where you stand in that series now?
“No, I'm not going to do the whole Nationwide schedule. They've made it impossible to not take away from both programs with the Road America race, and if I can't do them all, there is no reason to even worry about the whole summer stretch. Mike Bliss will be in the car for the next couple weeks and at St. Louis at the end of the year. Ron Hornaday will be in the car at Road America and ORP. Montreal will still be up in the air. We've known that that was what we were going to do for a couple weeks; we were just trying to make sure that we had all our ducks in a row before we made that happen.”
Are you disappointed that you can't do them all?
“I never had any intentions of doing them all. You might as well leave that little ray of hope that everybody wanted so you guys could all keep talking about it. The Nationwide races are fun and we like to be competitive, but we have won a couple championships and a lot of races, and we really want to win the [Sprint] Cup championship. The only way to win it is to be competitive and to race for it.”
What are your expectations for Mike Bliss?
“I think Mike as a driver, in general, we expect to go to those races and have a chance to win those races. I think that's one of the reasons he probably agreed to drive the car. He expects to go to those races and have a chance to win as well. I think he'll fit right in. He and Ernie Cope are good friends and know each other well, so I think that will be a good thing.”
Looking back to the Kyle Busch/Denny Hamlin incident last week. Can you put into perspective what it means to not win a race when you think you have a winning car, and to have your teammate be what you perceive as the cause of it?
“I watched the tape and didn't really see anything that happened wrong on Denny's part. I know there was a lot of emotion and a lot of money on the line, so sometimes you see it differently when you're sitting back there. From TV it looked like he really wasn't even up beside him, so it's pretty tough to lay any blame on the 11 car for doing anything wrong. All he was doing was riding around in his line. (But) there is a lot of emotion in the racecar and I can understand where Kyle's coming from.”
From your perspective, have you ever been in that situation? Can you describe how angry you would be?
“It's hard to tell. I've been in those situations where you wind up being mad about something and you go back and look at it and say, ‘Man, I should have just shut up.' To me, just watching it, it looks like one of those situations.”
Given your consistency behind the wheel of everything you've gotten in this year, can you talk about how it feels different than last year?
“It's a 180. I think for us it's just been a good start to the season. We had a good end to last year – very competitive – and doing those things on the racetrack. This year, we kind of shed some of that bad racing luck that we had last year, and we've had some things go our way, too. We just got to keep doing what we're doing, but we have to progress as a team. We have to get better through the middle of the year, and we have to take another step toward the end of the year to be able to contend for the championship. That will just be the kind of the story that we'll have to wait and see if that happens, and we'll hopefully in the last 10 weeks be able to have a chance and go race for it.”
With a 600-mile race, can you talk about the strain on the engines and even the strain the brakes take trying to get into Turn 1?
“Yeah, really the motors haven't been an issue since the shifting has gone away, because of the gear ratios and everything that has been put in the car to make sure that that's not there. As we go to Pocono, brakes are more of an issue than anything else. We've seen those be really close to big issues over the last couple years. You've got to take care of the brakes and do what you need to do to keep them under the car.”