EXPLAIN THIS DAY AND WHAT YOU’VE ALREADY DONE TO PREPARE FOR THE DAYTONA 500
“I think the obvious thing would be getting fitted up for the car and getting ready for the car. Things happened pretty late last night. We had a plan coming into this morning of what time to get up, which was quite a bit earlier than I would normally get up. But, we’ve worked around all that stuff and getting the seat stuff ready so we can go make some laps with Happy Hour, it’s kind of convenient that I can get a few laps in the car at least before Sunday and get acclimated and see where the switches are and see where the buttons are. Beyond that, we’ll get through practice; and for me, I’ve got to focus on the Xfinity car and making sure we get off to a good start to the season over there.”
TONY STEWART SAID 10 DAYS AGO THAT THERE WAS A CONTINGENCY PLAN. HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE CONTINGENCY PLAN ALL ALONG?
“I believe the team had a plan in place whenever that was. I spoke to somebody this past week at one point, and that was about the extent of what I knew what was going on. I’m kind of focused on what I had to do to get ready for our season on the other side and really haven’t paid much attention otherwise. So, if I was, that’s a question for the team.”
THIS IS YOUR THIRD LAST-MINUTE SUB. HOW DIFFICULT IS THAT FOR YOU? OR, IS IT NOT DIFFICULT TO JUMP INTO A CAR COLD AND PERFORM?
“They all have their own different circumstances and scenarios. I think the fortunate thing is that I’ve done enough Cup races to where I’m familiar with most of the cars. They have changed a little bit over the years and obviously this rules package is a little bit different than what I had in the majority of my experience in. But for a speedway, the fortunate thing is the drafting is similar from the Xfinity cars to the Cup cars, so that’s not a big adjustment. Last time, with it being a situation where we had ten minutes to get a seat in and really had to go quick that was a little bit trickier than the other two circumstances; this one and when I substituted for Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) in the No. 88.
“So, they all take their own kind of shape and form. You make the most of them. I don’t think anybody wants to be in the scenario where you have to sub under circumstances, whatever they may be. And with that said, if it happens, you want to make the most of that opportunity. And there are some guys, I don’t know how many, but we’ll say 200 employees because I don’t know how many Stewart-Haas has, but there are a lot of people that have had their hands on that race car and have worked hard on that race car and they deserve to still have the opportunity to go out there and win that race; and that’s what we’re going to try to do for them.”
YOU MUST HAVE COME TO DAYTONA KNOWING SOMEWHERE IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND THAT YOU MIGHT BE RUNNING IN THE DAYTONA 500 IN ADDITION TO YOUR OTHER DUTIES. WAS IT DIFFICULT AT ALL TO BE NOT TOTALLY CERTAIN WHETHER YOU WOULD BE FOCUSED ON ONE THING OR MORE? DID YOU HAVE TO ALLOT ANY ENERGY TO THAT?
“Not really because I typically sit there and watch the Cup races and do whatever I would do to learn and understand for my races, for our Xfinity races; so I watch, whether it’s Cup or Truck or whatever it might be, I watch all of them when I’m not involved with them and just see if I pick anything up or learn anything to begin with. And I scan guys, different guys, to hear what the race track is doing and what the cars are doing and what the conditions are causing the cars to do. Knowing that there were some things potentially going on, again, I can’t stress enough that I really have not paid much attention to any of it. I do have other stuff that I’m focusing on, on the other side. But knowing there was some stuff going on really didn’t affect me at all and it didn’t take away from any of my focus on that side. And throwing this in is not going to affect one way or the other, what I do in either car. The same goals exist. The same mission exists to go our and try to win both races. The biggest difference is I got an opportunity to hop in a race car that’s more than capable of winning the Daytona 500 tomorrow, and I want to make the most of that opportunity.”
YOUR WIFE IS DUE TO HAVE YOUR BABY IN TWO WEEKS. DID YOU CONSIDER NOT BEING THE SUBSTITUTE JUST IN CASE? I ASSUME IF SHE DOES GO INTO LABOR, YOU’LL LEAVE
“My wife and I have a very good relationship, obviously; we’re having a kid (laughter). We’ve had those discussions prior to this even happening about if it were to happen for one of the Xfinity races and our same mentality for the Xfinity races is going to carry over to Sunday. Obviously, it’s a big opportunity for me to be able to race that car. I’ve asked her to keep her legs crossed as long as she can if she does go into labor (laughs) and we’ll do what we can to make sure I get back as quick as I can if that happens. But I will race both races this weekend.”
AS FAR AS YOUR SUCCESS HERE, YOU’VE WON HERE, YOU CAME REALLY CLOSE TO WINNING AT TALLADEGA; TO BE ABLE TO HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY LIKE THIS PUT YOU IN A POSITION TO AT LEAST SHOWCASE YOUR TALENT BECAUSE ULTIMATELY YOU DO WANT TO GET BACK INTO SPRINT CUP ONE DAY?
“I would say anytime you have a chance to hop in a race car that you know is fast and know is more than capable of winning races, it’s always an opportunity to showcase talent, no matter where it is, no matter what the circumstances or situations are, you’ve got to always think that way and you’ve got to always be prepared that way. So, yeah, I think we have a shot to go out and win this race on Sunday. I absolutely think we do and I’m going to go out and do everything I can to make that happen. And if that helps maybe get me to a situation where we can sit here and talk about these things and have it be strictly because somebody hired me to drive their car, then that’s the goal to go prove to people that I need to be doing that on a full time basis for the right reasons.”
YOU’VE GOT ONE PRACTICE TO GET FAMILIAR WITH THE CAR. WHAT’S ON YOUR CHECKLIST? OR, WHAT CAN YOU CHECK OFF IN ONE PRACTICE SESSION THAT YOU NEED TO DO?
“There are a lot of things we can check off. Just simply if we only made four laps, that’s four more laps than I would have had otherwise; and four more laps of getting acclimated. Feeling the steering box, feeling the car differences between the Xfinity car and the Cup car, getting comfortable, and seeing the switches and knowing which switches they run and which switches they don’t run, hitting pit road once, that’s going to be a big thing that we want to take care of. I don’t think we have any intentions of drafting today; we’re just going to shake down what the team’s got and make sure that everything is ready and there are no leaks for the 500 and things like that and get comfortable with that. Hit pit road a few times and keep it simple, but the simple things are the things that actually can sometimes be complicated in the races that you need to worry about and focus on; and sometimes it’s stuff that you might not even think about.”