Well the off-season is finally over and it’s time to get back to racing. To tell you the truth, I really didn’t do all that much during my down time. Probably the most significant thing I did was go snowboarding. Right after Christmas, we all went to Snow Shoe for a few weeks. Most of the time though, I just went to a ski mountain about an hour and 15 minutes away from my house down here in North Carolina. I actually just started this sport because when I was in Europe racing Formula One, I wasn’t able to do any of that stuff contractually…snowboarding, wakeboarding, skateboarding, skiing… nothing. I was basically in a glass bubble, so I really had a lot of fun trying this stuff out this past winter. Other than that though, I really just hung around my house. I didn’t even leave it for my birthday a few weeks ago. It was just that nice not to be doing anything, considering what my schedule will be over the next nine months.
So far, I’ve been pretty happy with the way Speedweeks have gone. Yes, I know I was caught up in wrecks for both the Bud Shootout practice and the race, but the way I look at it, you can only be in the wrong place at the wrong time for so many times. My odds just have to be better for the 500 now that I got those wrecks out of the way. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it anyway.
The last couple of weeks have been my first time racing a Sprint Cup car on a restrictor plate track. The biggest difference I think between Cup and the other series that I’ve run is the level of talent. In other superspeedway races I’ve been involved with, if they start to get out of shape, they’re wrecking. Here in the Cup series, they can save it without wrecking and its just a lot more fun to race. Speaking of wrecking, I was so happy to be watching the ARCA race down here from the sidelines this year. That race was practically the Organ Donor 200, absolute insanity. I’m so over doing that.
I’m very interested to see how our car is going to run during the 500 in a few days. That is what will ultimately determine my strategy for the race itself. If we have a good car, we’re going to try to go up to the front and avoid the wrecks up there. If not, we’ll stay out back and try to miss the melee. The most important thing for us is to finish and not get crashed out. We don’t want to get in someone else’s mess or cause a mess.
Once we get past Daytona, my goals for the rest of 2009 are basically just to keep getting better. There is a lot to learn and everyone has been very helpful so I look forward to the challenge. As far as the Rookie of the Year award goes, if it happens… it happens, I’m not overly concerned. Since we’re not going for a championship this year… well, not realistically anyway… it would be nice to have some sort of other championship we can go for. It is what it is, though, I’m more in it for the experience.
You’ll also get a chance to see me in the Nationwide Series this year as I’m slated to run about 16 events in Michael Waltrip’s No. 99 Toyota Camry. That’s about it though, the rest of my focus will be on our Sprint Cup efforts and I couldn’t be more excited for all of our opportunities this season!