I certainly experienced something new in my Sprint Cup career this past weekend when I got way off track during my qualifying run in Sonoma. Basically what happened is that the wind pushed us off the track, which I wasn’t taking into consideration. It was the first time we ever had to deal with something like that with these heavy cars. Normally it doesn’t make that much of a difference, because the cars weigh so much. I went way off track though. The side of the car is so flat, which they do on purpose to gain as much side force as possible and it actually worked a little too well on Friday. That’s actually what happened. It’s not like I tried to go through the corner any faster on my qualifying lap. It wasn’t a little bit of wind either; it was a ton. As the day was going on, it was getting windier and windier.
The Toyota/Save Mart 350 was my first NASCAR event on a road course. Other than the wind, running these cars are actually very similar to the open-wheel cars. The stock cars are just heavier and slower. The way you take the corners is maybe a little bit different since these cars don’t change direction as quickly. For the most part, a road course is a road course. You’re pretty much driving the same line no matter what car your driving. It may be a tiny bit different. Everything else is very similar. Following the event, I got to catch up with some friends and family that live out there, which was a nice way to end the trip.
The weather certainly hasn’t been very good to our sport over the past few weeks. In those situations, like where we lost a day at Pocono, we just have a little less track time. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes its bad. Still to this day, our best race is when I drove the No. 83 car back in Miami. I had seven laps on the track before qualifying and I qualified on the front row.
The amount of laps you have on the track is far less important than a lot of other things. What’s important is getting the setup on the car right and that’s what we struggle with the most. Sometimes we show up and it’s right and we’re pretty close. But if we’re not, we tend to struggle more with my experience to get the car right. There are a lot of times when the type of day we’re going to have on race day is determined before we even get to the track. That’s why you see guys like Kevin Harvick struggling a bit this year or drivers like Tony Stewart just starting to win. It’s not like these guys forgot how to drive for a period of time. The setup on these cars are very influential, especially on ovals. The flip side of that is that the driver’s feedback and communication with the crew chief is also very important. On that note, Jimmy Elledge and I are still getting used to working with each other, even this far into the season. It’s a process that takes a while.
In a couple of weeks, I will be driving one of Chip Ganassi’s cars with Kyle Busch in the Grand-Am series in Daytona. We’ve brought Waste Management on board as our sponsor and it’s going to be a really cool experience. I’m looking forward to that a lot. There were a lot of people who helped make this happen and I’m thankful to all of them for the opportunity.
I hope the fans are enjoying these double-file restarts. From a driver’s perspective, I know I think they are exciting. Speaking of excitement, next month I will be marrying my fiancée, Amanda on the off weekend and I’m obviously looking forward to that. We’ll be heading to somewhere in the Caribbean in the following weeks for our honeymoon, so I definitely have an eventful month coming up.