As I’m sure you all know, the past few weeks certainly have not been the most pleasant of my career. I was informed that I would not be back with the team and then found out with the rest of you that Kurt Busch would be in the car. I had an inkling that he was going to replace me, but that was for the team to talk about, not me. What did catch me off guard was the fact that I will be out of the car after Talladega. I would have expected to at least have been able to finish the season after all of my efforts, but it is not to be.
With that being said, I am already working on putting this disappointment behind me so that I can focus on the fact that I’ll be a free agent and I need to move forward. It’s late in the season and a lot of moves have already been made in terms of seats being filled, but those are the cards that I was dealt. I will do the best that I can to emerge from this in the best possible situation.
Before starting the next phase in my career, there is one thing left I need to do before leaving Furniture Row Racing. I really want to finish out my last race this weekend with a win, not only for myself but for the guys who have worked on the cars. Those are the guys that have devoted so much time and effort to the team and making it what it is and I would love to do nothing less than thank them by putting the team in victory lane one more time.
Reflecting back on my time with the No. 78 team, I am most proud of the victory we were able to pull off last year at Darlington, something I think 95% of the people out there didn’t think we could do. I think it also shows potential new teams, that I have the driving ability to win. However, there is more than driving ability that I know I can bring to the table and that is experience.
While I may not be as much of a veteran as some of the guys out there, I’ve definitely gained valuable experience over the past four years. During that time with Furniture Row Racing, I’ve dealt with a lot of highs, lows, and everything in between; so, I’m certainly someone who can weather a storm. That solid foundation and even keeled manner is something I can bring to a race team. I have the ability to maintain that attitude whether things are going well or not as good as they can be. You’re always going to have ups and downs in this sport and you need someone who can roll with either one.
The last few weeks for me have been a down, but at the same time, I can see the big picture. As a result, I am also excited about the potential possibilities that lie ahead.
I can’t provide specifics on those possibilities right now but I can tell you that all options are on the table at this point. If the best ride available for me is in the Nationwide Series, I am certainly not opposed to that. Just look at Elliott Sadler, he has done wonders racing in that series. I don’t personally consider that move a step back. I view moving to a competitive ride in that series as a good career move. At the same time, there are still some Sprint Cup rides that haven’t been filled. I love the challenge, grind and competitiveness of the Cup series so ultimately, that’s where I want to be, whether it’s next year or soon after.
Another thing that has bummed me out these past few weeks is the NHL lockout. As a fellow athlete, I don’t completely understand all of the details behind the labor dispute since our series operates differently; we don’t have Collective Bargaining Agreements to deal with. I strictly look at it from a fan perspective. As a fan, I look at how popular hockey was before the lockout that cancelled the 2004-05 season. The loss of that season turned a lot of people off to the sport. Now, a few years later, the game is back and a lot of people are paying attention once again. So my concern is that they are going to take a huge step back and lose a lot of followers once again, especially the casual fans.
Any time you’re in a profession that relies on fans being passionate about what you do, you need to consider their perspective. Hopefully the owners and players will get together and work things out. It sucks because I’m usually getting psyched to watch the beginning of the season right about now. Honestly though, I’m not holding out hope that they will be playing anytime soon. Looks like my fantasy hockey team will have to stay on the shelf for awhile.
Back to racing, I’m happy to see some of the young talent in the sport emerge and one of those guys in particular is Ryan Blaney. I watched his ability to hop in the truck and already know where to run on the track and put himself in a good position. That is stuff that can’t be taught, you have to learn, so it’s impressive that Ryan has that instinct at 18. I’m sure there will be bumps in the road, but I think he’s got speed and will do well so keep an eye on him. Our sport will only continue to get better with drivers like Ryan in it.
I would like to once again thank all of my fans for their support, especially throughout these past few weeks. You have shown tremendous loyalty in sticking with me through the ups and downs that I referenced earlier, and I know that this situation is only temporary. The car and uniform may be different after this weekend, but I know that I will be back on the track real soon and giving all of you something to cheer about once again!
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