Are you happy to be back to the race track? "Definitely after everything we did this week, it's good to get back on track and get back to your schedule -- your normalcy you could say. We're excited to be here and obviously want to get a good start to the Chase at this race track. This is one that kind of bit us last year right off the bat. We should have a good car this weekend."
What did you think of the all the wins Tony Stewart had in last year's Chase? "What I thought is that they hit on something and it was magic and it was just better than what we had. Really, everyone steps up their game and it looked like he (Tony Stewart) in particular as a driver I think stepped up quite a bit in the Chase.
I think he pushed his car to the absolute limit -- I think they caught some great breaks with cautions, timely cautions throughout the Chase, and everything just kind of seemed to fall their way when they really needed it. That was my take on it."
How do you think the new rear end rule will impact the Chase? "I think some teams will have to adjust a little bit. I don't think it affects us at all. I think for the most part, some teams that run a little more aggressive rear end suspensions will have to adjust their setups accordingly, but I don't think it will be a huge game-changer by any means."
Was Joe Gibbs Racing working on a new rear end package before the rule change? "We were working on things, but as soon as we started working on things NASCAR changes a new rule. We've just really been doing what we've been doing all summer and everything has been fine, so it's not an area where it affects us a whole lot.
I think that if anything, it could hurt our competition, but everyone is so smart nowadays that it will take about a week for them to catch up."
Can you compare yourself in this Chase to two years ago? "I'm two years older and I have a baby on the way -- that's about it. I think I handle the tough days better. I don't think that I let them bother me quite as much. I think that I handle adversity better on the race track during the race. Other than that, I don't know.
I think I have more confidence behind the wheel. I had a lot of confidence then, but I know exactly what I need out of my race car now. Darian (Grubb, crew chief) does a good job of asking me the right questions so it makes my job easier. I think that really we're just experienced more all around -- our whole race team is."
How do you approach the Chase races after Chicago? "Loudon in particular, we're really excited about going to. I think we'll have a new car there and obviously as strong as we were not too long ago, we obviously have high expectations when we go back. Dover is another one that my team has been working on quite a bit, even in the last two weeks we've been really studying that race track quite a bit.
I will obviously lean on Kyle (Busch) a lot and ask a lot of questions leading up to Dover about what we need and what we can look forward to. After these first two, the next ones are really our biggest obstacle other than the superspeedway.
I think that will all the remaining Chase tracks, the last five to six are very good tracks for us and so we're just looking to stay in contention here early on."
Is it different not having any teammates in the Chase? "I wouldn't treat it any differently. I think that my other two teammates are more apt to try different things than they would had they made the Chase -- I think they would have gone with what they know and ride that horse as long as it worked.
I think at this point, through talking with Dave (Rogers, No. 18 crew chief) that they are going to be willing to try a lot of different things trying to get better for next year. In that process, if they hit on something we're obviously going to be the beneficiaries of that.
We probably won't trying -- we're not going to be trying anything new for 2013 this entire 10 weeks unless we're out of the running early. I think that we're just kind of riding that same horse and they're going to be venturing out trying to find a better one."
Have you thought about how to approach Dover? "Not until I get there -- there won't be anything I do until I get to the track or after New Hampshire is over with. I'm so concentrated this week on this particular track that New Hampshire hasn't even come to my mind.
I'm treating this Chase as week to week. I won't be focused on the championship until we get to Homestead. Then I'll see where it shakes out. When I get to Dover, we'll work on that one and I know my team is spending more time on it then they are other Chase tracks this time."
When do you think someone is out of Chase contention? "I think if you're halfway through the Chase and you're 70 points out then you're probably done. I think that's probably the number that I would look at to say, 'Okay, we need to move on from this year and focus on next."
What do you think about the odds in Las Vegas to win the championship? "I think its tough odds. I think there's 11 very capable guys of winning this Chase. I think it's hard to handicap.
This sport is nearly impossible to handicap because of the variables, whether it be weather, whether it be pit crew, failures or things like that. It's not about just how fast your car and your driver is. That part of it is very, very tough, but those guys seem to know more than we do at times so we'll see."
Source: Toyota Motorsports