Continued from part 1 ARE YOU WAITING FOR THE CHASE TO BEGIN BEFORE YOU DO ALL OF THOSE TESTING DAYS? "Yeah, we started two weeks ago and then we've got a bunch coming up. We're trying to strategically test at tracks that are going to benefit...
Continued from part 1
ARE YOU WAITING FOR THE CHASE TO BEGIN BEFORE YOU DO ALL OF THOSE TESTING DAYS?
"Yeah, we started two weeks ago and then we've got a bunch coming up. We're trying to strategically test at tracks that are going to benefit the whole Chase. We are also doing it early enough to where we can go home and look at the data and really learn from it. Last year, we tested too close to race time and weren't able to get the full benefit of the test session. This year, we've got a little better plan and are leaving ourselves some more time to get prepared. On top of that, our teammates have follow-up test sessions at some of the tracks, so we're really laying it out right."
WILL THE CARS RUN BETTER INDIVIDUALLY OR WHEN THE HENDRICK CARS ARE TOGETHER?
"I think based on the spring race, HMS as a whole is looking really good. If I remember right, we had Kyle (Busch) and Brian (Vickers) on the front row. I almost won the race and everybody had a lot of speed. I know it's one we've all been excited about. Michigan was good for HMS as a whole and we learned some things we could bring him. Granted, it's not the same track and it's very difficult to bring the same set-up. But I think the trends are showing us some good things and hopefully we're up front as a team."
CAN YOU COMPARE LAST SEASON WITH THIS SEASON AS FAR AS THE POINTS AND THE CHASE GO?
"The seasons to me seem very similar. I think last year we didn't hit bottom soon enough to turn the corner and get things back on track. I truly feel that we're back on track. I know Indianapolis wasn't a good race for us, but from Indy on, last year, we were just struggling and searching -- trying to get the car right and trying to get the speed out of the car. At Indy this year, we didn't qualify as fast and didn't look very good (laughs). But we came through the pack a couple of times and I even spun out once and didn't hit anything and came back through the pack before I blew a tire and hit the wall and knocked my head a little wacky for a couple of days. But we passed a lot of cars on a very difficult track to pass. I think that really had us excited going to Michigan and we backed it up at Michigan and ran in the top five all day long. We're really excited about all of it and hopefully we've hit bottom early enough that we're turning the corner and coming out with out best stuff right now -- within the next couple of weeks to a month."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ISC AND SMI WERE BUYING ACTION PEFROMANCE, AND DO YOU EXPECT ANY IMPACT -- EITHER POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE -- WITH THAT NEW COMPANY?
"I wasn't surprised when I heard it. There have been enough rumors floating around about the possibility of that transaction taking place. I don't know enough of the details to truly know how it's going to impact my program and the income that I see and my team sees and Lowe's sees. You'd think that with big business like this that it's only going to make things better. As long as that's the case, it's fine with me. I just hope that it works out that way because I have no control over it. I'm just an end-user with the final product and I hope it all works out well."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT STEPPING UP YOUR PHYSICAL FITNESS REGIME AND TELL US HOW YOU HAVE PREPARED PHYSICALLY FOR THE LAST 10 RACES?
"This year, and throughout the season, I noticed that the harder I worked on my hydration, the better I felt the following week. After a couple of weeks of feeling so great after the race and waking up Monday morning and getting all my personal stuff done, the thought would come that I could work out a couple of days during the week. The way I've been doing things is that Sunday is actually my easiest day as far as fitness is concerned. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I'm just killing it with weights and running and every thing that I can to try to build strength and endurance. And then Friday and Saturday is more of a recovery time for me. And then my week starts back up on Sunday. That's one of my cardio days. And then I'm right back in the swing of it. Now that I've really changed my diet and hydration and have done it for four or five months, Sundays in the car are simple. They're easy. They're hot -- but I just make sure that I work on my hydration. I make it through that and Monday I'm back in the gym. So it's really been working well."
CAN YOU EXPOUND ON THE DIET SIDE OF IT?
"The diet side is really knowing what to eat and when to eat it. There are different things. Everybody knows about carb-loading. That's something you need to do before physical activity. And then after physical activity, proteins are what help you recover. So I've just really changed maybe the ratios of intake and of when and how I eat. I've also don't some different testing at test session to understand what my blood sugars go through throughout the course of a day and what I need to keep my blood sugars up and then that keeps the brain working right and your hand/eye coordination working right. It's been a lot of work -- just trying to fine-tune my body like real athletes so that I can be performing at my top ability."
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT TRASH GETTING COLLECTED ON THE FRONT GRILL DURING A RACE AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY?
"There's nothing we can do. Hopefully the issues we've seen at Michigan and that we have here, the track has worked on regarding those wrappers. It really only is Michigan and Fontana where we have those issues. From the team's aspect, it's so frustrating to have something out of your control take you out of a race. As a team, we prepare for so many things. But you can't control that. But if other tracks can do a good job controlling it, I know these two can. Hopefully things have been addressed to keep that from happening."
WAS LAST YEAR'S FALL RACE AT RICHMOND AS RAMPED-UP AS EVERYBODY THOUGHT IT WAS AND IS IT SOMETHING YOU ANTICIPATE AGAIN NEXT WEEK?
"Yeah, it's going to be crazy. Last Richmond race last fall, I couldn't believe the intensity of the drivers -- especially everybody who was on the bubble trying to work their way in or who had a chance of falling out. I saw stuff I knew existed, but didn't think I would really see it. In previous championship battles I'd been in, there were one or two guys fighting for points. But it was usually a good spread so you wouldn't see the desperation and intensity and fighting for every spot and trying to rough somebody up to get by. At Richmond last fall, I was shocked. I couldn't believe it. There wasn't just one car. There were five our six guys who were feeling the championship pressure. When you have that many people dealing with it, and it's everyone's dream, everybody is just fighting so hard. I'm very happy to say I'm in the Chase and I don't have to worry about Richmond. If you do transfer in, you're just starting the pressure at an earlier date than the rest of the guys. Their whole championship hopes rely on one or two races is what it's boiling down to. That's usually what you're used to feeling at the end of the year -- maybe for a race or two then -- but now these guys are going to have it here (at Fontana) and Richmond and through the final 10. So it's going to be tough on those guys."
WERE YOU SHOCKED AT SOME OF THE DRIVER'S ACTIONS?
"There was a lot of unnecessary contact that could have resulted in flat tires for people. That's the thing I was shocked at last year. Coming into it as the point leader, I think I was right there around Jeff (Gordon) and we were trying to keep 10 cars in the Chase. I would just be alongside somebody on the straightaway and get slammed from the side. After three or four times of that, I'm thinking what in the world did I do? I haven't touched you. If they're able to catch a fender on an air valve for the tire or nick a sidewall and I've got to pit, I'm down two or three laps. There were a lot of things I learned at that event and learned to keep my space and stay away from the guys who were on the bubble because they were doing anything they could to transfer in."
WOULD THEY CRASH THE POINT LEADER?
"I wouldn't think you'd see somebody blatantly crash Tony (Stewart) or the point leader going into it. But if it happens, we'll have something to talk about. But there are little things we can do that can happen on the track to make life tough on whoever is leading the points."
DOES THAT BECOME CONTAGIOUS AFTER ABOUT TWO HOURS OF RACING HARD, AND DOES EVERYBODY START RACING HARDER THAN THEY REALLY SHOULD BE?
"Yes, that's absolutely right. That's one thing I saw in Richmond. It started off simple -- just between a few cars. And after it happens to you, you think, you know what? If that's how the game is being played tonight, I'm in. And before you know it, you've got 43 guys just running each other over."
DO THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES EVER JUST MAKE YOU LAUGH?
"I can't help but laugh. I've heard them recently. I was on Dave Despain's show Sunday night and I heard a caller call in or somebody emailed in and asked if I was sandbagging. Well, it's not going to me any good or Jeff (Gordon) any good (to sandbag) because Tony Stewart is the guy to worry about to be within the 400 points. So I just laugh. At times it may look like we strategically plan out things, but it's too difficult. And there have never been any team orders at Hendrick Motorsports. I know I need to do what I can to help out my teammates. But at the same time, if I do something that blatant, I'm going to have to deal with the other 42 guys. The scale takes care of itself. It doesn't matter if it's retaliation at Bristol or what. The scales all equal out in the garage area. That's something that's hard for outsiders to understand and see, but it prevents a lot of stuff from taking place on the track because I know I've got to see these guys next week and race against them. That's something the sport has always had. I think NASCAR tries to leave that balancing act to the teams and to the drivers on the track. And that polices our garage area enough.
ARE TEAMMATES REALLY THAT HELPFUL?
"You find on the plate races and other tracks where you do need teammates to make it to the front, that teammates are helpful, but at the same time they have their own agenda and you can't count on them. I may end up having a different team, manufacturer, or driver working well with me. When you're on the track, you make sure you leave your teammate some room, but you've still got to be out there for your own thing."