This weekend, your No. 39 Quicken Loans/U.S. Army Chevrolet carries a special paint scheme in celebration of Veteran’s Day. Talk about your car and what it means to you to race in honor of Veteran’s Day.
“It’s an awesome paint scheme with the digital desert camo. This racecar is a partnership with Quicken Loans and U.S. Army. Quicken Loans does a lot of work for the veterans of the military. In fact, there’s an entire team dedicated to helping veterans with their needs at Quicken Loans. I’m really proud to have Quicken Loans on the racecar, as well as the company’s support of the U.S. Army Soldiers and all military. Soldiers allow us to do what we love – they give me the chance to race in NASCAR – and for all of us to have the freedom that we have. There are more than 250 photos of Quicken Loans customers who are veterans. It just shows that there is a real correlation between the military and Quicken Loans and the appreciation for our freedom. For me, since my association with the U.S. Army started back in 2009, I think Veteran’s Day has gotten an added meaning. It’s a day to be thankful and to give thanks to the men and women who have done so much to give us the freedoms we have. A lot of us – myself included – take for granted the freedoms we have. Just putting into understanding the sacrifices our Soldiers make and what they’ve done for hundreds of years to make sure we’re able to keep these freedoms and live in the safe country we do. This weekend, I hope everyone takes a moment to thank a Soldier and to just be thankful for the things they have done to give us the free country we have. I can think of no better way to thank the more than 1 million Soldiers I represent and make them proud than by getting my Quicken Loans/U.S. Army Chevy into victory lane.”
Talk about racing at Phoenix.
“Phoenix has always ranked up near the top of my list of favorite racetracks. It’s really one of my favorite racetracks because the design of the racetrack makes it fun and challenging to drive. It’s a fun racetrack. It’s unique and totally different on both ends of the racetrack, so it’s almost like two racetracks in one. You have to adapt as a driver, you have to adapt with the racecar and your crew chief has to adapt to the track. Then you have to, as a driver, mix it together. So it’s definitely a driver’s racetrack. It’s different from one end to the other. And, therefore, the crew chief can only get one end perfect, it seems, and the other one the driver has to adapt to. It’s not a compromise if your crew chief does a good job setting up the racecar because you can do things to try to manipulate those opposite ends of the racetrack. But, when your car is not working, it’s up to the driver to make up what you can of what’s left and that, I think, separates the men from the boys at Phoenix. The driver really has to drive and hustle the car a little bit more and a little bit differently and still be smooth. It’s those aspects that make the track a lot of fun to me.
Your first Sprint Cup start with Matt Borland as your crew chief came at Phoenix in November 2000, when you were running a partial schedule. What do you remember about that race?
“We qualified 10th and we ended up having a windshield tear-off cover up the grill and melt the engine down. Then we found out after the race that my brake pedal wasn’t returning all the way, so it was cooking my brakes. We had a whole bunch of car problems but it was a good experience. To qualify 10th in my first Cup start was awesome. Then I backed it up the next spring by winning the pole in my third Cup race, so we proved we were no fluke.”
You’ve had two weekends with Borland back as your crew chief. Assess what you’ve done and talk about whether you can recapture the success you had in the past.
“I hope we can recreate that success – at least that’s our goal. Matt and I have always had a great relationship on the racetrack and away from the racetrack. We’ve remained friends even when he changed jobs and teams. We’re back together again. We look forward to the opportunity and we have a couple more races to get going some more than what we already have. We rebounded pretty well at Martinsville. We rebounded from a loose wheel and I actually had a left-front tire going down in the middle of the race at Texas, and Matt made some good calls that allowed us to put ourselves in contention to get a top-10. To come back and finish 12th from all we had to do there was a really impressive comeback. We’re working on things and we’re getting to where we need to be. Being back together is new, and it’s kind of new to him, too – being back on the pit box. He’s got experience with the racecar but he doesn’t necessarily have all the experience with the racecars at the racetrack right now. The past few years, he’s been our firefighter. He’s been out there putting the fires out and troubleshooting, so to speak, from a technical standpoint. So he understands about the cars, but he’s still playing catch-up with the cars at the racetrack and I fully expected that. But I’m proud of what we’ve done to this point.”