IS DODGE STILL DOING DEVELOPMENT WORK WITH THE 2012 CAR OR WILL THE CAR REMAIN UNCHANGED? "There are great things about the relationship with Dodge, and I spoke to this a little bit last weekend at Bristol. Penske Racing holds the keys to the development within the Dodge platform for the 2012 car. I see no reason why we would quit developing it; I know for a fact that there are several projects that we're working on and going to keep pushing on for the rest of the year. With the 2013 car coming out next year, everybody is going to have to switch to new car development about halfway through the year or at least, by the time the Chase starts. I see no disadvantage there at all. I'm rather confident about it."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE APPEALS DECISION ON THE 48 TEAM? IS IT CLEAR IN YOUR MIND HOW SOMEBODY CAN GET ALL THE PENALTIES TAKEN AWAY, BUT THE FINE REMAIN? "What I think about it is that it (the fine) doesn't really interest me. Honestly, I don't think about it. It really doesn't interest me and I haven't put any thought on it. It really doesn't seem to affect me or my team. I've been putting all my thought into what I'm going to do to win races and be competitive, especially here at a track that I haven't been in the past.
"As far as how the whole process works, I don't really know and haven't put a lot of effort into understanding it. I'm sure there are a lot of different opinions and I'm never short of an opinion. With this particular one, I just don't find it interesting and don't have an opinion on it. I didn't join the sport to be a race car drive and argue court cases. I want to go fast, turn left and win races. Things of that nature haven't really excited me.
"I just don't think that it's very interesting. I think the focus should be on what's going on at the race track. Teammates cutting each other's tires down, that to me is interesting. I don't follow court cases in racing."
HAVE YOU GOTTEN A CHANCE TO TALK TO BRUTON SMITH ABOUT YOUR OPINIONS ABOUR BRISTOL AND WHERE DO YOU WEIGH IN ON CHANGING THE TRACK? "I never got his cell number; that's why he hasn't heard from me. He doesn't share his phone number (laughs). He should share his phone number; that way I can tell him what I really think. So no, I haven't spoken to him."
HAS YOUR OPINION CHANGED FROM LAST SUNDAY NIGHT? "I think the race track is as good or better as it has ever been. I think there are other ways to make the racing better. Everyone's definition of what (to do) is a little different. But in my eyes, the track reconfiguration has helped the facility to what otherwise could have been a worse scenario.
"You look at a track, that I won't name, that is of similar nature to the Northeast and it didn't get reconfigured and it has seen the same issues with attendance drops. The whole reconfiguration story doesn't go very far with me. Personally, I think it's irresponsible, misinformed and at best, self-serving, for any driver or media member who goes out there and criticizes the track. I don't think that's right. I think there are drivers that struggle there as the track has been reconfigured and have ulterior motives to point the figure at the surface reconfiguration instead of their own teams' performance. And I think there are media members that enjoy getting the extra attention and extra reads for talking about the track's surface, but I don't think that it's an informed opinion when you look at it objectively."
IS IT ENCOURAGING TO KNOW THAT IF NASCAR FOUND A PROBLEM WITH YOUR CAR THAT YOU THOUGHT WAS UNFAIR THAT THERE IS A REALISTIC SHOT OF IT BEING OVERTURNED? OR IS IT MORE LIKE THAT YOU FEEL THAT AN OPPONENT GOT AWAY WITH SOMETHING? "Huh, I haven't thought about that. I haven't had a problem of that nature so I don't worry about it. If it were a situation where my team has been caught and fined numerous times, then I would think about it. I've got an owner by the name of Roger Penske who has a saying that 'he's not in favor of robbing the bank.' He's got a great reputation – not just in the motorsports industry, but within all aspects of his life for the way that he does business and the way he conducts it. He's adamant about not pushing things to the point where you can get in trouble. So I think that you look at Penske Racing's history, considering the length of time in the sport and I would say that they are in the bottom tier of upper-level teams in regards to fines or issues with car inspection. I think the emphasis that we put on things at Penske Racing is do it right the first time than it is questioning the process of what to do when you get caught."
WHAT'S YOUR FEELING COMING FROM BRISTOL TO AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY? "It's a big change. I think that if you look at the schedule and the first five races, we've covered every genre that we can. From restrictor-plate tracks to one-mile flat track in Phoenix to a mile-and-a-half, high-banked track in Vegas and Bristol, the very short, high-banked track and now a flat, two-mile track. We've covered all the genres that we can. It's a real test of any team. For me, it's great to have won last week, but that win doesn't guarantee any performance here at Fontana. It's going to come down to aerodynamics and platform control here at Fontana. It's going to be a different race for sure."
ARE YOU GOING TO ENJOY THE RACING HERE? "I never disliked it. I like coming to a wide track to race on. This place, you get a really big draft down the front straightaway when the pack gets together on a restart and that really causes some great racing when we get to Turn 1. I was in one of those great races, in a big wreck because of it. It's still really cool to get that big run off of Turn 4 and feel that big effect of the draft here. It's one of the most interesting things about Fontana."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT FONTANA THAT MAKES YOU STRUGGLE ON? "Up until last year here, I'd say that I've never run well at the big, flat tracks at the Cup level. We had some success at Kansas, which I think is the most similar track to this, how it widens out. I feel like we've had some success at Michigan as well. I think that we've made the cars a lot better. I don't feel like that I've had a good car here at the Cup level. I've had some good Nationwide cars here. Sometimes I feel like, as a driver, that you just need to go to a track, have one good car there and it can completely change your outlook because you get a feel for what you need to perform there. Then you're able to replicate it when you come back; maybe your car isn't right and you know what to do to it to make it right. This track is one that I've never gotten that feel. Whether the car wasn't right to begin with or I wasn't able to tune it in, who knows. It could be all of the above. I've never gotten that here. I feel that we can get there, especially how we've performed at the Nationwide level before. We have a lot of reason for optimism."
IS IT A KNEE-JERK REACTION TO RECONFIGURE BRISTOL? "Yes, I do think that it would be a knee-jerk reaction. I don't think that you can make racing better ever time by changing race tracks. I think they can do things to make them better. It's going to come down to the teams, the drivers, the car setups and car design. I just think that what we've seen over the last 10 to 15 years (is that) aerodynamics has taken over the sport and has changed the racing. You're not going to change that by making the tracks different. I think it's probably a deeper reflection of what the fans are seeing that they dislike."
From Denny Darnell / Dodge