First off, I really like the spoiler. I'm happy that NASCAR decided to make that change because it will benefit the quality of racing in the long run. We were just a little off during the race. We really needed that Happy Hour session that got rained out. When the green flag fell, the car wasn't the greatest, but once we got going, we just ran a smart race and tried to be there at the end. We caught a break with that big wreck, obviously, and gained a lot of positions there.
I'm really happy with the strong run we had during the last part of the race. I passed about three or four cars, got up to 14th and got a solid finish out of what could have been a bad day. So I was really proud of how we executed on a day that could have been a lot worse.
Well, it puts you in a position where you're in a bit of a panic because the leaders come up quickly and lap you. So you've got to race very aggressively at the start, and most drivers don't want to do that. They want the race to settle in and come to them. But when you qualify in the back, you can't wait for the race to come to you. You have to go find it. So you have to be a little more aggressive than you'd like to. It puts you in position to get in trouble a lot easier, too; there's just a lot of things to adjust in your strategy.
I think when you go to tracks where you're really good as a team and as a driver, then obviously you're not going to be happy with those type of finishes. But when I go to tracks like I've had over the past few weeks, where I haven't run a Cup car, that's not the way you feel about it. You feel great about where you finished.
Well, obviously I am fortunate enough to be in the seat of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge in 2011. Kurt's got a great opportunity with Shell and Pennzoil. I know he's really excited about it, and that opens the door for Miller and I to work together. Miller was very happy with Kurt, and now they're extremely interested in me. It's a great feeling to be wanted, for sure. And I feel like we can do a lot of really positive things together. It also solidifies our future as a team and as a company. So that helps us in a lot of ways. The sport is very much a people sport, and part of attracting the best people is offering them a solid future. Having Miller Lite as a premier sponsor offers the sort of top crew members and top personnel that you need to be successful. It's just a solid future; a lot of things come from that, and it really makes me excited about moving forward at Penske Racing.
Just the sponsor and the numbers are going to change. It's essentially the same team.
You know, there's an old saying in racing: "You know you've made it in racing when you're sponsored by one of the big three: beer, cigarettes or oil." And it's true. Penske Racing has marquee sponsors and I will be sponsored by the first one of the three. So it's great because it makes you feel established, and like I said, that car is an icon. It's a car I grew up watching and I've never seen a No. 2 that didn't have Miller Lite on it. I don't know what a race would be like without it.
So obviously, the fans that are my age or younger are the same way. They've reached a level of loyalty and attachment they have for a car number that's been around for awhile, and there's a certain level of respect that the car owner and the team gets historically. It just means so much to me, and it's humbling.
I know we have to provide a return on our investment. We have to excel for our sponsors for them to find any value in supporting the team, and for us to have a long-term job. So it makes me feel good to have another solid, long-term sponsor that wants me.
Well, I think what you're seeing is the cream rising to the top. We're seeing a war waged between the sport's elite car owners. Penske Racing and obviously Hendrick Motorsports are two of those, and there's slowly becoming fewer and fewer elite teams. So we're seeing an interesting battle taking shape here, and it might have been pure coincidence the two announcements were lined up with each other, but when you look at it, it's not really a coincidence.
It's not because Penske Racing planned it that way; that's just what powerhouses do. Penske Racing is growing even stronger, and is in good position for the future.
No. Status quo will not work as it sits right now. So we've got to get on our heels and get to work, and that's what we're doing.
Well, NASCAR's a free market system, so your opinion on the matter is really your opinion on the global economy and the global market and what's fair. There's a lot of different ways of looking at it, and a lot of different financial systems that you can somehow create for NASCAR. But at this point, the rules are what the rules are, and that's free market. As for whether that's right or wrong ... I don't know. I gave up trying to think about things like that a long time ago.
It sure would be a shame to lose car owners like Richard Petty and Richard Childress in the long haul because they're so special to the sport.
I just remember the wreck, and Victory Lane, and all the emotions that surrounded it. And then, to leave the racetrack a winner, it's always a cool feeling to leave the racetrack as a winner. It's bittersweet. You don't want to leave. You just want that moment to last forever. When you're leaving the track, you're trying to catch up on text messages and phone calls, just trying to soak all that up.
I don't think I'm much different other than I have a secure future. Other than that, I don't feel that there's a difference. I still have the same mentality and approach to racing, and I still enjoy it just as much.
Fences are a big part of it. Keeping the cars on the ground is a big part of it, too. But I still wish we could do more. I just don't have an answer on what to do.
Well, it's cool to have a sponsor like Discount Tire to begin with, because they're a brand that actually fits racing. So there's some validity to do that, some pride that you take in it. And it's cool to have a sponsor that's from Michigan and that has been around for 50 years. There's a lot of parallels between Discount Tire and Penske Racing in terms of respect, and the amount of time they've been around. It's just a great tie-in, and I'm honored to be able to drive their car.
The President of the United States. I'd love to have the President at a race.
Take us around a lap at Talladega.
Very smooth. The cars are easy to drive, and you have a lot of grip. But when you turn into the corner, it's just so smooth and you can go anywhere. It's like being on the freeway at 200 miles an hour. There's a lot of control. It's a great feeling as a race car driver, and then you get in that pack and it turns into a mess. A disaster.
So, it can really play with your mind. The only really tricky thing about Talladega from a driver's perspective, is dealing with the tri-oval. At the very bottom of the tri-oval, the track has a little transition to it, one that can kind of turn you sideways and help you lose your bearings a little bit. That can be kind of tricky, but all in all, a very smooth, high-banked track with smooth transitions and no bumps. A lot of fun to drive.