TOYOTA NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS)
Joey Coulter, Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter — Notes & Quotes
Texas Motor Speedway – June 6, 2013
JOEY COULTER, No. 18 Darrell Gwynn Foundation Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports
How was your Tundra during practice on Thursday at Texas?
“It was pretty good. Race trim, you know the truck handled great. We were able to run pretty much anywhere on the race track. I haven’t gone up in Brendan’s (Gaughan) groove yet, but we’ll get there before the night’s out, I’m sure. I was real happy with our Tundra, real happy with it. The only thing is not a whole lot of speed when we put it in qualifying trim. Nothing really changed, drove the same, just didn’t really pick up the time that we thought it should so we’re going to try a couple things different when we go to qualify, but real happy with our Tundra in race trim.”
What do you remember the most about your first career NCWTS victory at Pocono last year?
“The biggest thing I remember thinking is when I grabbed high gear and I was next to the Turner trucks, I said, ‘Man how come they’re not trying to block me?’ The seas kind of parted and we kind of got there. I really expected it to be a lot harder than that. I thought they were going to drive down through the infield and stuff. I don’t know, to this day it kind of surprises me that that didn’t happen. That was an awesome race, an awesome weekend. I am really looking forward to going back there and trying to do it again.”
What do you like about racing at Texas?
“I don’t know — I’ve always loved racing here. It’s a fun place to race. It puts on an awesome truck race and I think a lot of our success here is just the communication I have with my crew chief. This place is one of those tracks that makes a big swing from the day time to the night time. We practice during the day and we qualify late afternoon and then race once it’s dark. I feel like having real good chemistry with your crew chief and knowing where your truck is at during the day and being able to anticipate where it’s going to be at night is a big part of it when you race here.”
Are you relieved that Kyle Busch isn’t racing at Texas this weekend since he’s won the last two NCWTS events?
“I don’t know. I’ve always enjoyed it when the Cup drivers or Nationwide drivers come back and race in the Truck Series because it really gives you — one, it gives you a chance to compare yourself 100 percent to the guys that are racing on Sunday and two, obviously if you beat them it looks good and if you don’t beat them, usually if you pay attention, you can learn a lot from them. I really enjoy when Kyle (Busch) races. I know as being his teammate, I can get a ton more information from him while he’s driving basically the same equipment than texting him or calling him while he’s across the country. I really like it when he races.”
How do you prepare for Eldora and the Canada races?
“For the dirt race at Eldora, I’m really not sure how to get ready for that – it’s going to be wild. I have a dirt Late Model and I race it almost every off weekend, those cars are so purpose-built to run on dirt so the rear end moves, like six feet each direction and it’s got all kinds of stuff that I don’t even think you can put on a truck. I think it’s going to be a whole other ball game. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to rely on the ARCA races that I ran at Springfield (Ill.) and DuQuoin (Ill.) the past few years. That’s kind of how I think it’s going to be. As far as road course stuff, I’m sure I’ll make a trip out to Bondurant in Phoenix here pretty soon, that’s always helped me in the past. I’m sure we’ll go do a test somewhere just to kind of get everything straight. Who knows, we’ll see — we’re kind of playing it one race at a time right now and just seeing where things are before that race gets closer.”
Do you enjoy racing companion events with the IRL instead of other NASCAR series?
“As long as we’re here racing, it’s all good. I think it’s neat coming here with the Indy Cars because we’re used to our environment. Right now we have some down time so we can go over there and poke around and just kind of look at what their environment is like and get a different feel for it. Other than that, we could start racing on Tuesday and Wednesday by ourselves or with the World Rally racing group — it doesn’t matter as long as we’re racing.”
MATT CRAFTON, No. 88 Goof Off/Menard’s Toyota Tundra, ThorSport Racing
How was your Tundra during practice on Thursday at Texas?
“It’s been alright. We definitely have short run speed, but long run speed we are definitely missing that a little bit. We practice during the day and race during the night here, so you can only judge so much of how your truck is during the day. We just have to look back on our notes to see how much this track does change — it always does change dramatically at night. It’s always interesting to see how much this place has changed each and every year. Grip keeps going away. I would say it’s starting to get like Atlanta and that one’s my favorite race track without a doubt.”
How has ThorSport Racing been able to come out of the box strong this season?
“The biggest thing is, I think what got us a little behind last year was switching manufacturers and went to Toyota and trying to learn the Toyotas. Switched to Toyota, got a new crew chief last year, got some new people, moved some people around. Like I said, I think that got us a little bit behind. You look at the last five races of the 88 group, we had really, really good speed and that five races we led laps, contended for wins and just came up short at the end of last year. I think we just took that momentum from the end of last year and rolled it over to the beginning of this year and Johnny (Sauter) was the same way. He had a lot of speed and our ARCA team is doing really well as well.”
Do you keep an eye on the defending champion from last year and how he’s doing this year?
“I haven’t paid any attention to him — no just kidding. I mean, absolutely. They’re always fast, without a doubt. They’ve just had really bad luck. The middle part of the season, that’s the way we were last year. We dug ourselves into a huge hole. I think there was one point in the season last year, we had had such bad luck and we were just about out of the locked in spots to qualify, that’s how bad we were and then we came back and finished I think seventh in points. I know that James (Buescher) by the end of the season will turn it around and I’m sure he’ll be there at the end.”
What are you doing to prepare for Eldora and the Canada races?
“Eldora, I’ve already raced 10 dirt races this year. I went to Tucson (Ariz.) and raced a Modified out there for three nights. I went to Volusia (Fla.) and raced four nights out there, went to Vegas and raced a couple nights out there. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on dirt and the dirt stuff that I have raced was a long time ago and it was all midgets and stuff, so I haven’t been in a heavy car, just a Modified car is what I’ve been in recently. I think the trucks are definitely going to drive different than the Modifieds, but I think just the dirt experience itself, trying to figure out how a track is going to change from when the track is real heavy to when it starts to go dry, slick, when it lays down rubber. And (Canada) haven’t worked on – we have been working on getting the truck ready to go there, but me, I bought a go kart. As stupid as it sounds, I have a go kart and we go out and race a Wednesday night series in Mooresville (N.C.) and I really, truly believe that’s going to help and freshen up the skills in being able to go right.”
How has your team been able to be so consistent this year?
“It’s just good luck. At the end of the day, just look at the last five races (of 2012) we had tremendous speed in our Menards Toyota Tundra, but the last five races we didn’t have luck. We finished up there a few of them, but didn’t capitalize on them. This year, we’ve been dotting our ‘I’s’, crossing our ‘T’s’ and keeping our fingers crossed and luck on our side. Trying not to put myself in bad positions and be there at the end. Martinsville we were really bad, almost went a lap down and I have a great crew chief, I mean Junior Joiner, the changes we’ve made — we believe so much in each other – and came back and finished second at Martinsville. We’ve always been able to fine tune this truck and it’s been really good. Kansas, we were terrible in practice. I think we were 20th in practice and changed everything in the truck and went out and won the race. Last week at Dover, we were terrible in practice again and changed just about everything on the truck again and came up short there and finished second to Kyle (Busch). Just it’s all about the people — you’re only as good as the people you work around and I have an awesome, awesome group of guys right now.”
How much would it mean to you to win at Texas?
“Personally, I’ve always wanted — I can remember in 2004 I had led a lot of the race and still look back that far and it’s been a thorn in my side and had a bad pit stop and got hung back in traffic and was driving through and got wrecked. That race, I knew I was going to win. Just being able to be in victory lane in Texas. They say everything is bigger and better in Texas and I’ve always wanted to win this race so damn bad.”
JOHNNY SAUTER, No. 98 Carolina Nut/Curb Records Toyota Tundra, ThorSport Racing
How much do you enjoy racing at Texas?
“I love coming here. This has been a great race track for us. ThorSport as an organization as a whole, the first time I ever came here with them we sat on the pole. Last year, sweeping both races. I joke about this all the time, I don’t know if I’m more excited to come here and get on the race track or I am to go to downtown Dallas and eat my grandma’s chicken and dumplings. It’s just good — it’s just a good race track. We seem to always have speed here and I’ll be quite honest with you, today’s pole run was a shock to me. I just didn’t think, you know — our truck was pretty comfortable in race trim, but I just didn’t know we had the speed in qualifying trim because we elected not to make a mock qualifying run in practice today, just didn’t think it was necessary I guess. We were really focused on trying to make it race well. Proud of everybody on the Carolina Nut Curb Records Toyota — the guys did a great job and this is a shot in the arm for sure.”
What is it about Texas Motor Speedway that suits your driving style?
“I wish I knew because I’d try to apply it to all the other race tracks we go to. This is a race track where as you see the asphalt is getting a little bit of age on it and I think as a driver we all like that. The race track has a lot of character. You hear people talk a lot about the bumps in (turns) one and two by the tunnel, it kind of throws you for a curve ball. The trucks are real tricky because we go through the center of the corner so fast, especially qualifying — the qualifying lap is essentially wide open and as you get into the race, you saw today, our race speeds slowed down almost a second-and-a-half. There’s just a huge variation of the way you have to drive. You’re wide open for the beginning of a run and by lap 20, you’re like, ‘This thing has lost a lot of grip.’ Just a lot of give and take here and ultimately the guy with the most grip typically has a good shot of winning here. I think we have that in our Toyota Tundras.”
Do you feel like you have a target on your back by the other competitors?
“Well, I don’t know. I don’t feel that way, I guess. I’ve had a lot of people asking me questions today. Typically a lot of drivers do their own thing or talk to their teammates or something, but I’ve had a lot of drivers from different teams asking me questions — what I think the race track is going to do from daytime to nighttime and whatnot. More so here than a lot of places. I’m assuming they’re looking at how we’ve run here in the past and say, ‘Hey that’s a good guy to talk to.’ I’m smart enough to know just because we had success here a year ago doesn’t guarantee anything, you still have to be smart and work hard. I don’t know — I hope I don’t have a bulls eye on my back, I hope we just keep continuing to do what we do here.”
How difficult has it been to overcome the penalties you were given earlier this season?
“Well, when you start off the year two-and-zero and things are going pretty good, you’re leading the points and you go to Kansas and you struggle a little bit but you still manage to finish in the top-five, you know you mentioned the infraction when we lost 25 points, the crew chief Joe (Shear) is still suspended this weekend, he’s not even here this weekend. Four races he comes back at Iowa in July. It’s tough. You think you have everything going your way, you’re sitting on top of the points, you’ve won half the races to get going, but racing is — sometimes you make choices that probably aren’t best suited. We all stick together and work together and the guys have picked up the slack really well. It’s tough. Charlotte was an adjustment for us. It was the first time I hadn’t had my crew chief with me at a race track in a long time and was a major adjustment period. You know practice felt like you didn’t know who to talk to. I think we’re getting better at it, just the way we communicate. Obviously tonight we’ll go back to the hotel where Joe, my crew chief is and kind of go over the day and try to make the best guesses we can for the race tomorrow.”
How does the Texas track lend itself to repeat winners?
“Honestly I think a lot of it comes down to, if you like a race track. For whatever reason, I’ve always liked Texas. We hear people talk all the time about cookie cutter race tracks or whatever, but from where I sit, from the driver’s seat, they might look a lot alike, but they all drive completely different and they require totally different setups. From day one, we came here and we’ve always had a really good baseline. You mentioned we won here last year both races and we had kind of two different setups and we’re here again today with kind of a different setup. You constantly have to be changing things and evolving and working on setups and things like that. I really think a driver’s mentality going into a weekend has a lot to do with the success they have. Who knows — anybody can win any given race, that’s the way I always look at it, so you just have to put your best effort forth.”
How does resurfacing a race track affect the racing and how you approach race weekend?
“From my perspective, I definitely want to come back with the same pavement year after year. Especially when you’ve had success at a race track. Like you said, the intricacies you feel like maybe you’ve found a couple sweet spots on the race track that maybe somebody else hasn’t caught onto yet and kind of keep that in your back pocket. Obviously, we all know new pavement is faster, but I look at the pole speed today and it’s fast. It’s faster than we’ve ever gone here if I’m not mistaken. That’s just a product of crew chiefs and technology getting better and setups changing. There’s just so many things that go into this. I like old pavement, I think it has a lot of character. I noticed today that we were slipping and sliding more than typical, so hopefully it will make a heck of a show.”