First I want to say that I’m really excited that I get to drive the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota this season! The first thing I ever raced had a “56” on it. I can remember my dad running that number when I was a little kid. It’s awesome that now I can show it off to the fans and tell them about the meaning behind it.
The start to my year has been pretty busy. Since everything is new, the preseason has been packed with things to do: photo shoots, commercials, test sessions, meetings, and the like. I have been spending a lot of time over at the shop and I’m so impressed with the people at Michael Waltrip Racing. I believe the organization is going about this big change in the right way, so that we can have success this season.
I’m excited about the way things are going so far. I’m getting to know my new crew chief Pat Tryson, and I think we are going to have a great year. I feel really lucky to be teamed up with someone who has so much incredible experience in the sport. He’s put together an amazing group of people and it’s resulted in a good two-day test.
We went down for the Goodyear Tire Test at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the second week of January. It turned out great for us. I was so ready to get back into a race car. A lot of my NAPA guys haven’t worked together before so it was a good jump start to the season for us to go there. We didn’t have any outside pressure, so we could focus on working together and getting to know one another. We also got the chance to figure out what to expect from each other during the weekends and on race day.
We’re starting to get on the same page and find some things that we like to do that make the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota fast.
I’m really impressed with our equipment. Our TRD engine felt strong during the test and I was pleasantly surprised by that. There aren’t as many differences going from a Chevy to a Toyota as I thought there might be. I’m happy that we have a chance to do some more testing before Daytona, but really I just want to get down there for qualifying and the 500 as soon as possible.
NASCAR has been kicking around some ideas regarding the yellow-line rule at restrictor-plate races, as well as the rear spoiler addition to our car versus having the wing. I think all of their ideas are for the better and that’s why they are exploring options. I still believe in the yellow-line rule. I think it’s something we still need at the restrictor-plate tracks, otherwise the racing would get too wild. The spoiler I think is exciting for all of us. It’s a little bit of a change. I think if they do it, it could be good for a lot of reasons. I think we just need to wait and see what NASCAR comes up with. They are trying to make changes to benefit the drivers and teams - but more importantly, the fans.
Next week I get to film my first NAPA TV commercial. I had a chance to see the idea for one of them so I’m excited about being a part of it – especially since all of NAPA’s past commercials are hilarious. You’ll get to see the first one during the Daytona 500.
With everything coming together like it has, I’ve got some big goals for 2010. The main one is to be competitive week in and week out. Of course, like every driver, the end goal is to get back into victory lane. I had some strong top-ten runs at the end of last season, and I think I can built on that momentum, especially with the strong relationships that I am building with Michael Waltrip Racing and NAPA Auto Parts.
I’m excited to be a new part of the NAPA Auto Parts and NAPA Racing families. I think we are going to have a lot of success this season and I can’t wait to get started!
Thanks for reading – until next time…