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June 10, 2020

James Small

Ridgeway, Virginia

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the race winning crew chief, James Small.
Walk us through that win from your perspective.
JAMES SMALL: Yeah, it was an up‑and‑down night. First run of the race there, we started off pretty good. A light switch just clicked. I think that was the point we had no rubber left on the tire. We just kind of were floating backwards. We came in at the caution on lap 60 in 10th, made some adjustments. It was more with the green track and everything, the tires were just shot. There was no wear left or anything.
We were actually pretty competitive. Finished the first stage in fourth. We came in there after that short run to the end. I made a blunder, I admit. I called Martin too late. He crossed the commitment line. That's where our race took a little bit of a turn. We sustained a little bit of damage in that short run there.
We were able to make some repairs once we went all the way to the back. The next run we were absolutely terrible. Almost went down a lap. Car wasn't great. We made a small change clearly in the wrong direction. Undid that, made a few more other changes.
The guys on pit road did an unbelievable job tonight. They've been working really hard. They had a solid night. Had a few good stops there, some inside lane restarts. The pace we had in that last stage was really good. We were able to get back up to the front.
Couldn't be happier for everybody. It was an amazing effort.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions for James.

Q. What does this mean to break through? What does it mean to finally get that first win?
JAMES SMALL: It's an amazing feeling. To be perfectly honest, it's a big relief.
We've had a challenging year. We had fast cars every week. Just things haven't been going our way. Finally tonight everything clicked. Nothing went wrong. Well, nearly nothing went wrong. That's the biggest thing, it's a relief.
I'm happy, super happy for everybody. Thankful for everybody at JGR. Now we can just go and race, race hard. We have less pressure on ourselves now. We're in the Chase. We're in a really good points position. We can just focus on getting bonus points, look forward to the Chase.

Q. What was it like transitioning to the crew chief role, taking notes to set up for this low downforce package?
JAMES SMALL: It's been difficult this year, we're going back to these tracks. It's a little different to 2018. Especially since the break, they're throwing in new tires, new aero package, doing it on tracks that aren't rubbered in. You kind of had to go off your notes, go a little bit off what he did last year even though it was so different.
We made some good changes last year here for the second race, just that overall Martinsville package. A lot of those same things kind of applied. Still a lot different with the aero, just the tire. We were kind of tuning on it all night. We've learnt now for later in the year. Maybe we'll have some practice beforehand (laughter).
It's difficult, but we love the challenge. It's paid off for us.

Q. It's about 2 p.m. in Australia right now. Any friends or family watching? What do you think their reaction was?
JAMES SMALL: No, I know everybody's watching down there these days. Lucky enough since the break from COVID, it's now actually back on FOX Sports in Australia because there's no other sport really on. They watch it on the NASCAR app all the time, FOX Sports. They're all listening on the radio.
I think I have about 250 messages on my phone from people all around the world. A lot of them are from down there. They're big supporters of mine. I'm very lucky to have them. They helped me to get to where I am today, so...

Q. You admitted it's been a challenging year, a big relief. Did you have any self‑doubts at any point? What has Martin Truex's confidence in you meant to you?
JAMES SMALL: It's a good question. He's been very supportive of me. After Bristol I thought to myself, that was a tough weekend for us. We got back to fifth, then we got taken out. That was probably one of our worst weekends of the year in terms of just trying to hit the setup. We had issues at Charlotte, too, which we know what they were. We fought back there, as well.
Everybody on the team has stuck behind me, including Martin. They've been big supporters. They have faith that if we just keep doing what we're doing, we're going to bring fast cars to the track every week.
I'm really thankful for everybody just being a huge supporter, including all the main people at JGR. They've all been in my corner. I'm lucky to be surrounded by such great people.

Q. At the start of the year did you have a goal of needing to get a win by a certain point?
JAMES SMALL: I honestly didn't. I was going around saying, If we don't get seven race wins it's going to be a failure (laughter).
As a company we haven't had such an advantage as what we had last year. We've been in position to win a lot of races, had some small issues go on. But to be honest, I never set a date.
As the races were counting down, I'm looking at them tick over, 9, 10, 11. Hoping we could at least get one by 14. That's happened, so we can press on now.

Q. Going into Homestead, what are the expectations going down there with such an incredible turnaround and possibly weather being a concern?
JAMES SMALL: No, I'm super excited. I think this will be one of our best tracks, even more so with the race moving to purely a daytime race. Middle of the summer, the sun sets a lot better than when we race there in November. Obviously it's going to be a completely different feel than normal because typically you have a four championship guys that bring beasts of cars down there that they spent time developing, putting all the effort into it. You kind of got that divide of those four guys.
You're not going to see that this year I don't think. It's going to be a harder race, a lot more guys in contention. Nobody is going to be laying over. We were strong in Atlanta, low grip. Same with Fontana. It kind of suits our cars. It suits Martin. We'll see how it goes.
I think we can go there and run really well.

Q. Martin mentioned the transition he felt was made a lot easier because you had worked underneath Cole. What kind lessons have you been able to apply from things you learned working with Cole and Martin? Do you feel that past experience made it easier on you stepping up to the crew chief role?
JAMES SMALL: Oh, yeah, no doubt, 100%. I think Cole and I have a really similar personality. Pretty laid back. I'm probably a little more fiery than him.
I know how Martin operates. He's not one of those guys wants to see data and endless amounts of information. He's low‑key. I think we spoke on Monday, then I spoke to him before he got in the car. We text back and forth every now and then. That's how Martin rolls. That's how he's always done. I know other drivers and crew chiefs have a lot more meetings, a lot more information between each other.
It's not something that we do. We just concentrate on doing all the fundamentals, everybody on our team all doing their individual parts as best as they can. When it all clicks, it comes together and you see results like tonight.
That's hugely beneficial being able to see how Cole and him worked there over the past few years. Yeah, no doubt.

Q. Those that know your background know you spent time in Australia working on the super car side. Is there anything from working in that realm that you were able to take coming over here that helped you?
JAMES SMALL: Yeah, definitely. There's things out there that we do better. There's a lot of things here that get done better. Just understanding tires and the track conditions, how that changes with temperature and stuff like that. We did a lot more stuff like that in Australia. That's helpful.
At the end of the day, like I said, it's still the maths with four tires, you're trying to go around the corners as fast as you can. The same principles apply everywhere, whether you're turning left or turning both ways. There's a lot of incredibly talented people in the U.S. I've learned a lot since I've come here, lucky to work with some great people.
If I ever decided to go back there, I'd be a hell of a lot better engineer and crew chief than I ever was before. Grateful for my time here.
THE MODERATOR: James, congratulations on the victory. We will see you in a few days down at Homestead‑Miami Speedway.
JAMES SMALL: Cheers, thank you.

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