After last season ended, you said that you were a bit depressed because there was no racing in the near future. You must be glad that you’re finally headed back to the track.
Yeah, very much. This is the most exciting part of the year. We’ve done all our testing—we didn’t get everything perfect but we found a lot of speed in the car. I think we did a lot of good work in the offseason and the team did an amazing job to produce the two new cars that we have. The cars are unbelievably well put together and are better than what we had in the past. I feel confident that we made a very solid advancement in speed. I would be surprised if the other teams picked up as much as we did, so I’m feeling super optimistic right now.
But you still don’t know how things will shake out once you get to Memphis.
Yeah, that’s why it’s so exciting—it’s like Christmas morning. You go to the first race, and at the end of the first practice Memphis, it’s going to be, “OK, where are we stacking up?” And then really we’ll know in qualifying. For me, this is by far the most exciting part of the year. I’m much happier right now than I was two weeks after the championship ended.
You’ve now won two consecutive championships with Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross. When was the last time in your career that you were able to go back-to-back?
I won both the championships I ran in 2004 when I was overseas racing in open wheel cars, but this is the first time I’ve ever run a series other than in stock cars for more than one year in a row. All the other stuff I did was kind of a ladder series in open wheel, so you only got one shot at it and then you moved on. This is the first time I’ve really run the same series for years in a row.
Does that consistency change the way you approach things?
I don’t think so. I don’t think anything has actually changed.
Just another race, go be faster than everyone else…
Yeah, honestly it’s every race. It’s not even each race at a time, it’s every single time I sit in the car. There’s always a refocus and a recalibration to do the job. At the end of the day you can over-complicate my job a lot, but it’s really simple—I get in the race car and have to drive it. It’s easy to get caught up in all the other stuff, but ultimately that’s what I get paid to do and that’s where my focus lies when I sit in the car. Everything else is white noise.
While the business of driving the race car is still the same, you do have a brand new look for this year.
Yeah, it’s been a great year already with the addition of Oberto—a brand that really fits my personality—and we’re able to do a lot more off track activation and activities, content production—it’s been a lot of fun. Between Volkswagen, Oberto, Circle K, and Rockstar we’ve got a lot of great partners together, and I know we’ll be doing some interesting things throughout the season. It’s already been fun during the offseason, getting to do all of the Volkswagen videos which are always a blast. You’ll see in an upcoming video, I got to mess with Tanner pretty good. We went for five takes and he just had to sit there and take it. Honest to God, we could win every race in the championship and I don’t know if it would be as rewarding as the torture I got to put him through—it was a little bit of payback from the Donut School video last year.
With all this content and video work you’ve been doing, have you learned any tips from Tanner who is so experienced in front of the camera?
It’s like anything. You can’t teach someone, but when you see somebody who is very good at something you naturally just get better at it by being around them. That’s been the case for the last four years of working with Tanner. He’s a super successful person for a reason and being around him, you pick up naturally on lots of positive attributes and that’s the good thing about being surrounded by talented people.
Last year was very successful for the VARX team. Do you expect something similar this season?
GRC has made some changes to the format of the races which I think will make things harder for the teams but I feel like will end up actually playing to my strengths. So, I’m optimistic, but it will definitely be something different everyone needs to figure out. Still, I feel confident. I feel more confident now than I did at this time last year, so I’m looking forward to another great season.
The first round of the 2017 Red Bull Global Rallycross championship from Memphis will air on NBC—Sunday, Arpil 30 at 1:00PM (ET).