Yeah, there is a lot to it, first the momentum. Everyone's more relaxed. It's easy when you work the cars. When you get behind, you don't feel like your back is completely up the wall. Can you take a deep breath and make better decisions? Also, it alleviates a lot of stress from the guys in the shop. There are several hundred people that work at Joe Gibbs Racing that build these race cars. When we can come out here and knock out a couple wins pretty early and put ourselves up front in points, it lets us start doing some long-term planning, and making sure when the Chase comes around, we have some of the best race cars sitting on jack stands, so we know how to build.
Last year, with the pressure on us, trying to make the Chase, we were trying to bring our best stuff to the last laps and mixing it up a little bit. We still had really good cars in the Chase, but they could have been even better. So I think the early momentum really sets up the entire season.
Kyle, when Martin was in there he had mixed emotions about finishing second, as you might imagine. I'm wondering, were you surprised he was able to hang with you that you guyed combined to lead 313 laps? I don't think anybody's surprised about you doing that. But are you surprised that he was able to match your pace?
No, I'm not. He was really fast here last year, and those guys have really worked hard at MWR on their mile-and-a-half program. Sometimes people forget just how closely MWR and JGR work together. Sometimes it frustrates you though in that respect because you've got to race a separate team, but you're still working with them. So you know you're sharing a little bit of information there. But in the long run, it seems to help you out. And both of us were really strong this weekend.
It was great to race with Martin. It was great to battle with him there and race each other hard. I felt like our car was a little bit better than his if I could get to the clean air. Because any time we restarted, it seemed like I could stay with him and even run up on him a little bit. But I'd start slipping and heating up my tires and I'd start fading backwards. Where it seemed like when I restarted and got out front, I just checked out. He couldn't even keep pace with me. So that I felt like we had a stronger car in that respect. It was just a little bit difficult to pass because we were going so fast around this racetrack. You're using the bottom lane because there is so much throttle-on time that you don't venture off the bottom for a few laps because it's so fast around the bottom. So it was good racing with him and it is cool to see the Toyotas running up front like that.
Michael came over to the winner's circle there and congratulated us, and I think J.D. went over and talked to Rob and said, hey, it's one of those things. I know he didn't want to finish behind us there, but I think we have a great working relationship with him, and Toyota has helped tremendously with some of the projects that we can do together.
Kyle, going back to what you said at the outset, you said that Joe had put in some expense to put better cars on the track. Could you elaborate on that?
A little, just a little. Joe has spent some of his personal money over the off-season to build a few new cars for each team. We're still utilizing chassis and whatnot from last year and re-bodying those cars and whatnot. But there was some other stuff that we wanted to try to some other cars. Instead of just completely redoing the fleet, we did a couple cars for each team, and that was Joe. That wasn't in the budget. So we appreciate that and all the football years that he spent, it makes our race team a lot better.
Do we have a budget? No, I walk out of every meeting and say I'm going to try to make some money so you guys will throw it away. That's kind of it. You don't want to be the owner in this deal.
No, you don't.
Kyle, you have six wins in 13 starts between Cup and Nationwide. I know last year you had one win in both series. You ran a lot of races last year in Nationwide. But are things just different this year? Maybe just positive overall in both series because you're not maybe as bogged down by your team? You've got Joe's help or JGR's help. It just seems like things are different.