MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
AUTO CLUB 400
AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 24, 2017
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed being the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series point leader, racing on dirt, thoughts on stage racing and many other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT THE STRONG START TO 2017 AND COMING HOME TO CALIFORNIA FOR THIS WEEKEND’S RACE:
“Yeah, it’s definitely been a good start to the year. We have had a shot to win every race this season. I’ve been really happy about that. California Speedway, I’m from California so it’s kind of like my home race. It’s a long way from Sacramento, but still feels somewhat like home getting to see lots of friends and stuff out here. It would be nice to get a win here and end the second-place streak I have going, but yeah, no it’s been really cool to be contending like we have been. Hopefully, we can continue to have speed in our race cars. I’ve been really happy with everybody at our Target Chip Ganassi Racing shop, Credit One Bank, everybody that puts all their time and effort into letting Jamie (McMurray) and myself have some fun and go fast and challenge for wins. Been extremely happy and would like to be winning right now, but being the point leader is awesome.”
WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE THE POINTS LEADER AT THIS POINT IN YOUR CAREER AND THIS SEASON?
“Yeah, it’s neat to be leading the points this early in the year. I know I’ve won a handful of championships throughout my racing, but I’ve never been one to be a points racer or be as consistent as I’ve been. Going into this year I made it a goal of mine to be more consistent this year and make less mistakes. It’s only been four races, but we have been off to a good start on limiting our mistakes and running up front. That has helped put ourselves in position to win each race this season. Like I said, just been really proud of everybody on our race team and happy with kind of how I’ve been performing. Been trying to work a little bit harder this year and it seems to all be paying off.”
EVEN WITH YOUR RUNNER-UP FINISHES YOU HAVE REALLY EXHIBITED A GOOD PERSONALITY ABOUT IT. YOU HAVE HANDLED IT ALL SO WELL COMING THAT CLOSE. HOW DO YOU DO THAT?
“I think it’s easy to handle it in the Cup Series because it is so extremely tough to run up front. So, to be consistently up front is something that is hard to do or it’s been hard for us and our race team. We have never had this speed before, at least since I’ve been in the Cup Series. It’s something that is a little bit new and different to me and makes it a whole lot of fun to come to the race track. Yeah, I don’t know, seconds are not wins, but they are not thirds either. It’s not too bad.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS FINALLY CLICKED FOR YOU AND JAMIE MCMURRAY BECAUSE YOU ARE BOTH DOING SO WELL?
“I think our race cars are just, like I said, way better than they have been in a long time. I think Jamie and I maybe have added a little bit to it, but I feel like our race cars are just the main reason why we are running a lot better this season. Everybody is so good in this series that a lot comes down to how well your race cars are and how well your race team performs. We have kind of got it all going on right now. It’s pretty cool to show up to the race track. I know Jamie and I are both having a blast right now.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CREW CHIEF CHAD JOHNSTON AND HOW IT HAS EVOLVED OVER THE LAST YEAR?
“I get along great with Chad. We’ve got similar personalities, kind of quiet but also have a funny personality. Just getting to spend all of last year with him and then go kind of one full off season together has been good. Last year the first half of last year him and Phil, my engineer, were just I think trying to kind of feel me out and learn me a little bit and learn my communication and how it might be different than other drivers they have been with. So, I think that is why we started the year off slow last season and then having that full year and all that and getting our cars better throughout the year is really helped for this season. I know that they can kind of look at notes that they had from the second half of last season and take them to the tracks we had ran bad last year and be a lot better this time around.”
TALK ABOUT YOUR MINDSET GOING INTO MARTINSVILLE NEXT WEEK:
“Martinsville is definitely my worst race track and probably my least favorite race track. But, we did have a good run there last year. We finished third and maybe just outside the top 10 the second time we were there. So, a lot better than I’ve ran there in years before. I’m actually excited to get to Martinsville. I feel like I have become a better short, flat track racer. I think I maybe understand kind of what I need throughout practice to help me in the race a little bit better than I had in the past. Just got to wait and see. We’ve got to get through this week, hopefully get another solid run, hopefully a win and go into Martinsville and just be mistake free.”
TALK ABOUT THE DIFFICULTY OF ADAPTING TO STAGE RACING:
“It’s not difficult to adapt to. The race lengths are still the same distance we just kind of have a set caution period. It honestly probably makes the race easier to run because you can break it up. I feel like the racing has been more intense at the end of the stages, especially, I guess last week the second stage was the only one that to me wasn’t that intense from my seat towards the end of it, but every other stage has been pretty intense. So, I’ve liked the stage racing a lot. I don’t know, I haven’t seen much of the fan opinion on it, but talking to all the other drivers and my opinion on it it’s been a great change to our sport and happy that they have done it.”
DOES IT MAKE PASSING EASIER?
“I don’t know. Passing is still tough. I don’t think stage racing makes passing any easier or difficult, but we’ve got less downforce on the cars this year and I think that helps passing a little bit. Thankfully for us we have been up front for most of these races and haven’t had to worry about passing a whole lot of cars. Yeah, it’s been fun.”
WILL THE SUCCESS YOU ARE HAVING THIS YEAR WILL THAT CURTAIL SOME OF YOUR DIRT TRACK RACING? WILL YOU TRY TO VISIT THE KNOXVILLE NATIONALS THIS YEAR?
“Yeah, no, I watched RaceHub (program on FoxSports1) last week and I know Chad Johnston (crew chief) in one of his interviews said I was more focused this year and Wally (Dallenbach, show host) said ‘yeah you know he’s not running as many sprint car races this year.’ I’m still running as many sprint car races as I ran last year. I’m racing in less than a week now in Placerville (California). It would be cool to go to the World of Outlaw races being the Cup Series point leader. But, yeah, I love racing sprint cars and I’m allowed to run 25 a year, so I get 25 in. I won’t be able to run Knoxville Nationals this year. Our schedule worked out perfect last year. I could run almost all of Ohio speedweek and all of the Knoxville Nationals, but this year all I will probably be able to do is Oskaloosa (Iowa) on whatever day of the week that is and then I could run a prelim night of Knoxville Nationals, but I definitely wouldn’t be able to run Saturday.”
TALK ABOUT THE FONTANA SURFACE:
“It’s always a lot of fun to go to a worn-out surface. Fontana is one of my favorite because there are so many different lanes to choose from and the seams are tricky. It’s a super-wide race track and you can run anywhere from the bottom to the top. Got to be conservative on your tires and be patient against the wall, but also aggressive. It’s an intense race track. The race has always felt fairly long because it’s so demanding, but yeah, I wish there were more race tracks like this.”
CAN YOU GIVE SOME MORE EXPLANATION AS YOU HAVE TO WORK ON YOUR SET-UP OR AERO PACKAGE WHEN THE WEATHER IS COOLER OR HOTTER?
“Phoenix has been repaved not too long ago, so even though it was hotter last week it still has 100 times more grip than this place does when it would be zero degrees outside. That is a 1-mile race track versus a 2-mile race track the set-ups are just polar opposite different. I don’t… listen, I drive the car, I hold the steering wheel and press the gas and brake. I don’t worry about set-up’s, but if I would imagine I would say the set-ups are way different.”
DO YOU THINK IF IT REALLY STARTS GETTING TO THE POINT WHERE THE CHAMPIONSHIP LOOKS LIKE SOMETHING THAT COULD BE A POSSIBILITY DO YOU THINK CHIP MIGHT CHANGE THAT 25-RACE STIPULATION?
“No, because all my dirt racing is pretty much done before the Playoffs start anyways. Mid-week racing kind of happens up to Knoxville Nationals and then the mid-week racing kind of goes away. I don’t think there is, yeah there are no races I could run during the playoffs, but as soon as the season is done I will be at Turkey night.”
“No, I mean I don’t think the World of Outlaws would have planned it that way they just don’t have any mid-week races. No, like I said there are no mid-week races really to catch throughout the Midwest or anything. Yeah, it’s all kind of done. There is a lot of mid-week racing in June and July and that is probably when I get most of my racing in.”
IT WAS SAID LAST WEEK THAT YOU ARE THE FIRST CHIP GANASSI RACING DRIVER SINCE STERLING MARLIN IN 2002 TO LEAD THE POINTS AT THIS TIME IN THE SEASON. IS THERE SUCH A THING AS MOMENTUM RIGHT NOW? FROM A TEAM PERSPECTIVE AND THE GUYS AT THE SHOP WHO ARE THERE GRINDING IT OUT IS THERE SUCH A THING AS MOMENTUM FOR THEM?
“Oh, for sure, momentum is huge in our sport especially, but every sport. Yeah, that is really cool to be the only other Ganassi driver to be leading the points. I have never gotten to meet Sterling, but from the stories Jamie has told me, he is a character. I haven’t been to the shop because I’ve been out West the whole swing here, but looking forward to getting back there and seeing all the guys and gals that are working on the cars and thanking them for all their hard work. I’m sure they have listened to all my interviews and stuff and I try to make it a point to thank them in those. But, yeah, momentum is big and I just hopefully can carry the momentum.”
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THE SUCCESS OF THE YOUNG DRIVERS THUS FAR THIS SEASON?
“It’s really cool to see kind of where the sport is at right now. There is us three that you just named Austin (Dillon), Erik Jones, (Daniel) Suarez, Chris Buescher, there is a lot of young talent, I mean Joey Logano is only a couple of years older than I am. It’s really cool to see kind of the future of the sport and them all running up front. I’m sure NASCAR is really happy about that and it’s fun to race with all of them on the race track because I feel like we’ve all gotten a little bit added aggression and excitement. So yeah, personality wise the young guys are all pretty fun. (Ryan) Blaney is always on some sort of social media doing PR stuff for NASCAR, which is funny to watch. Austin (Dillon) is a fiery guy and really good for the sport and then Chase (Elliott) and myself are kind of more laid back I feel like. Yeah, it’s cool to see and Joey likes to fight, so we are in a great spot.”