MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 31, 2017
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed winning at Fontana last week, flying commercial, getting better at short tracks, and more. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT THE WEEK AND CELEBRATING YOUR WIN AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY. WHAT DID YOU DO TO HAVE SOME FUN?
“Sunday after the race we were heading to the airport and got in a car accident on the way there. A guy ran a red light in front of us and we hit him. And then, we flew to northern California and drove to St. Helena and hung out with Rico’s (Abreu) family and my parents and a lot of our friends, which was cool. Then, I was pretty busy all week because I had the NBC guys following me for the Racing Roots thing that we were doing there; following me around my hometown. And then, Wednesday, I ran a World of Outlaws race and yesterday we flew back here. We had a lot of delayed flights and got here about midnight. It’s been a busy week but a lot of fun and it’s really cool to be the point leader still and having the speed that we’ve had. Hopefully we can keep it going and have a good weekend here at Martinsville.”
COULD YOU JUST TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU NEED TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL WEEKEND HERE? OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVE THE CARS AND CONFIDENCE AND MOMENTUM ON YOUR SIDE.
“I’m glad to have a 29-point lead coming into Martinsville because this is my worst race track we go to, probably, even though we ran well last year. I’ve gotten better at it each time, but it’s still not a track where I’m extremely comfortable. I can go fast in qualifying or early on tires, but I struggle at saving my stuff. I’ve got to get better at that. If we can get a top 5 or top 10 here, that would be a huge success. We finished third last year. You never know. Our cars are so good right now, maybe we could contend for a win. But I’d like for it to continue to rain today so I can start on the pole. But, we’ll see. Yeah, it’s a tough place and tough to complete 500 good laps here.”
WE’VE GOT TEAMS DEALING WITH THE SUBSTITUTE CREW CHIEF THING AGAIN. HOW DO YOU SEE THE IMPACT TO THAT? HOW MIGHT IT AFFECT DANIEL SUAREZ, IN PARTICULAR, WHO IS STILL YOUNG AT ALL THIS AND RELATIVELY NEW? WOULD IT BE MORE OF AN IMPACT FOR HIM?
“I definitely think it could be more of an impact for Daniel than the rest of everybody because he’s so new to the Cup Series as well as the language barrier there. But, every other team, and maybe even Daniel’s team, they’re all so prepared and so professional. Obviously you want your primary crew chief there. But everybody is so prepared and smart, even on race weekends; the primary crew chief is still here, somewhere, helping out. The substitute crew chief is really just there to kind of help call the race. I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as people make it out to be.”
WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED WITH THE CAR WRECK? HOW DID THAT ALL UNFOLD?
“I think the person that we hit, he was one of the actual like traffic coordinators, like setting cones out and stuff, I think. And I don’t think he realized that they picked the cones up from the side where we were coming from. I don’t think he expected anybody to be coming from where we were and he just darted out in the intersection. We hit him in the right front. We were able to get turned a little bit before we hit him, so it honestly didn’t even hurt that bad, or at all, really. Our Chevy Suburban was good. The hood was buckled and the left front was messed up. The tow was out of it quite a bit. But, that guys truck, the right front was not a part of it anymore. So, it is a funny story. Just the irony of it, I guess, having a near perfect weekend and a quarter-mile from the track to get in a car accident.”
DID HE KNOW WHO YOU WERE?
“I don’t think he did. But, once the cops showed up, I think he realized who I was. And it was pretty funny.”
DID THEY REALIZE YOU WERE THE RACE WINNER?
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, that was cool. They were quick about it, too.”
WOULD YOU EVENTUALLY HAVE GOTTEN TO CUP WITHOUT THE DIVERSITY PROGRAM? OR WOULD YOU HAVE LIKELY STAYED IN OPEN-WHEEL CARS WITHOUT THE DIVERSITY PROGRAM?
“Yeah, I would be here. I don’t want to make the Diversity Program sound like it wasn’t beneficial. But, I guess I would have been here had I not been a part of that. I was already signed up with Chip Ganassi Racing before I did the diversity thing. Really, we did the diversity thing to help save Chip some money that first year of me racing. That way he didn’t have to fund a full K&N program out of his pocket. I was able to go run for Red Racing and save him probably at least a half million dollars. It was still good for my career to get that experience and be with a good race team and win some races and a championship that year. Yeah, I was already under contract with Chip and if they had to, I’m sure he would have footed the bill, but it saved him some money.”
“My plan was to go NASCAR racing the whole time. I signed up as a develop driver for Chip Ganassi Racing before the NASCAR thing and I moved to North Carolina to pursue that.”
BOTH YOUR WINS HAVE COME ON INTERMEDIATE TRACKS AND THIS IS A SHORT TRACK. WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO DO TO LIFT YOURSELF INTO THE REALM OF ‘WEEK-IN, WEEK-OUT’ THAT YOU’RE THE GUY TO BEAT?
“Since our race cars have become better, it’s easier for me to learn. Last year especially, I thought I got better at these short tracks. I ran a third here at Martinsville the first time and just out of the top 10 the second time. I can’t remember where we finished this first race but we finished second at the second Richmond. We’re always fast at Bristol. So, I’ve gotten better at the short track stuff. I’ve just got to continue to work hard at it. Sprint Car racing is short track racing, but it’s a totally different driving style than flat short tracks and stock cars. Sprint Car is on a quarter-mile feel like a stock car on a 1.5-mile at Charlotte because you’re still carrying a lot of throttle. I never drove anything like this until just a few years ago when I started stock car racing. So, my learning curve or whatever was way behind the guys who grew up doing this stuff. So, it’s taken me a little bit of time to learn it, but I feel like I’m competitive now and really could maybe challenge for some wins on these tracks.”
YOU MENTIONED FLIGHT DELAYS COMING BACK. DO YOU HAVE TO FLY COMMERCIAL EVERYWHERE YOU GO?
“Yeah, I fly commercial as much as I can and fly with the team. That’s a lot of money to be private flying, especially to the west coast. Yeah, I’m cheap with my money when it comes to flying. And, I like to rack up the miles so I can maybe get some free trips.”
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT YOU RUNNING RACES OUTSIDE OF THE CUP LEVEL. BECAUSE YOU’RE THE POINTS LEADER AND PRETTY MUCH HAVE A SPOT IN THE PLAYOFFS LOCKED-UP, DO YOU SEE WHERE YOUR STANDING IS IN THE CUP SERIES IMPACTING YOUR SCHEDULE OUTSIDE OF CUP?
“No. I’ve got a deal with Chip where I can run 25 races. So, I’m going to fill all 25 of those up this year. And, I enjoy doing it and I had a lot of fun racing this week and especially now, I get asked that question all the time when are they going to shut you down. But I feel like everybody need to encourage me and others to go race at your local short track and all that because I feel like we’ve lost touch with our grassroots race fans. And, I really think with me going back and doing that stuff and Kyle Busch running Late Model races throughout the year, it really kind of gets the local fans back excited about NASCAR. I feel like the last decade or so they’ve kind of lost touch with it. Yeah, I feel like everybody should instead of making Chip and Felix feel like they have to shut me down, should encourage them because it helps our fan base out.”
FOR YEARS WE’VE TALKED IN THE NASCAR COMMUNITY ABOUT A RACE CAR THAT EVOLVES TO THE POINT WHERE WE LOSE MORE AND MORE OF THE AERO DEPENDENCY WHERE THE LEADER GETS OUT IN FRONT WHERE IF YOU HAVE DAMAGE, YOU CAN STILL SURVIVE. LAST WEEK BRAD KESELOWSKI TOOK A CAR THAT WAS BEAT UP PRETTY BAD AND DROVE IT ALL THE WAY TO SECOND. ARE WE NOW TO THE POINT WHERE WE HAVE CARS THAT ARE MORE MECHANICAL-GRIP DEPENDENT THAN AERO-DEPENDENT? AND, IS THAT A GOOD THING RIGHT NOW?
“Yeah, I think the racing is good right now. Obviously you can always probably make it a little bit better and make the cars handle better in traffic and stuff like that. But, yeah, I thought last week what Brad did was really good. The leader getting out front by a ways, the leader is the fastest car more times than not. So, I don’t know. I’ve felt like the racing has been really competitive this year. Watching the races, the pack seems to be a little tighter for longer. I don’t know what the race fans think of it, but I know I think the racing has been good and hopefully it continues to get better.”
YOU COME FROM DIRT RACING, SHORT TRACK RACING, WHERE THERE IS A CHOOSE CONE. DO YOU THINK A CHOOSE CONE FOR SHORT TRACKS WOULD BE A COOL WAY TO LET THE DRIVERS CONTROL THEIR OWN DESTINY INSIDE OR OUTSIDE?
“There’s no choose cone in anything I’ve ever done. But, here at Martinsville, and some other short tracks, and even 1.5-miles and stuff, I don’t know how it would go but I think it would be exciting for a little bit anyways. Here at Martinsville you’d probably get the first three or four guys to choose the bottom and then you’d get the guy in fifth like, hey I’m going to go try it out and see if I can get the top lane to work and maybe gain one spot, which is a success. I think it would be pretty cool at a place like this, for sure.”
WHEN YOU DRIVE UP ON THE MARTINSVILLE PROPERTY, WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR HEAD?
“This was probably the one race I looked forward to the least coming to, early on in my NASCAR career. I was thinking about this last night. Normally I’m depressed driving up here to Martinsville because I suck. But, I’ve gotten better lately. So, I actually enjoy this place some. So yeah, I get kind of excited coming up here and the drive is not too long. It was fun. And it’s got a cool trophy, the Grandfather Clock. The atmosphere here is always really cool. Now they’ve got lights, too; so if it does continue to rain, we can go night racing which would be sweet.”
ON THE COMMERCIAL AIRLINES THING, DO THE OTHER DRIVERS GIVE YOU A HARD TIME ABOUT NOT HAVING YOUR OWN JET? DO YOU HAVE ANY AIRLINE STATUS? DOES ANYBODY RECOGNIZE YOU WHEN YOU FLY?
“They recognize me just a little bit. I’m better now. I’ll purchase a first class ticket now. But, a couple of years ago, I know (Ricky) Stenhouse and Danica (Patrick), obviously she’s a very wealthy person, but she doesn’t understand why I would purchase a coach ticket when coach is $120 versus first class being $500. I’m going to save that money. But now, I fly first class. And, too, Owen is older than 2 years now, so you have to purchase him a seat, which really stinks. But, I’ll fly commercial as much as I can, especially the west coast stuff. I think commercial is better. The team plane, you have to stop for fuel. No Wi-Fi. Commercial’s not bad.”
PEANUTS, PRETZELS, OR COOKIES?
“I sleep. Sleep is more important than those.”