MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
JUNE 22, 2018
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 DC SOLAR CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at Sonoma Raceway and discussed NASCAR’s decision not to run the All-Star package at other tracks in 2018, what he likes about road course racing, the importance of grassroot racing in motorsports and many other topics. Full Transcript:
YOU WON THE POLE AT LAST YEAR’S CUP SERIES RACE HERE AT SONOMA AND THE K&N WEST SERIES RACE HERE IN 2014. HOW ARE YOU FEELING HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND’S RACE IN YOUR HOME STATE?
“Yeah, with those stats I feel good about qualifying. I always qualify well here. I think we have the track record maybe from ’14 or ’15, so that is pretty cool. The pole here last year was neat. I would like to race well here soon. I don’t know what it is about the race, but I always seem to struggle a little bit. Hopefully, this year is a little bit different and can do a good job and get our team up front.”
ARE YOU INCREDIBLY SAD OR ARE YOU EXHILARATED ABOUT NASCAR’S DECISION ON THE RULES PACKAGE?
“I mean I’m happy that it’s not I guess happening this year. I feel like we are pretty far into the season, so I think them kind of taking their time to evaluate a little bit more and maybe figure out ways to make it even better is good. I don’t know, I just kind of learned about it I guess pretty much yesterday or today, so yeah, it’s nice that we can focus on what we have been working on all year long. Like I have said before, I thought it was a great All-Star package and I think there are ways to make it better for other race tracks if they wanted to. So, I think with them taking their time, it is good to hopefully hit a homerun with it someday.”
THIS WEEK ON TWITTER IT SEEMED LIKE YOU DREW THE IRE OF SOME NASCAR FANS WHO ARE A LITTLE BIT SENSITIVE WHEN YOU MENTIONED THE WORLD OF OUTLAWS AGAIN OR DIRT RACING. EVEN THOUGH YOU SAID YOU JUST WANTED TO GO THERE AND RUN FULL TIME 15 OR 20 YEARS FROM NOW WHAT ARE YOU HAVING TROUBLE WITH GETTING ACROSS TO FANS AS FAR AS YOUR CARING FOR NASCAR AND DIRT RACING?
“I don’t know I think maybe some people aren’t quite as open minded maybe. It’s like they read it as if I said in two years from now I wanted to do it. I mean 15 years from now that would put me 20 years in Cup. So, that is a long time. I think Jeff Gordon spent about that much time in the sport, but I don’t know, maybe I don’t do the best job in the world of talking about how much I love NASCAR as much as I do sprint cars, but I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing. I enjoy sprint cars and I feel like I talk about sprint cars a lot just to open people’s eyes to that style of racing because it’s a great form or racing and so is NASCAR. So, I don’t know, I just want fans to be fans of motorsports not just NASCAR and not just sprint cars. I would like to see everybody just enjoy all of racing and I think that is what I do. Maybe I don’t do a good job at it sometimes, but you know, I enjoy racing all types of vehicles. Most fans get it, but some fans aren’t quite open minded enough.”
DID CHIP (GANASSI) HAVE ANY REACTION OR ANYTHING FOR YOU SAYING THAT BY THE TIME YOU ARE 40 YOU WON’T BE RACING IN CUP?
“No, not yet. I will see him this weekend. I’m sure he will give me some crap about it, but I think he is good enough at math to know that is a long time from now.”
YOU ARE CURRENTLY 10TH IN POINTS RIGHT NOW HALFWAY THROUGH THE SEASON. IS IT FRUSTRATING THAT YOU ARE THE TOP RANKED CHEVY AND YOU ARE 10TH IN POINTS? WHAT DOES THE REST OF THE SEASON LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
“No, I mean I would obviously like to be higher in points. I don’t think of me being the highest running Chevy. I look at … I think we have had a few DNF’s this year, so we aren’t a 10th-place car we are quite a bit faster than that. I think it’s been a good year, it hasn’t been a great year, it hasn’t been the year we had last year, but we have still been really competitive, ran second three times and close to winning a couple of those. We have speed we just need to execute a little bit better. These races are tough to win so you have to be extremely perfect to win them. I think we just keep working to be a little bit better all-around and we will be contenders at the right time of the season. I think last year we were good to start the year, not that we got worse we just didn’t get a ton better throughout the year, where other teams were getting better. I feel like we are in that spot this year now where we are getting better and better every week. I think hopefully we can hit it at the right time and be battling for the championship at Homestead.”
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK THIS YEAR ABOUT DECLINING TV RATINGS FOR NASCAR AS WELL AS ATTENDANCE AT THE TRACKS. DO YOU NOTICE THAT AS WELL? DO YOU THINK THE FAN SUPPORT HAS BEEN JUST AS ENTHUSIASTIC AS IT’S ALWAYS BEEN?
“Yeah, I mean it’s hard not to notice the empty seats in the stands, but I think it’s not just NASCAR you can look at any sporting event, basketball even football sometimes and other sports you know I think during the regular season. There are just so many ways to consume the event on your phone or whatever it may be. You don’t have to be here live to be watching it. You don’t even have to be watching it on TV to be paying attention to the race or to a sporting event, so I think that is why… I think the way that some people might look at rating it might look worse than it really is. I don’t think we are at a bad spot. I think NASCAR and the tracks are always trying to figure out ways to get more fans back to the race track. I don’t pay attention to a whole lot of other sports, but I don’t feel like that other sports are working as hard as what NASCAR does to grow their fanbase.”
CAN YOU EXPRESS TO THE GENERAL MOTORSPORTS FAN THAT A SUCCESSFUL GRASSROOTS PROGRAM IS GOOD FOR ALL MOTORSPORTS?
“Yeah, I think you can look at what myself and (Christopher) Bell and Kasey Kahne, (Ricky) Stenhouse, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick has been a big advocate of it the last year or so of growing grassroots racing because it is huge for motorsports in general in helping to grow motorsports and getting these fans paying attention to their local race tracks. I don’t really know how I can explain it to people, but I enjoy doing it. I don’t feel obligated to go race that stuff to make motorsports bigger, but I know when I’m doing it that I am doing something positive for racing. That gives me some extra enjoyment out of it. I love going to the dirt track and hearing…I have multiple fans come up to me each and every night they are like ‘man you know guys like you and Bell you are the reason why I’m watching NASCAR again.’ And that makes me feel really special. It makes me feel like I’m having an impact when I am going to race that stuff or racing here even. I think you have seen a huge push to help grow grassroots racing and I think Harvick here recently has been a big promoter of that so we will just keep having fun and doing what we are doing and trying to do our best to grow it.”
HOW ODD WILL IT FEEL HEADING TO CHICAGO AND THAT NOT BEING THE FIRST RACE IN THE PLAYOFFS? HOW DIFFERENT DO YOU THINK CHICAGO WILL BE IN JULY VERSUS THE FALL WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN RACING THERE?
“Yeah, it will be a little odd. I feel like going to Chicago then, but I think it’s a good change. I think the hotter weather will always make any race better because we will be sliding around and stuff like that. I think there will probably be, I would hope there would be a lot more fans and stuff at the race track because there are really no other sporting events going on or major sporting events and kids are out of school, so I think that will be big. And as far as the style of racing, like I said, the track should hopefully be hotter and slicker, but I always feel like that first Playoff race the intensity is not that high just because people are just trying not to make mistakes and stuff like that or you don’t really want to start off your Playoff’s bad, so everybody races, I feel like there is a lot of give and take at that race, where now not saying that there is not as much on the line, but I think the racing will be more intense even than it was.”
HOW MUCH FUN OR NOT FUN IS A ROAD COURSE RACE FOR A NASCAR DRIVER?
“I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s fun to get to do something totally different than what I ever grew up racing. A pavement oval is totally different than what I grew up doing, but a road course is way opposite. I enjoy it. I feel like I get better and better at it. To me, I feel like racing a stock car on a road course is more similar to a sprint car even because you can feel the suspension working more than you can on an oval. So, there are aspects of it that my background benefits to this more so than a normal oval race. I enjoy it. This is my home track so I get to see a lot of friends and family and hangout with people that I don’t get to see very often too. I enjoy this weekend a lot.”
WITH THE NEW CAMARO BODY ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC THAT YOU GUYS STILL HAVE A WAYS TO GO IN DEVELOPING IT SO YOU’VE GOT A LOT OF GOOD NEWS AHEAD OF YOU IN THE SENSE THAT THIS CAR SHOULD BE GETTING FASTER OR ARE YOU GUYS A LITTLE FRUSTRATED YOU HAVEN’T FOUND THE SPEED IN THE CAR YET OR AS MUCH AS YOU WOULD LIKE?
“Well, I mean I feel like our speed has been there all year really. I feel like speed wise we have been about the same as we were last year. I think you can look at Stewart-Haas is quite a bit better than they were last year. I feel like compared to the Gibbs cars we are kind of right where we were to end the season with them last year, so we were pretty good there, so no, I don’t feel like our team is frustrated at all. I think we look at it as there is a lot of room to gain which is nice because I feel like we are already competitive and if we get any bit better we will be in a good spot. So, I think our team is definitely optimistic.”
WHAT ELEMENTS OF THIS TRACK DO YOU REALLY FIND CHALLENGING, INTRIGUING AND REALLY WORK WITH THE SKILLS THAT YOU DO BRING?
“I would say the areas that I struggle the most at or the areas that I’m good starting through a lap… Turn 1 up through the hill all the way basically through Turn 4 I’m really good. Off of Turn 4, I struggle, (Turn) 7 I struggle, (Turn) 11 I struggle, Clint (Bowyer, who just walked in the media center) is trying to teach me a little throttle control back there. That is where I lack. And then the esses I’m decent at and then Turn 11 I kind of suck again, so any corner where you have to slow down and speed back up I tend to struggle at, so I’ve got to get better at that.”
DOES THE RAINOUT WEDNESDAY COUNT AGAINST YOUR 25 AND DO YOU GET TO DO THE INDY DIRT RACE?
“(Laughs) I hope it doesn’t count or I hope the rainout allows me to… that is the first time I’ve had to deal with that getting rained out before the feature where I had already been in the race car, but I don’t think it counts. That is good. I already had the Indy race on my schedule, so now it opens me up to kind of go somewhere else which is nice.”
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