NASCAR CUP SERIES
LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 2, 2021
KYLE LARSON, NO. 5 HENDRICKCARS.COM CAMARO ZL1 1LE, Teleconference Transcript:
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE START OF YOUR SEASON? DO YOU FEEL THIS TEAM IS DEVELOPING INTO A WINNING TEAM AT THIS POINT?
“I’ve been happy with the start of the year. I feel like for the most part, or partially, we’ve kind of contended for a win in a way each week. So that’s been good. A top 10 at the 500 is always good. I wish I could have Turn 6 back at the Road Course because I felt like we had a great shot to win, but definitely probably would have won top 3 in that race. And then at Homestead we got a top 5. So yeah, I’m happy with it. New team and new faces. I haven’t been in a car in a long time and to be as strong as we’ve been; and drive the whole race at every race has been really good. So, I’ve been happy.”
WHAT ARE YOUR PREPARATIONS FOR THE BRISTOL DIRT RACE? WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS ABOUT RUNNING THE WEEK BEFORE AND WHAT SORT OF CUP RACE WILL WE SEE ON THE DIRT?
“I’m excited to get there. I think we all are just because we don’t know what it’s going to be like. So, I don’t really know. I’m probably not going to learn a whole lot the week before, other than just getting familiar with the banking and the track and stuff like that. A Super Late Model on dirt is going to be way different than a Cup car on the same race track. So, I don’t know what to expect for the Cup race anyway. We’ve gotten to see some laps of Modifieds and Late Models and things like that around there. It’s really fast. And it looks like it’ll be hard to pass. Maybe with the Cup cars being slower around there, which I’m sure they will be, we’ll be able to pass a little bit easier than the Late Model and probably what a Sprint car will be around there. But you don’t know until we get there. It’s coming soon, so I’m excited about it.”
WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE, AND ALSO CHRISTOPHER BELL, ARE YOU TWO THE FAVORITES?
“Yeah, I think it’s easy for race fans and media to probably point at us as being the favorites just because of our dirt experience. But honestly, I don’t think we are really because a Midget and a Sprint Car drive way different than a full-bodied stock car in general. And then you put it on dirt and it’s going to be way different. So, just because the surface is dirt doesn’t mean that we’re going to be great; because the cars are way slower responding than what we’re used to with a Sprint Car or a Midget. A Midget is a little over 1,000 pounds and a Sprint Car is about 1400 pounds with 950 horsepower. Where a stock car is 3500 pounds and 750 horsepower. It’s just going to be a lot lazier than what we’re accustomed to. I think there are advantages about being dirt guys because we’re able to read the track surface and know when it’s changing and know where there may be grip on the race track where other people don’t have that experience might not know. But I honestly think it’s going to look a lot like a pavement race but on dirt.”
YOU DID RACE HOMESTEAD LAST YEAR, BUT NOT THE DAYTONA ROAD COURSE. DID YOU FEEL BEHIND AT ALL?
“Not at all at Homestead. At the Road Course maybe a touch, but I feel like I got comfortable after really a few laps I felt comfortable enough to feel competitive, which it showed. And then coming to the first Stage, I felt good. I felt like I was aggressive. Maybe being able to go back now, I think I’ll be able to understand how much deeper I can go in after looking at data and stuff like that. But being in the race car, I felt like I was fine. I ran around fifth to seventh kind of all race; and then had a shot at the end. So, I don’t really feel like I was too far behind. I feel like I’ve done a really good this year of preparing and doing my homework and coming to the race track ready to go.”
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BEING WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS NOW AFTER BEING WITH CHIP GANASSI RACING?
“I still don’t really notice much of a difference. If anything, the only difference I really felt at Homestead was just the ride quality was a little bit smoother. There are some bumps on entry to (Turn) 3 up top and usually with the No. 42 I could feel those a lot. Where in the No. 5 car this weekend it was just much smoother and it kind of floated across those easier. But in a way, I’m so used to the Ganassi car and how it feels there and feeling those bumps and I’ve ran so many laps on the top there, I could kind of use those bumps as a trigger to my brain and knowing when to lift going through those bumps. Where this past week my car was so smooth through there that it was kind of hard for me to get into a rhythm at first on entry up top.”
YOU HADN’T BEEN IN A CUP CAR FOR ABOUT A YEAR. WERE THERE ANY COBWEBS OR IS IT LIKE RIDING A BIKE AND YOU JUST GOT BACK ON IT?
“I was surprised. I thought there would be cobwebs and rust. But maybe because I raced so much last year in Sprint cars and open wheel cars and dabbled in some Late Model stuff, I felt as fresh as ever in a race car. Your body just gets into a rhythm of even buckling in the car each week. When I got in the car and put my head & neck restraint on and buckling up and all that, everything just felt normal. It didn’t feel like I had been out of the car in long time. So that was good. Even shifting gears and coming down pit road and stopping on my pit sign and stuff like that, like it’s all come natural so far. I don’t really feel like I’ve made any mistakes doing those little things. And I think when you’re out of a car for a long time, it’s the little things that you forget about. So yeah, I think just the preparation that I’ve done looking at data and lots of in-car videos and some iracing and stuff has helped me make that transition a little bit easier.”
ACCORDING TO CHAD KNAUS, YOU ARE AN ASSET IN DEBRIEFS. DID YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE JUMPING RIGHT IN AND HAVING YOUR VOICE HEARD, OR WAS IT SOMETHING YOU HAD TO WORK INTO?
“I don’t know. I really don’t feel like I’ve offered a whole lot in the debriefs other than just talking about my race and my race car. But you know, maybe the crew chiefs and engineers can listen to me talk and get a lot out of it. But I haven’t like offered any advice or what I think we need or anything like that. I feel like we’ve don’t a good job and I’m really just trying to learn everybody. But I do think me coming from a different team and being able to talk about what I’ve previously felt in the past before, kind of like I mentioned about the bumps in Turn 3 at Homestead and the No. 42 versus the No. 5 was a different ride quality, I think that can kind of help them know that they’re on the right path and stuff like that. And I think as we get more races into the year, I’ll be able to offer a little bit more. But I’ve been comfortable with everything. I feel like I’ve been comfortable communicating with everybody in the race shop and all the teams and am not afraid to ask questions and stuff like that. So, it’s all been really good. Nothing has felt out of the ordinary.”
THERE HAVE BEEN THREE DIFFERENT WINNERS SO FAR THIS SEASON. DOES THAT CHANGE HOW YOU AND YOUR TEAM ARE RACING AND DOES IT PUT MORE PRESSURE ON TRYING TO GET WINS AND EARN POINTS EARLY?
“I think it definitely puts a little more emphasis on grabbing points, just in case. We would have thought that after the first race or two, but then Michael McDowell has been really, really good since his win at Daytona. It’s been awesome to see that team contend and really show that they are a Playoff-capable team even if they weren’t to win Daytona. Yeah, points are always important. You never want to be in that bubble spot. I’ve been in that before and it’s not a nice feeling. You need to go out there and wrack up as many Stage points as you can and get the best finish you can get each weekend and try to limit those races where you finish outside of the top 20.”
HAVE THERE BEEN A LOT OF GUYS ASKING YOU FOR ADVICE ON THE BRISTOL ROAD COURSE OR MAYBE WHAT THEY CAN DO TO PREPARE IN ADVANCE OF THAT RACE?
“Not yet. No, I think because everybody probably understands that a Cup car is so different than most dirt cars you can get in. I guess I’ve had a couple of people ask if there are any Late Model teams that they could get in for that race the week before. But even then, I don’t really even know a whole lot of people in the Late Model world than the people I race with. I think once we get there and get to practicing and stuff, some people may come up and ask me what I’m feeling and talk about how they’re feeling and see if that’s normal and all that. But it’s hard to ask questions and prepare for that race. I think if you were a driver that didn’t have much experience on dirt because it’s going to be such a different type of race. We’ll see. It’s nice that we get a day of practice and some heat races, hopefully everybody will be comfortable by the race.”
IS KEVIN RUMLEY WORKING AS A CONSULTANT FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS?
“I don’t really know for sure. I introduced (crew chief) Cliff (Daniels) and Kevin at Charlotte, so I think they’ve been able to probably ask questions and stuff. I don’t know if they have a consulting deal or anything like that. Kevin is extremely smart. He’s an engineer. I think if there were any questions presented to him with his engineering background, he can answer them, and probably the vocabularies between crew chiefs and engineers mold very well together. I know they’ve been talking. I don’t know how often. Cliff has mentioned that he’s talked to a lot of people even outside of Kevin Rumley. I think as an organization we should be in a good spot.”
HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CLIFF DANIELS EVOLVED OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS?
“It’s great. I feel like it’s even better now that we’re racing. I really enjoy him as a crew chief. I like how he is on the radio and how thorough he is on the radio as well as during the week. And really, my whole team, I really enjoy all of them. It’s a young team. All the engineers are young. Really, our whole team is young. It’s crazy that I’m in my 20’s and I bet there’s not too many guys that are a whole lot older than I am. It’s a fun atmosphere and we’re all dedicated to doing a great job and putting in all the work that we can and studying as much as we can. I don’t know if there’s really a team that’s worked harder than we have to be as prepared as we’ve been each week and I think that’s why we’ve been good in these first three races.”
ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY THIS YEAR TO GET UP TO SPEED OR TO GEL WITH THE TEAM, OR JUST ALL YOUR NORMAL PREPARATION?
“I would say mostly normal stuff. I think you just do it more. You look into it a little deeper. I think before, I would always look at data and watch the previous race and maybe get on iracing, but I always knew I had a couple of hours of practice to where I would figure it out once I got there. Where now, I feel like I’ve put in probably twice as much emphasis on studying that data because you don’t have a couple of hours to figure it out and time to debrief and talk to your teammates and stuff like that. So, you’ve really got to be as prepared as you can be going to the race track and being ready to go, so you’re not out to lunch at all in the first Stage, or anything like that. So, it’s shown. I had never made a lap at the Road Course in a Cup car before that event, and I felt like I was able to move forward right away. Definitely, all the resources that I’ve had to look at have benefitted me and I’ve just got to continue to stay hungry and keep studying and I think we’ll have some more good runs.”
YOU DIDN’T GET TO RACE AT SONOMA LAST YEAR, BUT YOU’VE SAT ON THE POLE THERE. HOW DO YOU FEEL LIKE MOVING TO HENDRICK IS GOING TO HELP YOU FOR THAT RACE?
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to Sonoma for sure. It’s my home race and I’ve always qualified well there. So, I know how to get around there fast. I’ve struggled on long run stuff. But I felt like at the Daytona Road Course I was probably a touch better than I typically was in the race in the past at road courses. I was optimistic about getting there and then during the competition meeting, everyone in the meeting was kind of talking about how they’re worried about Sonoma because it’s been a place that they’ve struggled in the past. I don’t know how we’ll be. But I enjoy road courses and I know I still have a lot more room to improve and I’m already okay at it. I think if I can continue to improve, I’ll have a good shot at a good run. I still think I’ve got a long way to go to be as fast as (Martin) Truex and Chase (Elliott), but I feel like I’m a top 10 guy. But that’s nothing to be satisfied about. Thankfully there are a lot of road courses this year and I get a lot of opportunities to work at my craft and try and get better. Hopefully, come a couple more races, I’ll be able to contend for wins and hopefully when we get to my home race, I can get a win there at Sonoma. That would be really cool. I don’t know if I can have any friends and stuff at the track, but if I do win I know I’m going to meet up and hang out with them.”
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